Commercial Action and Lifestyle Photographer Reaching New Heights

The mountains have a special magic. Athletes, explorers, and hikers often discuss the breathtaking views they encounter when they reach the summit or down the slopes.

Photographer Ross Woodhall‘s passion for snowboarding led him to embark on a grand journey in Europe and New Zealand in the 1990s, where he was able to capture the action.

We spoke with Ross about his passion for photography, his career in commercial work, and why he is a Nikon fanatic.

He said he has worked for many companies, both large and small. He also said he had learned to create top-notch content from the best in business. Ross is not only driven by the peaks of mountains but also “always pushing” to surpass clients’ expectations. There’s a pattern emerging. Ross is always striving to reach new heights.

Follow along with our Instagram (@photoshelter) as we share some of Ross’ jaw-dropping and scroll-stopping photos.

This interview has been edited to make it shorter. Cover image by Ross Woodhall.

Photo by Ross Woodhall

What has your passion for the mountains and experience there led you to do the work that you do in your photography business?

RW When I was a child, school felt like a prison. I wanted to be outdoors.


How did I get to the mountains? It was a very classic story. In a French pub, I was approached by someone who offered me the job of renovating a hotel. I met someone in a pub who offered me a job helping renovate a French Alps hotel.

I originally wanted to be a professional snowboarder. This is why I spent two winters in each hemisphere. After a few nerve-wracking photoshoots and some dodgy sponsors, I decided a career in photography was the better choice. So I landed a job at the top chairlift in New Zealand as a photographer.

The man who hired me was Tony Harrington. He is one of the most talented surf and ski photographers on the planet. I learned to navigate commercial photography from him.

To a certain extent, I still am obsessed with shooting, snowboarding, and skiing. It lends itself so well to photography as a sport — the flying snow, the drama in the mountains, and the action. Photographing is so addicting.

Photo by Ross Woodhall. Freeride skier turning away from the piste. Ski lifestyle and action shot for Pure Freeride Design. Hand-made bamboo ski company. The legendary La Grave off-piste ski area in Isere, France, was the location for this shoot.

Tell us a little about your equipment. What are your favorite cameras, lenses, and software for travel or the studio? What is the one piece of gear you cannot live without?

RWWell, I’ve got it all: 35mm, medium format 645, and 6×17 panorama.

After years of using Canon 35mm, I switched to digital. It was the Nikon D3 that sealed my fate! Since then, I have only used Nikon.

At the moment, I am dipping my toes in both DSLR and Mirrorless camps. I still use my D5 for sports and my D850 for studio. I also own a Z6ii. I am waiting for the Z8.

I use the 14-24mm, 2470mm, and 70-200mm lenses with a 2.8 zoom. Primes are 35, 50, and 85mm, f1.4, and I also use a Nikkor zoom 200-500mm, depending on the project.

I have a 58mm F1.4 on my shopping list, along with three Z lenses: a 14-30mm F4, 24-120mm F4, and a 100-405mm f4.5-5. The Z6ii and these 3 lenses, which I bought purely because of the weight factor, should be the perfect set-up for alpine photography.

I use Capture One, Photoshop, and Apple. A CamRanger attached to an iPad Pro is one of my most useful bits of kit.

Elinchrom and Profoto flashes are also used in my studio.

What are some of your best tips for photographers who want to break into commercial and lifestyle photography?

RW: Shoot a lot! Do not be discouraged by rejection. Keep your vision in mind and stay true to it.

If you’re passionate about a particular genre, such as climbing, and that is what you enjoy doing, you can become an excellent climber. Immerse yourself in the world of your choice, and you will find work.


How long have you been using PhotoShelter? How has it helped you with your creative workflow or your photo business

RWI think [I began using PhotoShelter] around 2009, but it may have been earlier. It’s a perfect platform for me. I use it to run my website and all my deliverables without any issues.

Why do you love taking photos?

RW It’s more like an obsession. If I don’t have my camera with me, I can get quite grumpy.

It is very immediate. It’s amazing to be able to freeze a moment in time. You can go back and watch it over and over again. It’s quite magical! I love that you can zoom in, isolate certain parts of the image and capture only what is needed.

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