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I’m not alone in thinking this photo of Eric Hjorleifson in Bralorne, British Columbia, is one of my portfolio’s greatest — if not the greatest — ski images. Many people, including myself, have tried to duplicate it, but it has never been done well. It was an extraordinary moment when the stars aligned. I always had the picture of this shot in my head, and this was the opportunity to get it. It was shot in 2007, long before drones were a staple in most photographers’ equipment setups. Instead, I shot it the “old school” way — from a helicopter with the doors off.

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I’m not alone in thinking this photo of Eric Hjorleifson in Bralorne, British Columbia, is one of my portfolio’s greatest — if not the greatest — ski images. Many people, including myself, have tried to duplicate it, but it has never been done well. It was an extraordinary moment when the stars aligned. I always had the picture of this shot in my head, and this was the opportunity to get it. It was shot in 2007, long before drones were a staple in most photographers’ equipment setups. Instead, I shot it the “old school” way — from a helicopter with the doors off.

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FRAMED
9 min

The Weird and Wonderful

Blake Jorgenson is an Otherworldly Lensman.
Photos by
Blake Jorgenson
Words by
Leslie Anthony
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This photo is from a personal project featuring the highly creative ladies in the Rollerblade Babes, photographed on a hot summer night in Pemberton, British Columbia. While working on this project, I realized there were so many creative people in the area outside of mountain sports. So, I helped launch a purposeful community of creatives collaborating on projects. It was very inspiring. In this photo, Jessy Braidwood is a talented photographer herself.

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This photo is from a personal project featuring the highly creative ladies in the Rollerblade Babes, photographed on a hot summer night in Pemberton, British Columbia. While working on this project, I realized there were so many creative people in the area outside of mountain sports. So, I helped launch a purposeful community of creatives collaborating on projects. It was very inspiring. In this photo, Jessy Braidwood is a talented photographer herself.

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Words typical of the art world describe the commercial photography of Blake Jorgenson as ethereal, moody, phantasmagorical, and surreal. But then, these are the exact words used to describe the marquee shots Jorgensen created when he sat atop the world of outdoor photography during the last few decades.

The Canadian sharp shooter’s move into more mainstream advertising photography in recent years, when he traded big-fish-in-a-little-pond notoriety and athlete-photographer adulation for complete anonymity, was a necessary leap of faith for the artistically restless Jorgenson. It opened huge barn doors of creativity — and potential failure. But the Whistler-based Jorgenson wouldn’t have it any other way.

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This front flip by Julian Carr, off the infamous Air Jordan cliff on Whistler Mountain, is one of the most spectacular stunts I have ever seen in person. It was the poster art for Sherpas Cinema’s award-winning film Into the Mind.

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This front flip by Julian Carr, off the infamous Air Jordan cliff on Whistler Mountain, is one of the most spectacular stunts I have ever seen in person. It was the poster art for Sherpas Cinema’s award-winning film Into the Mind.

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Blake Jorgenson is known as one of the industry’s most relaxed and humble guys. This snapshot reveals his true personality.

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Blake Jorgenson is known as one of the industry’s most relaxed and humble guys. This snapshot reveals his true personality.

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“I have this memory of playing pool with my dad,” he relates. ‘Don’t worry about the game,’ he said. ‘Because when you leave here, you won’t remember how many you’ve won, only the great shots you made.’”

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Jorgenson was raised by his mother while she pursued a law career. Her dedication ultimately led the pair to the University of Toronto’s downtown campus. Ironically, his affinity for the outdoors began here. “We had a tiny condo across from the Art Gallery of Ontario. The landlords were these frat guys who took me canoeing, whitewater kayaking and skiing.”

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In the spring of 2013, I invited the Level 1 film crew to Bralorne, which is in my backyard, and we went for the infamous double wind lip. This was a top-secret spot, and probably the one-and-only-time skiers hit it. It was an outstanding session, and Wiley Miller was on fire that day.

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In the spring of 2013, I invited the Level 1 film crew to Bralorne, which is in my backyard, and we went for the infamous double wind lip. This was a top-secret spot, and probably the one-and-only-time skiers hit it. It was an outstanding session, and Wiley Miller was on fire that day.

