Capturing the Xtreme
When it comes to sports, there are athletes and there are fans. And then there are those like Dan Brown, a hybrid of the two. Yes, he’s an athlete, but he’s also a fan. And as a professional photographer, he has served as a bridge between the two sides helping connect fans with extreme athletes by capturing images of the top skiers in the world doing what they do best.
In the process, he has provided inspiration for those who want to conquer their own mountains.
We recently caught up with Brown, who is the creative genius behind Kapitol Photography, as his passion for the outdoors aligns with the spirit of X-Wear. And that is to not only encourage, but embrace physical activity, whether it be golfing, bicycling, surfing or Stand Up Paddleboarding in the summer or skiing, snowboarding or hiking in the winter.
“Well, for one, you’re not staring at a screen,” Brown told us as to why he loves skiing, adding that, “For as much as a group sport it can be, no matter what you’re still out there alone on a hill… Ultimately, you’re in control, outside of gravity. You’re skiing on pieces of wood. It’s such a simple form of fun.”
It would not be until the 32-year-old Brown was an adult that he started capturing that fun in digital form.
A 2006 graduate of Saint Michael’s College in Burlington, VT, Brown had always toyed with cameras, but an Intro to Dark Room course his senior year led to him pursuing it as a career. “In college, I really enjoyed poetry and the way people are able to capture a scene in short, concise sentences in such a beautiful way,” Brown told us. “That is kind of how I approach photography.”
Brown’s “graduate schooling” occurred on Cape Cod (home of X-Wear), as a paid photographer for The Enterprise Newspapers in Falmouth. It was his first job out of college, learning under then-editor Janice Walford as well as colleagues and fellow photographers Teri Stanley and Don Parkinson. “I think that really refined my skill set where I was able to quickly assess what was going on around me and be able to get in and document an ongoing story and bring to life some of the words that were going to accompany the photograph,” Brown said.
A few years into his stint at The Enterprise, Brown felt a longing for Vermont. So he returned, initially settling for a job as a copy editor for a publishing company before moving onto Vermont Teddy Bear where he was a studio assistant, helping with photo shoots for the company’s catalogs and web campaigns.
Branching Out on His Own
With his longtime girlfriend living in Boston, Brown had a choice to make. She won out and Brown moved to the Massachusetts capital where he found his own niche. “I wanted to strike out on my own so, at that point, I was passionate about photography I thought I might as well make a go of it professionally,” Brown said.
On the commercial side, Brown’s clients included Bose, Gordini and Kombi. He balanced that with shooting editorial for Ski Magazine and Newschoolers.com. “The ski industry doesn’t pay photographers as much as they should, but it’s still a bunch of fun and provided a lot of great opportunities to get outside, work with a bunch of talented skiers and document the sport as I saw it and as it was unfolding in the Northeast,” he said.
The highlights of his freelance work included a trip to Le Massif for a shoot with former Olympian Jean-Luc Brassard, Jeff Curry and Erik Olson. That led to Brown’s first published photo in Ski Magazine in January 2009.
“I still have my first cover image for The Enterprise framed as that was my first published photo,” Brown said. “But there’s something uniquely different about getting published in a national ski magazine. They have the same kind of pages I would tear out each winter and hang on my bedroom wall as a kid. To think what you might be able to provide images that grace the wall of young skiers who are kind of just as passionate about skiing as you were is awesome.”
His favorite image during that time is one that Brown said “is uniquely Vermont.” It shows LJ Strenio in mid-flight completing a double cork 1080 over two granite statues of whale’s tails that can be seen off I-89. The photo found its way onto the cover of Ski Magazine in Germany.
Brown’s first trip to Europe was courtesy of Newschoolers.com to cover the Jon Olsson Super Sessions where the media and the pro athletes “were given a key that symbolizes you literally have the key to the city, the right to go into every bar, get a bunch of free drinks. You’re literally a rock star,” he laughed.
These days, Brown is living a more subdued life as the father of a 10-month-old with his wife Jessica in New Jersey where he is the content marketing manager for Full Tilt and a consultant for Line Skis. The opportunity arose directly as the result of his work as a respected and accomplished action sports photographer.
Photography for Brown, who purchased a Hasselblad film camera when he turned 30, has reverted back to where he started: “I’m trying to show that one moment, that one unique image in as little words as possible.”
As for his advice to those who want to follow in his footsteps, he suggested working on your craft and developing your own style. “I think one of the great things about photographers in the industry is they are now all bringing their own unique look and their take about how passionate they are about skiing and snowboarding,” he said.