Dominic Zimmermann is next up in our Glass Eye interview series, where the characters behind the glass get pulled into focus for a change.
Dominik has been crushing the photo game of late, landing a heap of covers and ads in multiple mags, stacking shots with the Absinthe Crew, sending it deep with the BYND MDLS dudes in Japan and keeping it local in Laax with Hitsch to create the stills for his project GLUE. He's a busy man, but that never was a bad thing in our book. In fact, he was so fast at turning around these questions we don't even have another feature to post since the last Glass Eye interview with Marco Morandi.
If like most of us in the so-called snowboard media you spend a lot of time on the gram, you'll be sure to recognise Dominic's razor-sharp close-up shots of some of the sickest riders in the game. Just think back to the cover of Method Mag 17.4 if you need an example. Full-frame pipe slashes of Hitsch, Kevin and Tor are what we're talking about. Not the done to death fish-eye backside air comp shot above a crowd of gawking onlookers. Shots where Nico Muller is filling the entire frame with the smoothest butter you've ever witnessed.
Pulling focus on a pro is no easy feat, but somehow Dom is able to do it with ease. His editing game is on point and his compositions are always unique. But as they say, a photo speaks a thousand words so read on below to find out Dominic's secrets, his future plans, and his favourite five shots from the winter that was. Ladies and Gents, Dominic Zimmerman.
Words: William Sleigh. Photos: Dominic Zimmermann (unless stated) https://www.instagram.com/dominiczimmermann1/
You spend a lot of time with the BYND MDLS crew, how did you get to know them and what is it like travelling with them?
I met Kevin a long time ago on a Burton Shoot in Austria. A few years later I went shooting with Kevin, Tor and Diggles for the BYND MDLS episodes in Laax, I think that was 2014. Actually, Diggles introduced me to BYND MDLS. It's a hell lot of fun travelling with them, stories for days every day. They are like an old married couple... Sometimes it looks a bit chaotic from an outside perspective but those guys have their business and snowboarding on lock, very professional. I like to party sometimes and they do too, so we get along very well. Nothing but love for those boys!
When did you first pick up a camera and how long did it take you before you started shooting snowboarders?
Since my father was an advertisement and portrait photographer I got introduced to cameras and photography at a very young age. I studied graphic design and worked as a graphic designer in Zurich before I became a photographer. The graphic design helped me a lot for my photography career, for example in terms of image building. I think I started shooting snowboarding with my friends at Hoch-Ybrig around 11 years ago but on a very poor level....
You’ve landed quite a few magazine covers this winter? How does that feel and where do you go from here?
When you see a magazine in your mail that features one of your photos on the cover you get very excited or at least I do. It's a way better feeling than getting a shot published on a digital platform. Ist just nice to have something printed in your hands. Unfortunately, print magazines in snowboarding are getting less and less. There are a couple ones left but compared to a few years ago ist not so many. Those who are left are doing a really good job, thanks, guys! I try to get a couple covers every year. It's like getting ads with brands, it's kinda like a goal for me and very rewarding for your work you put into shoots during the season.
I don't know where I go from here right now, I love shooting snowboarding but the older I get my interests starting to move on from snowboarding into other genres of photography, such as portrait, fashion and advertising. So will see, I'm for sure gonna shoot some snowboarding in the future but maybe not travelling the globe and chasing snow for six months per year.
What gear do you mainly use for snowboard photography?
I'm pretty down to basic when it comes to gear to shoot snowboarding. I really don't like a heavy backpack, who does anyway? Right now I bring a Nikon D810, a 70-200mm Lens, a 24-70mm Lens and 58mm Lens in my backpack. Plus some analogue point and shoot like the Contax T2 or the Olympus Mju II.
I really don't like to bring the flashes to the backcountry... I bring them on some street missions but I try to avoid flashing in snowboard photography. I don't like the dramatic look a flash creates anymore. But it always depends on the shoot, if needed I bring it... ☺
What other sources of photography do you follow apart from Instagram? What other sides of photography are you interested in?
Instagram is for sure one of my favourite source, also for inspiration. I do follow a couple Tumblr photo blogs but that's pretty much it. I do look at other photographers websites a lot and get inspired by magazines, online or print. Books, zines and graphic design are also always nice to look at, to get inspired to try new things you've never done before. I really like portrait, people and fashion photography. Landscape as well and advertisement is more for the cash but it can be interesting. You learn a lot of technical lighting stuff.