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This photo of Eric Jackson is from one of the first times I got to shoot snowboarding with Matchstick Productions and Standard Films, joining forces on the top of Whistler Blackcomb. This was in 2006, and back then, we always had a massive jump built for these spring shoots. This was a unique moment with a perspective that has stood the test of time.

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This photo of Eric Jackson is from one of the first times I got to shoot snowboarding with Matchstick Productions and Standard Films, joining forces on the top of Whistler Blackcomb. This was in 2006, and back then, we always had a massive jump built for these spring shoots. This was a unique moment with a perspective that has stood the test of time.

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On a trip to Whistler with his mother at age 16, he glimpsed the “Promised Land.” “I was struggling in school and rebelling against my mom being an academic after all we’d been through. I didn’t know what to do, but I was sure I didn’t want any career,” he recalls. He soon moved to Whistler to fully immerse in ski bumming. “But you can’t escape your programming,” he laughs. “Ultimately, I made a career from the things I was doing to avoid it.”

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I worked closely with Sean Pettit for several years and shot this for a 2015 Oakley ad campaign. Their art director showed us an old photo of the late extreme skier Doug Coombs skiing down a waterfall — and said he wanted to do a remake of it. This was as close as we got.

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I worked closely with Sean Pettit for several years and shot this for a 2015 Oakley ad campaign. Their art director showed us an old photo of the late extreme skier Doug Coombs skiing down a waterfall — and said he wanted to do a remake of it. This was as close as we got.

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Jorgenson found work at the Blackcomb Tuning Centre, a ski tuning shop, where photographer Bruce Rowles was the lead hand. “I learned to ski tour and ski powder. We went skiing daily, and no one was up there — like this Church of Fresh Pow. The adventures were so inspiring, I wanted to photograph them.”

Like Rowles, he started off documenting missions with ski-shop friends. “Seeing Bruce’s photos in the magazines was the missing link in communicating what we were doing,” he explains. Before the days when you could text your parent a photo in an instant, a shot in a magazine reinforced that a move west wasn’t reckless — he was spending time in a positive and fulfilling way. Rowles encouraged Jorgenson to submit to photo editor Dave Reddick at the highly respected Powder Magazine, and he dutifully mailed in a sheet of 20 slides.

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Exploring the Pemberton backcountry with the late Dave Treadway meant some of the most exciting days — every winter. He had a great creative eye, and we always seemed to redefine what a ski image should look like. We tried to break the mold and create ways of showing skiing that had never been done before.

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Exploring the Pemberton backcountry with the late Dave Treadway meant some of the most exciting days — every winter. He had a great creative eye, and we always seemed to redefine what a ski image should look like. We tried to break the mold and create ways of showing skiing that had never been done before.

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In the late spring of 2007, the iconic Tanner Hall came to Whistler to shoot a segment for his movie Believe. I suggested the infamous Rutherford quarter pipe in the Pemberton backcountry as one of the locations. At this moment, Tanner proved he was the best in the world by a considerable margin, and later that year, this image graced the cover of Powder Magazine.

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In the late spring of 2007, the iconic Tanner Hall came to Whistler to shoot a segment for his movie Believe. I suggested the infamous Rutherford quarter pipe in the Pemberton backcountry as one of the locations. At this moment, Tanner proved he was the best in the world by a considerable margin, and later that year, this image graced the cover of Powder Magazine.

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“I was living in an old A-frame house with eight guys, and there was a call that someone from a magazine wanted to talk to me,” he says. “I waded through dense bong smoke to the phone, and when Reddick introduced himself, I was speechless. He said he was running one of my shots and looked forward to seeing more from me.”

Though Jorgenson literally dropped the phone, it was a clarion call to embark on a mission to publish as many photos in Powder as possible. In those late-stage days of film, when you couldn’t review what you’d shot, intuition was the guiding hand, and Jorgenson’s distinctly artistic style evolved quickly — he calls it a combination of “luck and wanting to break the rules.” His evocative shots were often moody and filled with dark spaces, the environment of the star, the athlete (if there was one), a hint of a story, and, consistently, a strong sense of what it was like to be there.

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I am starting to feel the hunger for more unbound creativity and collaboration with people beyond photojournalism and advertising, i.e. simply creating artwork. The photos in this carousel are from one of my first personal projects, titled Tension.

