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80 hours to capture the winning shot in Vail

Sarah Mausolf
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily/Rebekah Stevens
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VAIL, Colorado ” Photographers from Utah, North Carolina and beyond will descend on Vail this week, armed with their best digital cameras.

What’s drawing them here?

A chance at $5,000 cash and publication in Outside magazine.

New rules for the Teva Mountain Games’ fifth annual photo competition, set for next week, seek to lure action and adventure photographers to Vail.

In previous years, photographers could submit work shot anywhere in the world, at any point in time.

“You really had the opportunity to shoot anything from a picture in Nepal to a picture in your backyard 50 years ago,” Teva Mountain Games Organizer Joel Heath said.

This year, the subject matter is more specific. Photographers must focus on the Teva Mountain Games in Vail, during an 80-hour time span. “This creates more of a race and then it has a virtual start and finish line,” Heath said. “It really puts the photographers head to head with similar situations, from lighting to the same athletes to the same environment.”

The seventh annual Teva Mountain Games will take place Thursday through Sunday. With events ranging from kayaking to rafting to paragliding, the games should offer plenty of fodder for the new “Mountain Click” photo shoot-out.

Steve Chinn, an Avon photographer who is unsure whether he will participate in the contest, gave the new rules mixed reviews. “The pros would be: They’re going to get some good photography from one event, having that many photographers,” Chinn said. “The cons would be, from the photographers’ side: That’s a lot of work for not really guaranteeing anything.”

While there’s no guarantee, the possibility of winning cash and national exposure is enough to motivate some contestants. First place scores $2,500; second place earns $1,500 and third place gets $1,000. Outside magazine also will splash the winning photos in its August issue, Heath said.

Contestants must upload their best three photos to the Teva Mountain Games Web site between Sunday, June 8 and Friday, June 13.

Those shots will go before a panel of judges including professional photographers, gallery owners, art festival reviewers and adventure sports experts, Health said.

“We are looking for some images that kind of capture the essence of the Mountain Games, so that emotional component that the Mountain Games has on sight,” he said. Photo quality also factors in, Heath added.

Last year, roughly 300 photographers from across the globe participated in the contest. The prize went to Michael Clark, a New Mexico photographer, for his shot of climber Chris Sharma dangling from a rock face in Spain (see photo).

Because the photo competition’s new rules require participants to travel to Vail, Health expects a lower turnout than in past years. As of mid-May, roughly 10 people had signed up.

“I know we have photographers coming in from Oregon, California, but I also know a lot of local photographers and some of the best images we’ve seen for the Mountain Games are just someone who’s been sitting in the right place at the right time with their disposable camera, so you never know who has the winning shot,” Heath said.

In future years, he hopes to draw top action and adventure photographers to the event.

“The Mountain Games is bringing mountain culture all together in one location and I think it’s just natural for us to put something together that brings the best photographers into the world of the Mountain Games as well,” Heath said.

Although photo entries might appear in promotions on the Teva Mountain Games Web site, the Mountain Games will continue to employ its staff photographer, Health said. In other words, the new rules do not equate to a ploy to avoid paying for promotional photos.

“We’re here to celebrate the athletes, the artists themselves, not to take advantage of them,” Heath said.

Contestants also will retain the rights to their photos, he said.

So far, the lineup includes a mix of professional photographers and hobbyists.

Rebekah Stevens, 28, will travel from Park City, Utah, to Vail for the competition. She recently finished photography school in Missoula, Mont., and has been working as a ski and lifestyle photographer.

John Lloyd, 25, plans to drive in from Boulder with his Canon 40D. An avid backpacker, rock climber and mountain biker, he’s been capturing his experiences on film.

North Carolina resident Eric Heistand, 33, recently arrived in Vail with his Nikon D80. He takes pictures of his 4-year-old and one-year-old sons as a hobby. He plans to wake up early during the Mountain Games to capture the athletes in the best available light.

High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2938 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.


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