Interview: Guillaume Le Guillou – Big Mountain Action Sport Photography

Guillaume Le Guillou

Guillaume Le Guillou is a La Grave-based – european freeride eldorado in France – photographer and he is sharing some big mountain action sport photography thoughts in the following with us. Le Guillou is studied architecture and after his exam he’s been running the web agency abstrakt graphics. After selling it he now spends more than 100 days on his snowboard and 60 on his bikes.

How do you describe yourself as a photographer?
Well, I’am a snowboarder, and I’ve spend more than 1000 days on snow during the last ten years, I love big lines in deep powder (I’m addicted for sure), big mountains and since I live in La Grave everything changed in my life. It’s a magic place with nice people and beautiful mountains. The way I take photos is inspired by this place and those people who have become my friends, it’s easyer when you have a close relationship with the riders …

Bottom line – why do you take photographs?
I remember the first photo that really impressed me: it was Peter Cabrina (a windsurfer) in Hookipa Bay Hawaii and I was living in Brittany while wind surfing every weekend … it was like my dreams becoming reality. So I kept buying wind surfing magazines, dreaming of perfect waves and sunny days with strong wind (Brittany is a rainy place, and in winter when there is wind it’s really cold).

Ten years ago I’ve sold my web agency that I was running in Paris and I decided to stay for a winter in La Grave – since then I’ve never moved again – I have always spend time in the mountains, but living here changed my life and my “motivation” to shoot photos.

I just want to share the good time I experience in the mountains and keep some “souvenirs” of those perfect days :=). In the beginning I was doing websites and I needed photos for them, this was the very beginning of my photography. Then I realized that I needed some pro gear to make some good shots. When I bought my canon 1d mk3 and L series lens …. everything changed … auto focus is so efficient … we had three perfects years in a row, except last season. Everything goes step by step: First I make a few good shots with some friends of mine (they are not famous and haven’t any sponsors) and after this I was lucky to be published in magazines worldwide and got a lot of spreads.

How has your work evolved?
The more I ride big lines myself the more I get a feeling for it. The evolution of my work is connected to my ability of riding big lines like Pan de Rideau, North Face of La Meije, Enfetchores – by the way the best big lines in La Grave – and now I ride everywhere in the world. Always with my photo gear (98% of my riding time I carry it with me). So, meeting good riders helps a lot and the knowledge of spots – Chamonix, Queyras, British Columbia, Norway, Switzerland – is absolutely important in understanding mountains and lines one can ride.

Do you adjust your photographs digitally – except minor changes in color, sharpening and so on – or leave them as they are?
Well I’m a web designer and use photoshop since v3.5 (1995) so I spend much time editing perhaps some times too much, but that’s my way. I love to test different software to understand what’s possible. My work flow is a bit “sophisticated”. In the first step I use lightroom for sorting out and providing metadata. Then I make a basic editing and then send some previews to the brand, magazine and riders. After that, when they need hires images, I use DXO, because optical modules are so powerfull. I always finish my job with photoshop for the final color adjustments and sharpening.

Sometimes I also use photomatix for hdr (with a lightroom plugin). Years ago I was using Rawshooter, the simplest raw conversion software. It was easy to use and so fast as lightning, but adobe bought it to transform it to lightroom and the new cr2 (I’m on Canon) files are no longer supported by this software … sad story.

As a action sports photographer do you see photography as more of a catch-and-release phenomenon or more of a mounted-on-the-wall type of thing as you have already in mind what you want to take?
I prefer when the riders do what they want to do and then I choose the best point of view to capture this action. But we discuss the lines before the shooting. When we pick up a big line, there is aren’t many ways to ride it, so we try to find the perfect timing for the light … the best action without light won’t make a good shot!

What advice can you offer other (action sport) photographers?
Good question (perhaps a bit tricky)! Let’s try:

– RIDE, the more you can ride yourself, the better you can understand what riders are able to do.
Be social, photography is about connection with riders, brands and magazines.
– Show your work, show your work, show your work …if nobody knows what you do it doesn’t make sense.
– Get inspired by all kind of photography (for this you should register on web site like
– Shoot, shoot, shoot, and analyze your worst work. You have to understand why it’s not good, so that next time you can make a better one.
– Be positive, because there are so many reasons to be disappointed with your work.
– Have a real job – make money with it – so you will be able to spend more time in the mountains. ❚

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