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I am starting to feel the hunger for more unbound creativity and collaboration with people beyond photojournalism and advertising, i.e. simply creating artwork. The photos in this carousel are from one of my first personal projects, titled Tension.

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Early on, it wasn’t hard to be inspired by the milieu he found himself in. Travelling the world with athlete friends, his technical expertise and artistic talent landed him a lifestyle more than a job. Evolutions like big mountain skiing, park and halfpipe kicked off a parallel renaissance in backcountry ski photography to which he applied his same cutting-edge style; ditto freeride mountain biking, with which he had immediate success. But he held close to the lessons of stumbles and defeats.

He’d win Whistler’s prestigious Pro Photo Showdown twice but also remembers losing many more times: “Losing can create a hunger to do something that blows people away. It allowed me to come back and win with a creation I never could have conjured without the emotional daggers through the heart.”

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Filming for another Sherpas Cinema project called Children of the Columbia was an example of being in the right place at the right time. We had perfect conditions at Mica Heli in British Columbia’s Interior, and all eyes were on the prize of this line called The Harp. It had never been skied before Dane Tudor dropped in and skied it effortlessly.

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Filming for another Sherpas Cinema project called Children of the Columbia was an example of being in the right place at the right time. We had perfect conditions at Mica Heli in British Columbia’s Interior, and all eyes were on the prize of this line called The Harp. It had never been skied before Dane Tudor dropped in and skied it effortlessly.

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In May 2014, Wiley Miller called me and said he had found this unique ice feature in Brandywine — a famous sled-skiing zone in the Whistler backcountry. I decided to bring my big flash to style the shot, which became one of my favourites.

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In May 2014, Wiley Miller called me and said he had found this unique ice feature in Brandywine — a famous sled-skiing zone in the Whistler backcountry. I decided to bring my big flash to style the shot, which became one of my favourites.

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Stan Rey photographed for Whistler Blackcomb’s film Magnetic, directed and produced by Jeff Thomas. We spent a few cold nights dragging flashes around in waist-deep snow, ultimately creating spectacular results. It was too bad Vail Resorts scrapped the entire project when they took ownership of the resort. However, the images stand the test of time.

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Stan Rey photographed for Whistler Blackcomb’s film Magnetic, directed and produced by Jeff Thomas. We spent a few cold nights dragging flashes around in waist-deep snow, ultimately creating spectacular results. It was too bad Vail Resorts scrapped the entire project when they took ownership of the resort. However, the images stand the test of time.

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With the anti-career chip still firmly on his shoulder, Jorgenson clung to the underdog mentality, not wanting to embrace his success. “I liked the feeling of having nothing to lose. Pre-social media, there was always a year’s lag time for people to see what you were doing, and I was always coming out with stuff ahead of the curve, staying one step ahead. I never wanted to do the same thing I did the year before.”

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I was on location in the Utah desert, branching out into a different kind of action. The fundamentals of photographing cars are very similar to shooting skiing — lots of dust instead of snow and the anticipation of things moving and constantly changing made shooting vehicles a natural but exciting transition.

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I was on location in the Utah desert, branching out into a different kind of action. The fundamentals of photographing cars are very similar to shooting skiing — lots of dust instead of snow and the anticipation of things moving and constantly changing made shooting vehicles a natural but exciting transition.

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On an automotive shoot for Acura in Texas, I learned more about complex post-production, lighting, and working with multiple images in layers to create dramatic images for advertising. I had been immersed in the single image of photojournalism for so long that this was an exciting learning process.

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On an automotive shoot for Acura in Texas, I learned more about complex post-production, lighting, and working with multiple images in layers to create dramatic images for advertising. I had been immersed in the single image of photojournalism for so long that this was an exciting learning process.

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Shooting with Tanner Hall on his massive projects way back created excellent opportunities — not only for action shots. One time, this giant hip jump was set up where Chris Turpin had hit the deck and decided to take a time-out. It was boiling and sunny, and Turpin stepped under this white tent, providing some diffusion. This sticking shot, which I love more than any of the action images, is from that moment.

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Shooting with Tanner Hall on his massive projects way back created excellent opportunities — not only for action shots. One time, this giant hip jump was set up where Chris Turpin had hit the deck and decided to take a time-out. It was boiling and sunny, and Turpin stepped under this white tent, providing some diffusion. This sticking shot, which I love more than any of the action images, is from that moment.

