Friend of the people - An interview with Dean Blotto
Dean Blotto Gray, better known as 'Blotto' to the photographic and snowboard community has been a long-time friend of ours at Arvin. Dean is a busy guy, traveling the world one half of the year and head down creating for the other half.
I first met Dean in Flagstaff AZ in 1993 at the (infamous) AZP skatepark. I was a high school grom, and he was one of the team "rippers". Those times influenced me, and what is now Arvin Goods in a big way, staying in touch with Dean, and following his career has been great. Building a collection, and observing his creative process has been a pleasure.
It took some time to line up all the parts to build a project and have some fun with this incredibly creative dude. But we did it.
If you have not caught the collection, you can find it right here! As is true with all Arvin Goods products everything is produced using our recycled, and/or organic materials. We are proud to present items in this way with such an exciting partner.
Please enjoy this great interview with our homie, Blotto.
Tell us about your first published photo. Who/What/When/When….
In the spring of 1995, I traveled into the Vail Pass backcountry with the Technine crew to shape, ride, and shoot the (infamous) quarterpipe. After a solid day of shaping, we came back the next afternoon to session this beast of a build, so I brought along a 35mm SLR camera with one roll of color film, thinking it would be fun to take some pictures of my friends snowboarding. Not really knowing how to operate the camera (or how to load the film), photographer Kevin Zacher taught me on the spot how to load the canister along with a brief lesson on shutter speed and aperture. I snapped a few photos throughout the day from afar, atop the lip, near the bottom of the transition, and so on, really enjoying the process. A couple of months later Kevin (Zacher ) asked if I wanted to submit some photos to Stick Magazine, which I did, and a wide-angle photo of (pro snowboarder) Travis Parker ran as my first published photograph ever!
How has your gear changed since you started photographing snowboarding and action sports?
I held out on switching to digital cameras for many years until the film types I used on a daily basis ceased to exist, along with the processing materials. At this point, I moved from SLR and Medium Format cameras over to the Nikon D3 (digital) camera, while learning how to use Adobe Lightroom for post-processing. This was by far the biggest equipment change during my career. Nowadays I’ll shoot any digital camera the job asks for, it’s fun to jump around and try new gear.
When did you realize, this isn’t just a hobby, but something you can turn into a fun career?
While working for Technine managing the snowboard team and shooting photos as a hobby, Ethan Fortier (Technine co-founder) said we needed to start producing all of our own content moving forward. He decided to buy a computer and learn graphic design so he could build the catalog and website. I took over a Canon EOS 630 with two lenses that Technine already owned and began organizing and shooting photos of the snowboard team. I immediately knew I loved this ‘picture-taking thing,’ so I kept doing it!
What is the story behind this collaboration for you?
Arvin Goods has produced all of my Blotto beanies since day one, so I was familiar with the Arvin team, their philosophy, and their reliability. Dustin (Winegardner) and Harry (Fricker) approached me and said they’d be down for a collaboration, so I kept that invite on the back burner until the time was right. Some months later, I decided on mixing photography data and painted art across the socks, tees, and hoodie, while collaborating with Harry on the designs. I’m extremely happy with the final product and can’t thank the Arvin team enough for their belief in my work, sharing their knowledge, and deciding to do a launch party in Salt Lake City at Fice Gallery!
The Winter is about to start, what's on the cards? Any big trips/projects or staying closer to home?
Winter 2023 will be another doozy, in a good way. I’m signed on for Natural Selection Tour once again, I’ll be visiting the Woodward Peace Parks across America, and plenty of days will be spent with the Burton Snowboards Team. While the shutter is clicking and memory cards are filling up, I’ll be working on the ‘Blotto Vs.’ book series (Round II), completing the ‘Decade of Peace Park book,’ and making plans for my painting schedule that kicks off in the spring.
Your Camera settings… Tell the folks that might not understand their meanings…
Looking at my Arvin collaboration with ‘ISO 250 – f6.3 – 1600’ appearing on the socks and hoodie, these are the three most crucial dial settings for capturing daytime snowboarding.
When reflecting back on that day when I captured my first published photo, Zacher was very adamant about tack-sharp photographs, which can be achieved through camera settings (and focus points). His advice (and philosophy) from that many years ago was and still is 110% correct. He didn’t tell me exactly where to set the dials that day, but he pushed me in the right direction to figure it out and do well. Over the past twenty years, I’ve been asked numerous times by enthusiastic shred photographers how I stop fast-moving snowboarders, and my advice is the same that Kevin offered up to me, which provides a great jump-off point for their own photographic adventures in the snow.
The photos displayed at the Fice Gallery product launch were captured using ‘ISO 250 – f6.3 – 1600’ settings on a 35mm DSLR.
A classic…. What is the one camera you will always run with?
When I’m not on the job using a big rig, the go-to camera is the one I can send text messages, make phone calls, and Facetime with. I published a book titled ‘Blotto’s Phone Book,’ with a few copies available at the Fice Gallery product launch. ✌️