“If I’m a professional then I’m one of those starving artists. Yes, I’ve honed my skills as a photographer but it is an endless, passionate pursuit in improving, in going further. As far as getting paid for it, good luck. I’m just an adventurist with a photography problem.”
Meet Weston Shirey. He’s 33 years old. He grew up in rural Pennsylvania on the Susquehanna River, the “prettiest part of PA.” He lives in Utah now and pads his pocketbook as an adventure travel guide and a ski patrolman. He is an extreme mountain athlete. He is not a household name in adventure photography. Well, not yet.
Shirey spent every day of his youth exploring the wonderment of the open spaces of his hometown. His kinship with nature and eye for its beauty was first inspired in these early Huckleberry-esque adventures. But he got photography from his momma. “My mother is a professional photographer,” Shirey explains. “She mostly shot boudoir and racy biker magazine covers. As a teen, you can imagine my interest in her career.” The badass biker babes may have piqued his interest but it was his mother’s sense of the craft—the rule of thirds, leading lines, patterns, background, depth, lighting—that held his attention. During camping and fishing trips, Shirey’s mother never put her camera down. He learned by osmosis.
After graduating from Lees-McRae College, Shirey moved to Utah to pursue his guiding career. For the last decade, he’s guided adventure-seeking clients to Nepal, Turkey, Greece, Iceland, Greenland, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, France, Rwanda, and Kenya, and worked as a patroller for the last eight winters. All the while, his camera at the ready. “Mostly, I shoot for myself and my friends,” Shirey says. “I find it very gratifying to capture the landscape or a moment during our adventures, to be able to relive them later. Photography helps me stay motivated to do more, see more, and push further. It’s the only reason I get up at 4 a.m. to catch a wild sunrise and the only reason I shirk responsibilities for golden hours.”
You probably don’t know Weston Shirey, but you should. Shirey is on the grind, on the hustle, and he is knocking at the door of adventure photography fame. His photos are mystical, breathtaking. Shirey captures the calm essence of those gigantic moments in the mountains from unique perspectives. His photos are smile-inducing shrines to those epic and fleeting points of mountain brilliance. Shirey’s work is triumphant. So, now you know.
“I really aspire to establish my name within ski photography and to shoot adventure-based projects,” Shirey explains. “The dream is to roll everything I love together, type two and three fun, travel, and photography. I’ll have made it when I can do that.”
2016/2017 was my best ski season ever and this photo is one of my best days ever. It’s hard to take a bad photo on a blue bird pow day. Rip skins, come up with a half-baked plan on where to ski, schuss down, and give the ole pole wave to let him know I’m ready. Then I get to watch the magic happen. Cold smoke! And repeat. Skier: Joe Johnson
When guiding a mountain bike trip in Canyonlands National Park, scenes like this are not that uncommon. We were in the middle of cleaning up after dinner when Bam! there was a double rainbow. Everybody stopped what they were doing to enjoy the scenic moment. I started snapping. I shouted out to Tim my co-guide, “jump for me.” I never knew he had so much grace in him. Snap. The leap was perfect. The cocktail in his hand is another a story. Jumper: Tim Reinbold
The fiery furnace is an incredible place, especially in winter, in the rain, with the textures and water stripes on the walls, and no one around. Something about running through canyons with your best friend, pushing further and further to see what is around the next corner, just makes you feel like a kid at heart. In blue: Kara Sephel
The Wind River Range has been on my list for a long time. I finally made it happen and this was my first night there. I love night photography; the infinite creativity, light painting, star streaking, exposures. This is my first star streak attempt. It was freezing out and I shot 4x 10 minute exposures. My lens began to grow ice on it and I decided to call it a night. The result will always symbolize that trip.
The first dump of Fall 2017. I left Park City at 4:30 a.m. and was post-holing thigh deep snow by 6 a.m. My solo mission was to summit Bald Mountain for sunrise. The cold wind in my face, burning lungs and thighs, it was an awesome mini adventure. Just what my soul needed.
The first light by Cirque of the Towers was euphoric. I was up well before the sun and had barely jammed my feet into my frozen hiking boots to run out for the sunrise by Lonesome Lake. That warmth of the first light was heavenly.
Hiking up Mt. Timpanogos to get the spring corn, one of the most memorable ski tours of last year. Zero dark thirty start, watching an unreal purple and pink sunrise on the way up, the puckering snow traverse, great friends, and great spring corn; that’s what it is all about.
I can count the number of times I’ve shot in the rain on half a hand. This was captured while guiding a mountain bike trip in the Grand Canyon. The rain showers and colors will forever be burned in my memory.
Any photographer worth their salt will tell you to be patient for the good light. This is case in point. I must have watched the light and clouds swirl around for two hours. Often it’s more about the process and being present than the result. I really enjoyed watching the show that morning.