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“Rollin’ on a Higher Frequency!” That is the mantra of the @rollerbabes, says founder, collaborator, photographer, stylist, and producer Neve Petersen, about this group of like-minded and highly creative friends from Pemberton that choose to express themselves on roller-skates.

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“Rollin’ on a Higher Frequency!” That is the mantra of the @rollerbabes, says founder, collaborator, photographer, stylist, and producer Neve Petersen, about this group of like-minded and highly creative friends from Pemberton that choose to express themselves on roller-skates.

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But top-of-the-heap can be as lonely as anywhere, and staying there doesn’t always make sense. With the death of athlete friend and family man Dave Treadway and soon to become a father, Jorgenson took a hard look at the action sports world. “It’s mostly on spec and a young man’s gig — you live with your bags packed, ready to take on any opportunity and to be on top of it, you need to be out there all the time. So, I jumped into advertising to find more financial stability because I felt the glory days were over.”

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From a project with my crew of creatives for Whistler’s artsy and boutique cocktail lounge, The Raven Room. We moved into even more advanced lighting and image compositing on this shoot to create “unlimitedly”. It took ten hours to create four images – such a different process.

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From a project with my crew of creatives for Whistler’s artsy and boutique cocktail lounge, The Raven Room. We moved into even more advanced lighting and image compositing on this shoot to create “unlimitedly”. It took ten hours to create four images – such a different process.

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Jorgenson quickly learned to say ‘no’ to projects that didn’t interest him or felt right. His undeniable talent, however, served him well as he rose in the commercial world. “On a shoot, I do everything now — creative director, producer, video director and still photographer.”

The results are arresting and unique, full of technical and creative wizardry, as weird, wonderful, and motivating as his venerated outdoor work. “I did not change my style. All I did was start working with bigger companies with higher demands and people that were more professional, says Jorgenson, adding he still loves the outdoors and skiing, which has kept him from moving to Los Angeles or New York City.”

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When Sean Pettit was at the top of the ski world, it seemed like we were out in a helicopter all the time shooting in the Whistler backcountry. This was shot during a gorgeous morning with Freeride Entertainment filming for Sean’s TV series Keep Your Tips Up.

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When Sean Pettit was at the top of the ski world, it seemed like we were out in a helicopter all the time shooting in the Whistler backcountry. This was shot during a gorgeous morning with Freeride Entertainment filming for Sean’s TV series Keep Your Tips Up.

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Pep Fujas captured in the Tantalus Range between Squamish and Whistler. We got dropped off at sunset for a trip with Patagonia, and the light was firing, so we got a few quick ski-touring shots just as we landed. It shows just how spectacular it is up there, and in fact, some of the most dramatic shots of the trip came within five minutes of arriving.

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Pep Fujas captured in the Tantalus Range between Squamish and Whistler. We got dropped off at sunset for a trip with Patagonia, and the light was firing, so we got a few quick ski-touring shots just as we landed. It shows just how spectacular it is up there, and in fact, some of the most dramatic shots of the trip came within five minutes of arriving.

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But circles have a way of closing themselves. In October 2023, Jorgenson contributed a feature and bagged the cover of the 50th anniversary issue of Powder — an unexpected rebirth of the magazine’s print edition since shuttering in 2020. The resurrection threw the 48-year-old back to that life-changing phone call. “Looking at all the photos and adventures that led to today, I honestly owe the start of my photo career to David Reddick and Powder. They showed there’s magic in skiing — and an even bigger magic in getting to share it. Powder to the People.”

Blake Jorgenson Based in the Coast Range of British Columbia, Blake Jorgenson has created still and motion work for many of North America’s leading outdoor, ski, and automotive brands over a long time. Blake’s background is in action photography, and for his commercial work, he believes in meticulously constructing, styling, and polishing his images in ways that give them the impact and visual edge of the best spontaneous action shots. For Blake, this process is a true collaboration between creative and production professionals. Brainstorming, problem-solving and a spirit of imagination are the juice that continually fuels his creative drive. He lives in Pemberton and loves to hang out with his daughter, ski powder, ride his moto, and go on mountain bike adventures.
The Weird and Wonderful
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