Behind The Lens-Growing up Vertical in Montana February 09 2018 1 Comment
author: Robert Hawthorne
Follow him on IG: @roberthawthornephotography
Born and raised in Bozeman, Montana, I grew up about 25 minutes outside of Bozo on a nice plot of land backing onto a National Forest. At a very young age, my parents grew comfortable with the reality, that any chance I had, I would be hiking and exploring the mountains behind our house. My childhood was an endless game of pushing just a little bit further into the wilderness than my previous destination. By doing so, I grew comfortable in my playground of nature and my love of mountain life was nurtured. I fondly remember building a shelter when I was just 12 years old…. miles away from my house. Even now, every time I stumble past it, I can't help but laugh at this structure I made and my strong desire, even at that young age, to escape the everyday hustle of civilization. This is a desire that I hope I never lose.
I am now 20 years old, striving to live that same lifestyle that I was so lucky to have experienced growing up. I have graduated from building shelters (AKA forts), and have taken on the challenge of building a full size log cabin. This has proven to be quite the project, but never once has the thought of not finishing it crossed my mind. I dream that one day I will be lucky enough to show my children this cabin, and hope that I can foster within them, the great respect that I have for the mountains and the abundant pleasure and peace of mind that they can bring to you.
School proved to be quite the challenge for me. I believe my teachers were fully accepting of the fact that I would much rather be hiking, skiing, hunting, climbing, biking or fishing…….... in fact, I’d rather be quite literally ANYWHERE else, other than inside a school.
Don't get me wrong, I worked very hard at trying to succeed, until some point during my junior year I realized that a letter grade on top of an exam or report meant nothing more than my ability to learn the same way as everyone else. Well, I wasn't everyone else, and I'm still not. Not everyone processes information the same way. For me, I learnt best hands on. The only subject in school I found exciting was my film and photography class. The teacher gave us a pile of cameras and computers and let our creative juices flow! Working with cameras sparked an interest that I will never lose!
After high school, I spent the next 3 to 5 years working as a manager of a landscaping company. It started out as a part time job. I had no plans of pursuing long term vocation from it. After a while, I found myself feeling trapped at work. I no longer wanted to be mowing the same lawns summer after summer or plowing the same parking lots again every winter. I knew I wanted something more. Within that time of self realization, I had a pretty major dirt bike crash resulting in surgery that bought me a 3 month hiatus from my job. It was during this period that I was able to step away from my position as manager and pursue my two passions; the mountains and photography!
I saved up for months and dumped all I was worth into a Nikon D7200. Until my dirt bike accident I only ever had time to pursue my photography on weekends. And during the winter, my weekends were always trumped by skiing. At that time, it was difficult to combine photography with my skiing. However, thanks to the encouragement from friends who saw the potential I carried if I combined all aspects of my life with photography, I now am living what I can only describe as, "The Dream!" I now actively pursue taking photos year round. I find such freedom of creativity with my work as a photographer.
Whether I'm spending days in the backcountry shooting bear photos or capturing those unforgettable moments above the clouds in the Canadian Rockies, I can't think of a better companion than my camera. I am finally able to share a glimpse of what I find so exhilarating about the mountains with my friends and family. Over the past several months I have taken on the daunting task of digging deep into my 3 terabyte hard drive and finally sharing these moments online. I have slowly built a local following with my work and it has only driven me to go further.
This year I have been fortunate enough to fill a small niche at our local ski resorts of being the guy behind the camera. Like so many others, I wanted nothing more than to get that photo or video of myself boosting that cliff right under the chair lift or stomping that double in the backcountry. Occasionally, I found someone willing to shoot video or photos and got to share my own accomplishments with others. We all know the feeling of getting to share that one shot that screamed, "I'm the best skier on the mountain!" It’s a feeling of great achievement, but more than anything, the stoke factor trumps all!
I have personally seen so many friends quickly become internet famous for the season edit they put together, or even that one shot that got passed around and shared thousands of times. And for a long time, I chased that same dream of excelling in the ski industry. I competed in free ride competitions for years, giving my absolute best to prove myself to be a worthy competitor in the world of freeskiing. But I soon realized two enormous factors that are required to become a pro skier; money and publicity. With absolutely no discredit to the outstanding talent of so many of my friends who are now traveling the world competing in worldwide competitions, or heli-skiing gnarly spines in Alaska, they would not be where they are without a comfortable financial backing. It did not take me long to realize that I was not going to be the one being filmed from a helicopter or competing in the Free Ride World Tour in Argentina. Well at least not for a long time!
So with money out of the picture, I have found absolute contentment with being the person shooting photos for anyone and everyone who wants to show the world their talent as a rider. I take joy in seeing the excitement shown in others faces as they see the shot we just captured. I used to find it hard to turn over the first tracks to someone, just so I could shoot photos for them, however, now I see that I am so lucky to be helping so many other athletes chase the very same dream I have shared for so long.
So for now, if you’re looking for me, I will be at the base of some cliff waiting for a buddy to huck their meat into chest deep powder. Or skinning into the backcountry chasing those untracked turns we all dream about. I feel I have finally found an area where I can truly be myself and continue to enjoy it all in the mountains!
If you've made it this far in my life ramblings, I have a challenge for you... don't let society define who you are! Whether you’re trapped in school feeling so far away from tapping into your true potential or working a job that you see no future in, don't let it define you! Take a week off, escape into the mountains and do what you love. Never let money limit you to what you can become. Pick up a cheap camera at a pawn shop and start sharing your love for the mountains with others! You won't regret it! The fire that will start inside you will drive you to places you've never dreamed.
If you ever find yourself in beautiful Bozeman Montana, look me up! Lets go capture that moment you'll relive in your head for months! Give me a follow on Instagram @roberthawthornephotography and keep me up to date with your dream chasing. More than anything, I hope I have stoked that fire in all of us to get outside and live life to the fullest!
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