Ryan Young – The Snake

The Image

Ryan Young

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Time / Date:
16:10 / August 18th, 2011

The Technical

Camera Body: Canon 7D
Lens: 24-70mm

Camera Settings:
Shutter Speed: 1/250
Aperture: f/11
ISO: 400
Focal Length: 24mm

The Story


During the Summer of 2011, I went on a 43 day road trip around the country to make a documentary on skateboard culture. The project, Outside the Lines, was sponsored by YouTube and produced by Joel Jutigar. It was rugged, exhausting, and full of epic spontaneous moments. As we made our way through New Mexico, we heard about a gnarly bank spot that had to be checked out. When we arrived, I knew something crazy would go down, but didn’t expect it would happen off the board.

The Scene: 

As I arrived to the location, I was in awe of this giant rainbow bank spot. There must have been at least 20 skateboarders and half a dozen families sliding down this thing on milk crates. The scene was very chaotic with a bunch of different tricks going down so I decided to ditch my lights and just start shooting sequences/ available light single shots.


On this trip I had a bunch of equipment; two battery packs, 4 heads, pocket wizards, ect.. But for this image, I just shot it with natural light, a lens, and a camera. Nothing too crazy. I try to keep things as simple as possible. It really depends on the shoot for eq, but I’m happiest when I’m with my fuji 645 and a fill card.

Making the Shot:

Having just a camera in my hands, I had the freedom to move around and cover all kinds of different things in addition to the tricks on this shoot. My friend Chris Jatoft was on a rampage- landing a bunch of crazy stuff. The last trick he landed at this spot sent him into a crazy burst of energy. He was hyped. After bombing down the bank, he noticed a snake and picked it up without hesitation. It was an insane display of celebration… Everything happened so fast, and I’m pretty sure everyone was afraid for his well-being. Once he had the snake under control, I asked everyone to get out of the way, and loosely directed him over in front of the bank to make this picture. I basically just placed him in a spot, pulled back, and let the collaboration between myself and him take place. I wanted to incorporate the environment for obvious reasons. The bank and the mountains served as a nice clean backdrop for Chris and his new friend. After I shot a few images, Chris wanted to do a trick down the bank with the snake around him. Luckily everyone talked him out of it, and he let the little dude go.

Editing & Processing:

Most of my early work is shot on film, so I try my best to replicate that feel if I’m shooting digital. I don’t do much compositing, or crazy color shifts. I like to maintain a natural feel to my images. I embrace the blue in shade, green in fluorescent lights, and the yellow/orange in tungsten bulbs… Most of my editing/ processing is similar to how I would work in the darkroom. Mostly just add some contrast, dodge and burn, and slight color correction.

Looking Back: 

There’s a lot of energy in this image. I really like how calm the environment is juxtaposed to a maniac with a snake approaching his mouth. This moment pretty much sums up a skateboard road trip; spontaneous, dangerous, and awesome.


Just remember that everything is raw material and to be hyperaware of your surroundings. If you aren’t shooting something in the studio or set up, be conscious of things outside of the main subject you’re photographing. Listen just as well as you look and you’ll capture some unexpected gold. I’m not sure what exact genre my photography fits into… I guess it can be considered documentary? I enjoy capturing stories through portraiture, still life and landscape. I look up to photographers such as Bruce Davidson, Danny Lyon, and Nan Golden. I think the key is to simply be about your work. For anything that I’m photographing, my initial intention is to be a part of it, whatever that is. I like the concept of asking first, shooting later. My advice; close the distance between your subject matter and yourself by having a sincere curiosity in what your photographing. If I’m photographing skateboarders, I’m going to be skating. If I want to make work on fishing, I’m going to learn how to fish. It’s not a hard concept to grasp, but essential to gaining trust and access. The last thing that I want to be viewed as is THE photographer. I’d rather just be a friend.


It’s hard for me to narrow this down into something specific. But mostly things that are going on in my life. The idea of discovering things in familiar and unfamiliar places is exciting for me. I’m very attracted to stories that I hear where something or someone is in a transitional stage; a friend having a first born child, a city that’s gone bankrupt, my neighbor who’s moving, ect. I guess I’m simply interested in gaining life experience through photography. The act of photography has always created opportunities for me to develop deeper relationships with people and places. I strive to keep doing more of that.


About the Photographer

I’m Ryan; an LA and SF based photographer. When I’m not shooting photos or staring at a screen, there’s a good chance I’m surfing cement waves, driving on I-5, or bowling just over 100.

Website: www.ryaneyoung.com
Blog: www.ryaneyoung.tumblr.com
Twitter: @ryanyoungphoto
Instagram: @ryaneyoung

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