Tall Order

One of the goals of Deep Summer is to cover all styles of riding in and around Whistler, and while Crabapple Hits are obviously the largest jumps in the area they are also the most heavily shot. By simply focusing on amplitude, I attempted to avoid the standard Crabapple look while still including one of the most iconic jump lines on the mountain.
Rider . Geoff Gulevich

Tall Order

How Deep Summer elevated an already tall man’s standing in the bike industry

Reuben Krabbe is tall. Like, really tall. At 6’5”, the slim man with the wispy blond mustache is memorable mostly because of his imposing height, but get to know him better and the born-and-raised Calgarian turns out to be an easy-to-laugh, thoughtfully-spoken, funny dude. And then, of course, there are the photos. In two short years, Krabbe’s imagery has moved from his blog and personal website to the pages of the most respected magazines in the bike industry. Yes, it’s safe to say Reuben Krabbe has arrived—and he’s bigger than he’s ever been.

This is no more evident than in his win at Whistler Blackcomb’s esteemed 2012 Deep Summer competition, which pits five photographers against each other in a three-day test of endurance, versatility and work ethic. Krabbe not only took the 2012 win but did it with dominance over the field, which included none other than action sport photography juggernaut Scott Markewitz, and mountain biking’s omnipresent documentarian Ian Hylands. So how did this towering young photo nerd come to be mountain biking’s newest photographic powerhouse? As with most big things, it started small.

This photo received the most comments and compliments from the show. The symmetry resonates instantly with everyone, and portrays mountain biking as directly as possible. When I framed this image several months later, I was looking at the image upside down. From that perspective it’s exactly how a child would draw a simple mountain: a pyramid capped with ribbons of snow.
Rider . Kenny Smith

“I began shooting in high school.” Says Krabbe. “I didn’t think of it as a career, but after graduation I thought, ‘I don’t know what else to do so I might as well try to do something I enjoy.’” Krabbe enrolled in Victoria, B.C.’s Western Academy of Photography and honed his craft.

During a stint volunteering at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, he had the opportunity to see the Pro Photographer Showdown. “That was the year Jordan Manley won [2009],” says Krabbe. “And I was like, ‘Woah, that’s something I want to do.’ It wasn’t just pretty pictures. It was the whole presentation. You get to control how the images are seen. In a magazine, people can flip by. In a slideshow, you can build up this sensory feel and emotion that might just be peripheral in a magazine. It’s a mindset, taking them out of their current experience and immersing them into this world.”

If I had it my way, we would have been shooting in foggy, rainy, coastal gnar for the entire competition; unfortunately, the sun kept blazing the whole time. The 11 a.m. start was difficult and the light poor, but all the photographers felt the urgency to get out and get shooting. Stephen Matthews found this rock ride, a natural line beside one of the trails in Garbo, and pointed Sarah into the sweet spot.
Rider . Sarah Leishman
Trail . Filthy Ape
I almost killed Sarah Leishman with the amount of shooting we did over the three days, at any and all hours. She picked out this air-to-rock face on Schleyer during the third day and asked me to shoot it; since the hit is visible from the chairlift, all I did was coordinate lighting with my assistant Paris Gore. The rest of the image is Sarah’s.
Trail . Schleyer

Krabbe’s five-minute Deep Summer show demonstrated a versatility that comes only as a result of extensive experimentation and a work ethic that arguably can’t be taught outside of childhood. Treetop perspectives of bike park berms are contrasted against star-trailed portraits from Whistler Peak. Amputees, children and friends play as important a role as pro athletes like Geoff Gulevich, Sarah Leishman and Kenny Smith. Artful in-camera double exposures and expansive landscapes don’t just pad out the space between radical whips and railed berms. They stand alone while adding to the whole.

For every action shot there’s an equally contemplative image that only enforces the show’s theme—synthesis. Krabbe is a thinking man, and it shows in these details. Like Manley and Blake Jorgenson before him, he displays insight and precision. It’s these qualities—not the “Look, at me. I’m ripping, bro” approach many shooters employ—that allow Krabbe to stand high above his competition.

To tell the story of “synthesis” I wanted to capture shapes that crossed between the elements: people, technology and nature. With this photograph I was aiming to highlight the shape of the berm swinging around the tree, followed by an image of a crank arm. The correlation between the two wasn’t strong enough to include in the show, but it’s still a great shot.
Riders . Kenny Smith & Sarah Leishman
Trail . Black Velvet

While tricks and whips are impressive, it’s the people, process and experiences that stand out. Krabbe knows this and it shows.

Spend enough time at these events and a pattern emerges. Those whose shows look like magazine ad portfolios place second, third and beyond. Those who shoot like a National Geographic feature stand on top of the podium. It’s the dedication to storytelling, and the minutiae beneath the fat-tired universe, that create great slideshows. While tricks and whips are impressive, it’s the people, process and experiences that stand out. Krabbe knows this and it shows.

On the third and final day of Deep Summer competition, Krabbe got too comfortable and crashed hard on A-Line, punching a hole in his elbow. After a visit to the hospital to get stitched up, he and Gulevich rode back out and nailed two more action photos that made the final cut. This fortitude, paired with his creative attention to detail, allows Krabbe to go one step further. Double exposures, for example, were once mainstays in a photographer’s bag of tricks. Since the advent of digital, few shooters purposefully compose them, instead relying on Photoshop to layer multiple images.

The ability to climb further—up trees, peaks and over the many logistical obstacles that occur during these shoot-and-run contests—means Krabbe collects unique angles like most photographers collect Instagram likes. He’s private and humble about his imagery and, instead of putting it out there, holds onto it until it’s perfect and published. Deep Summer is a rare example of Krabbe sharing imagery on such a short notice, but it’s for good reason.

Both the Deep Summer and Deep Winter shows have been won by a local photographer each year, prompting some to call the judges bias. However, without the local’s familiarity there are a lot of subtle images that others tend to miss. This piece of trail is an abandoned exit to Upper Whistler Downhill, overgrown with beautiful neck-high grass unlike almost anywhere in Whistler.
Rider . Stephen Matthews
To get the long, 30-second exposure needed to capture a headlamp streak, it is necessary for things to be quite dark. Stephen Matthews actually rode down the mountainside with two lights, a dim one pointing down the trail so he could see and a bright one pointing at the camera. The result was a great shot for me, but a terrifying ride with a heavy helmet for Stephen. I’m still not sure if he’s forgiven me for the near-death experience.
Trail . Peak Trail

“These competitions are a platform to stand on and announce your arrival in sports,” says Krabbe. “There are all these incremental moments in your career that only you and your friends hear about: first published photo, first gallery shot, first cover. When you enter one of these contests and do well, people truly take notice.”

And take notice they have. While away on a ski assignment this winter, Krabbe got a call from Bike magazine photo editor David Reddick. Reddick—known throughout the industry for being the most discerning eye in action sports—wanted to know if Krabbe could fly to the Deep South for a feature assignment. “I never thought I’d be going to Alabama,” says Krabbe. “It just wasn’t somewhere I thought photography would take me.”

To those who are watching, Krabbe’s career will take him a whole lot further than that.