What do you think will change about snowboard photography in the next few years? What will never change?
The publishing will change even more from print to online and social media. The magazines will probably struggle even more in the future, so that's very sad. But this is just the time we are living in and you have to adapt to make it happen. Talking from the past all the time and how good it was back in the day is not the way you should think. The future is what counts and I really hope that snowboarding gets bigger again in a couple years, but for this, we need strong winters to create money for the industry. Some stuff will never change like the good times you have with your friends while shooting snowboarding and travelling together.
Who are your favourite riders to shoot photos with?
I really enjoy shooting with Nicolas Mueller and the younger Absinthe Riders, like Max Buri and Sevi van der Meer. Tor and Kevin are some of my favourites as well and of course Christian Haller and Deniz Cinek. Those guys all know what they're doing and you get banger shots every day.
Have you ever missed a shot? What do you do in that situation?
Of course, I missed some shots, that happens. It doesn't happen a lot and you should try to get the shot every time. Especially when the rider is sending it and almost risking his life for the cameras. But mostly the spots are not too gnarly and you just tell the rider straight away "Sorry bro, I missed the last one, would like to try another...“ But if it's like a huge BC Kicker or some gnarly line you should really not miss anything and have your shit on lock as the riders do too.
How do you stay creative when shooting snowboarding?
Trying out new stuff and perspectives is key to staying creative. For example close ups, I love to shot close up these days, it's fresh and gives the viewer a unique look on the rider. Get inspiration from other photos and photographers for the shoots and editing as well. Never copy-paste tough. Today the editing process is such a huge part of photography and you can add a lot of creativity to your photos with a good editing job. So staying fresh in front of the desk helps too.
Dominic's top 5 shots
The whole Absinthe crew went from Champery up the valley to Brig that day. Like three filmers, two photographers and 8 riders. After we arrived Brendan tied up his boots and took his snowboard with him around the City. There was no snow left in town but he found some spots anyway... The whole crew gathered around this slide and watched Brendan taking the spot down like the King he is. Later that night he also hit a rail with barely any snow in the in-run and landing, the whole crew helped him out. The beer was floating, the vibe was sick. Thanks Brendan for being unique!
We had been in Laax for filming and taking photos with Hitsch for his recent project "GLUE“. If you haven't seen it you are missing out, go watch it on Vimeo. Anyway, Kris Lüdi, the filmer and myself were trying to capture Hitsch really close up mid-air in the superpipe. It was very difficult to get the framing and the moment right because you couldn't see the deck through the viewfinder just white sky in the background and Hitsch flying high in front of you. After a couple tries, we nailed the shots and I'm very happy with the outcome. Hitsch has a sick and unique style in the Pipe and it's always a pleasure to shoot with him.
I've been shooting with Deniz forever and he is one of the sickest and most underrated riders. He is literally so fucking good and he's sending it in the BC. This was the first photo I took of the season 2016 at Operalpass in Switzerland. The powder was really good so we decided to shoot sprays all morning long and built a hip for the afternoon. Those days, without a filmer and shooting photos with a small crew or one rider only, are the best and always productive.
Shooting Sprays is the best, at least for me. It gets even better when you have Keegan in front of your lens blasting a turn and creating a huge cloud. Keegan is a boss and really good at snowboarding, also in the BC. We were shooting with Absinthe in Champéry and he joined us for some kind of Euro vacation since he was not filming for Absinthe. And it really paid off, we got a TWS Cover, adidas Ad and Gallery Shots from those days. Not too bad for being on vacation in Switzerland...
Max is one of my favourite riders to shoot with. His style is so refreshing and loose, it's a pleasure to watch. This kicker though is a dick. The spot is called Camel, we did it seven years ago with JP Solberg, RDM and Jules Reymond. Before that RDM and Trevor Andrews did it way back.
It's a one day build for 10 people and a fucked up hike to the actual spot. The next day after shaping we booked the helicopter to fly us up there and shoot the session. Unfortunately, not many tricks were landed since we angled the jump a little bit wrong and the snow in the landing wasn't the best for this kinda size of a jump. It's by far the biggest BC jump I've seen in Switzerland or even Europe. Even Brusti flew in from Zurich to shot this monster...