Wingsuit BASE Jumping In Yosemite | An Interview with Adventure Photographer Austin Trigg
If you spend any time on social media you'll see a lot of adventure photography. You'll soon find that there are plenty of photographers that like call themselves "adventure photographers" and then there are people like Austin Trigg, who are doing it at the next level. Putting themselves out there to make images that most of us wouldn't be willing to make.
Austin's work caught my eye a few months ago, especially his photographs of Wingsuit BASE jumpers in Yosemite so we sat down for a few questions about how and why he makes the images he does...
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How'd you get into photography?
My name is Austin Trigg. I am 27 and have been living in San Diego for the last 4 years after moving away from my hometown, Boston, MA. I got into photography in my last year of High School. I was always into art ever since I was young and photography gave me the creative outlook that I was always trying too achieve with drawing and painting. I continued with it throughout college and got a Bachelors degree in photography.
Q: A lot of your work features outdoor athletes, whether it be, someone on a rock wall, climbing an iced over waterfall, or preparing to BASE jump. Was it a natural progression that you were already friends with these folks and doing those activities and started photographing them or have you had to build those "work" relationships to get the photos you are after. As someone who is not necessarily in the subculture of some of those sports I am always curious how those photographer-athlete relationships are formed.
I like to think of the relations I have created with the subjects in my images like the Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken and the line in it, “ Yet knowing way leads on to way.” I grew up being active, hiking, snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing and climbing but that was on the east coast when I was younger. When I moved out west I didn't know anyone that was heavy in the outdoor community. I started reaching out to people and one opportunity lead to another which lead to them being friends and neighbors of mine. But more lately I have been talking with athletes that I have never met before to arrange the photos I am after.
Q: I saw on your Instagram a few weeks ago that you have photographed wingsuit BASE jumpers in Yosemite. How did that come about? And with the recent passing of the famed, Dean Potter, has your perspective on the way you will work with these athletes (or any extreme athlete that puts their life on the line) changed?
I came about photographing BASE jumping by picking up a hitch hiker in the valley. It was the right place at the right time really. The recent passing of Dean Potter and Graham Hunt was a huge hit to the outdoor and BASE community. I barely knew Dean, but I was fortunate enough to have spent a hike with him two weeks prior. In my eyes he was a really nice guy who challenged himself and who did the the things he loved to do. Unfortunately the NPS has made BASE jumping illegal in the parks by the Aerial Delivery law originally meant for cargo, now banning human flight. This heightens risk for the pilots, flying in low light conditions and being worried that they will be sent to prison all for the thing they love… and trust me, from being around these people its the biggest thing to them. After catching the news coming out of Yosemite I thought a lot about my perspective on the road home and photographing sports where people put their lives on the line. It has taught me several things from changing my approach to the pilots and wanting to continue to put a positive light on the art of flight in Yosemite.
Q: You're based in San Diego, but I see you spend a ton of time in Yosemite National Park. I've done that drive before and it's long. How often do you go up there?
I try to make my way to Yosemite as much as I can. Sometimes 2-3 times a month if I can swing it. You are right, it is a looonnnnggg drive from SD but I love driving and I love the night. Yosemite National Park has a captivating spell and it has taught me more than I ever imagined. It becomes easy to want to rise early and stay up late to soak it all in and enjoy every moment.
Q: As you can probably tell, I've also got a soft spot for Yosemite, which is unfortunate since it's a long way away from here in Virginia. Do you have any go-to spots that you can't go without photographing when your there? Have any recommendations for anyone who may be going for the first time?
I make it a point to stop at Tunnel View, every time. Usually passengers hate me at this point because we have been driving all night, its 3-4am when we roll into the park and everyone wants to go to bed. But for me its the first grand view you get of the park and its the mark of when the sleepless nights and fun begins. A couple recommendations I can give to people going to the park for the first time would be to get off the valley floor, especially if you are visiting in the summer! Its a total mad house in the valley so my first recommendation is to get a backcountry permit and go explore up above the valley, Yosemite Point, Little Yosemite campground, Cathedral Lake up on Tioga Pass or in Hetch Hethcy. Those are some really amazing places that are away from the crowds and give you some more peace in the park. If your set on staying in the valley I highly recommend hiking 4 Mile Trail. Tons of incredible views on the way up to Glacier Point. Check out Yosemite Falls or Mist trail, swim in the Merced River, lie down in the El Capitan meadows and stare at the granite monolith, hike past Mirror Lake, hike to Artist/Inspiration Point and try to catch the sunset at Taft Point. It is an endless adventure up there with too much to do in one trip so be planning on a second trip!
A big thanks to Austin for sharing his work with us. Check out more of his photographs on his website or Instagram account.
I really appreciate the chance for travel and adventure by way of photographs like these. These are pictures that make me feel like I am really in this place, right there, on the adventure. Interesting that I feel both movement and stillness in most of these images. Stunning views and clear perspectives. What a way to work!