Snow Shooter: Brian Mohr

Getting the shot is just a bonus for Brian Mohr, whose seemingly unlimited appreciation for family, community and environment continuously bubbles over. As he goes with the flow, he has a camera along for the ride—taking photos as he inspects both the finer and bigger things that cross his path.

We chatted with Mohr about what it means to be a family man in the backcountry and why being a photographer is well suited to his lifestyle.

Brian, Emily and baby Miana out for an adventure [Photo] EmberPhoto

Brian, wife Emily and daughter Maiana out for an adventure. [Photo] EmberPhoto

Backcountry Magazine: What was it that inspired you to become a photographer?

Brian Mohr: I shot a bunch when I was growing up. As a family we adventured a lot; we did a lot of camping and canoeing and skiing. My parents took a few photos here and there, and I was intrigued. I spent a little time in the darkroom in middle school and high school, so I had some solid exposure to photography as a child.

When I was in middle school I went climbing around Mt. Rainier on a family trip and didn’t realized until after we were down that I didn’t have any film in the camera. I thought I had the most amazing photographs of the mountain, above the clouds. I almost took the camera and chucked it over this 100-foot waterfall when I discovered this. I was basically done with photography for nearly ten years. For most of my college years I hardly picked up a camera, and I think that was a good thing in a lot of ways because it really allowed me to be out in the backcountry, exploring the mountains, exploring the ocean environments without the distraction of a camera. It gave me a chance to be out there establishing my own skills and love for the backcountry.

Emily [Brian’s wife] studied photography—she has degrees in fine arts and teaching with an emphasis on photography, and she was wrapping up her final photo project at the time that we met, so I helped her out. We quickly realized that we have a lot of fun together making photographs on our own adventures. That was really the beginning.

BCM: How has your relationship with your wife defined your photographic style?

BM: We rely on each other as subjects more than anyone else, so it’s extremely convenient that we are both photographers and both love to explore the outdoors and push ourselves through our adventures. There are not many other people in the world that I can ask to climb back up onto a ridgeline that we have already spent the day skiing around—after dinner when the wind is howling and the temperatures have already dropped 20 degrees—just because the light is unreal and there’s a certain shot that we have been looking for, for a couple of weeks when we were in a certain location but haven’t really seen it until that very moment.

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

BM: The outdoor adventure is definitely at the root of much of our work, but we do shoot just about everything. People like to ask us what we like to photograph, and we photograph anything that catches our eye. I will spend hours of time at the base of half a dozen trees like I did yesterday, looking very closely at the bark on trees, the dirt on the ground, the patterns in a stream, a floating leaf, so that is just as intriguing to me photographically as a skier blasting through overhead snow.

Our real approach to photography is documenting what we do. We really love to move, to explore, to get out there on our skis and our bikes and our boats and just go places and dig into this amazingly beautiful world that we call home. Our approach is very journalistic. We are photojournalists documenting life and we just happen to be avid adventurers.

A shot taken on a month long pedal powered skiing adventure through Arctic Norway. [Photo] EmberPhoto

In 2010, Brian and Emily spend a month pedaling and skiing throughout Arctic Norway. [Photo] EmberPhoto

BCM: How does your sense of place and community affect your photography?

BM: I think there is a certain richness to being in one area for a long time. There is a richness to localizing our pursuits. I think personally, having been born and raised in the northeast—Emily especially as a woodchuck (a Vermonter), and I’ve been visiting Vermont since birth—we’ve been increasingly connected to Vermont and increasingly connected to our home in Moretown. The landscape we explore right out our backdoor, and the people we visit locally, that sort of connection to our local community and our local environment—what’s going on immediately around us—fuels the vast majority of our work here in the northeast. I can’t tell you how many images we capture right out our backdoor. Those are the places we spend the most time, but also the places we are the most intimately connected to.

BCM: What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you while shooting?

BM: Well, last spring, while embarking on an afternoon tour of Mt. Mansfield, two naked dudes and one naked gal came schussing into the scene as I was snapping a photo of pregnant Emily skinning to a backdrop of the Mansfield summit. I’d show you the image, but I’ve got a client scheming to use it, so I need to keep it under the radar for now.

BCM: What is one of the challenges that you face as a photographer?

BM: It is hard to balance photography with other things we are passionate about like our friends, each other, wanting to spend time with our kids and tending to other responsibilities. It’s a challenge because photography is so appealing to us. There is absolutely no limit to what we can do photographically. It’s hard balancing what’s worth shooting and what’s not. Or when to shoot versus when to put the camera away and keep moving.

BCM: How do you define you photographic style?

BM: I really like to take in the landscape, to put people in the broader landscape. I am really drawn to compositions that show how unique the place we’re in is. So I tend to pull back more than some do and compose an image in which you could just remove the athlete, remove the skier, and it would be just as interesting to look at if it were put up on the wall or screen. I like to showcase these unique and beautiful landscapes, and the fact that there’s a skier getting a faceshot is just a bonus.

Most of the time I’ve got an 18-200mm Canon EF lens. It’s not a high-end lens, but it’s extremely versatile. It allows me to really widen the perspective or close in without having to take my pack off my shoulder and switch lenses. I can be moving through very different compositions without even blinking an eye.

I am a skier before I’m a ski photographer. Photography is secondary to everything we do. It’s a means to an end, it’s a means to earning a living. At times I’m on a mission for certain perspectives with certain athletes, but generally speaking that’s how I approach things. I usually have a wide 10-20 Sigma to really capture a wild vertical landscape if I need to.

Having the extra pound or two of gear isn’t worth it. And now a day, I have an extra kid or two with me. It’s going to get a little tricky to have Lenora on my chest and Maiana on my back and have the camera going.

BCM: How do your daughters integrate into your photography?

BM: They are ever present. We are fortunate to be with them. Maiana Snow has been skiing with us since she was three months in utero. She was on Mt. Washington with us at three weeks old when she summited Monroe, and was out on a pretty extensive tour in Vermont at two weeks old. The second season she skied over 100 days on my pack throughout the northeast backcountry, in the White Mountains and all over the Greens. She is just out there with us exploring these environments. We have to ski a little more carefully and a little slower, but it’s as if our entire lives as adventurers has been training for this amazing skiing adventure with her and now with our second daughter, Lenora Sky as well.

Brian out for a skin with Miana [Photo] EmberPhoto

Brian out for a skin with Maiana. [Photo] EmberPhoto

BCM: Is there anything else you want to add?

BM: I hope that our work can encourage people to put greater value on the places that we call home or the places we play and recreate—and also to get involved in ensuring that that value is lasting. We are utilizing our work to support large-scale conservation efforts locally and regionally. Our work with the Vermont Backcountry Alliance is a good example of that.

See more of Brian’s work at

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