Snow Shooter: Adam Barker

It is understandable why photographer Adam Barker is a homebody—his backyard is Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. Though travel is an inherent part of his job, he loves Salt Lake City, living with his wife and three sons a stone’s throw from the Little Cottonwood Canyon backcountry.

We caught up with Barker to talk about his photographic destiny.


Adam Barker becomes both subject and artist. [Photo] Adam barker

Backcountry Magazine: What drew you to photography as a profession?

Adam Barker: When I first picked up a camera, I never anticipated making my career as a photographer. I like photography but I wasn’t like, “My god this is my destiny!”…my density as George McFly would say. Skiing was my life—junior high to college—I had skiing on the brain and I couldn’t think of anything else. I always wanted to share these places with other people, so that’s what piqued my interest in photography initially. Then I fell in love with the art of photography, understanding composition, understanding exposure and understanding how to control the camera.

BCM: What was it about action photography that called to you over other genres?

AB: My background is actually in fine arts and scenic work. Anybody that knows my work from the early days—and if you were to take a look in my archives—most of my early work is scenic landscapes. That is where my roots in photography lie and that’s where I fell in love with photography. I was always participating in other activities, but it took me a long time to transition to shooting them. Skiing was the last activity I transitioned over to because I always wanted to be doing it.

I got to a point with landscape photography where you put me in a pretty place with great light at the right time of day with the equipment I am accustomed to using, and I am going to churn out a pretty solid image, whereas with skis, or any of the other fast moving sports, there are so many more variables. My challenge was in incorporating my style from scenic landscape work into shooting skiing and other active lifestyle stuff.

Johnny Collinson knows how to play on his home turf. | Alta bc, Utah | [Photo] Adam Barker

Johnny Collinson knows how to play on his home turf. | Alta bc, Utah | [Photo] Adam Barker

BCM: Where is your favorite place to work? Why?

AB: It’s right here in Utah, my own backyard. And actually from my office window I am staring at Little Cottonwood Canyon. A couple miles to the north is Big Cottonwood Canyon.

I do a lot of commercial work in the lifestyle, outdoor and travel arenas, so most of the time during the year I am traveling. During the winter I really prefer to stay here. I am just ready to not travel for a little while, but more importantly, it just doesn’t get much better than where I am.

BCM: What is the best part of being an action sports photographer?

AB: I have always said that I would never call myself a full-time ski photographer even though I make income from it just because it is very difficult to make a living as a ski photographer. But being an action sport photographer lets me be up there and in that environment, and for me, that’s a part of who I am. I always knew that I would need to have a job that allowed me to be in the outdoors frequently. I also consider all the people that I shoot with some of my best friends, and we have shared life-changing experiences together.

Parker Cook blazes in the sunlight. | Alta bc, Utah | [Photo] Adam Barker

Parker Cook blazes in the sunlight. | Alta bc, Utah | [Photo] Adam Barker

BCM: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you while shooting?

AB: A couple of years ago I got a little remote control fart machine for Christmas. You could throw it in somebody’s pack and I could hold the remote. We did a shoot at Deer Valley, which is super fancy and I remember Sierra Quitiquit and I are eating lunch and she had the fart machine stuck in her bibs or something. I had the remote and it was going off like crazy. People were like, “Uh, this is interesting.” It was definitely not the crowd, you know? You could probably do that at a lot of other places and it would be par for the course, but at Deer Valley it was pretty funny to watch.

BCM: What is your least favorite part of being an action sports photographer?

AB: There is a lot of pressure in terms of producing imagery that is relative and current. Winter brings with it a lot of angst. When it snows you gotta go shoot. You gotta figure out who your athletes are. You gotta figure out where you are going. And so there is no rest of the weary.

I also think, too, that I love the travel—but I don’t love the travel as well. I have three boys, ages nine, six and three, so I have made a conscious decision to pare down my travel to the bare necessities.

BCM: What would you say defines your style as a photographer?

AB: I am very particular about composition and tack-sharp imagery when I want it—almost to a fault. I don’t get published with companies like Patagonia very often because I have a hard time shooting more spontaneous, less perfect but more emotionally perfect imagery. So I have always been particular about how I include the subject in my frame, which way the subject is moving. I want to keep people interested and engaged so I try to give every image a visual journey.

Pre-visualization is important to me as much as sketching out an idea, or more often that not, thinking about it on my pillow the night before. That is usually what happens. And my approach with ski imagery is making that connection beyond the action. Sometimes the action is the hero, sometimes the place is the hero.

Tyler Petersen paints a line through the rock. | Wasatch bc, Utah | [Photo] Adam Barker

Tyler Petersen paints a line through the rock. | Wasatch bc, Utah | [Photo] Adam Barker

BCM: What is the most spectacular thing you didn’t catch on camera?

AB: Just a couple weeks ago there was a wildfire. My in-laws have a big deck that looks up the canyon, and I saw smoke from my office and just jumped in my car real quick with my point-and-shoot camera. I don’t know why I didn’t grab my bigger gear; I guess I was in a hurry. I went over to my in-laws’ because I knew they were going to have a cool view. It turns out that it became a pretty significant wildfire that was threatening a lot of homes.

Three hours later they brought in two Blackhawk helicopters that were getting their water from a water treatment facility close by and they were flying 100 feet over the house and dropping water on the fire. The action was amazing and the backdrop was Little Cottonwood Canyon so you could see granite peaks behind. I was dying that I didn’t have my big camera, and then my point-and-shoot dies so I was just shooting with my phone after that.

BCM: In what way has safety has been a concern for you?

AB: I am very attentive to being in a safe zone and making sure that the athletes I am with are making safe decisions. My brother-in-law passed away in an avalanche three years ago, so my wife is always concerned with my safety as well. I am very conservative in my decision making. We are fortunate to have the Utah Avalanche Center out there every day. No image is ever worth putting myself or someone else in harm’s way. I have a family. I want to grow old with that family.

BCM: Do you have any tips for aspiring photographers?

AB: If you are interested in photography, you need to be able to look at and appreciate the work of others without feeling threatened. It takes a long time to get to that place. I have always said that if you can find joy in the success of your fellow man, that you are going to be happier. There is only so much success we can experience ourselves.

See more of Adam Barker’s images at



  1. It does pose a real challenge shooting in the snow with the abundance of white everywhere.

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