It was 8 p.m. Thursday evening, just hours before the photo and video submissions for Eye of the Condor II were due. Four teams of skiers, photographers, and editors were busy making last-minute tweaks to the projects, when flakes began to fall from the expansive Chilean sky. It was the first snow La Parva had received all week, and Discrete's photographer Chris Bezamat wasn't going to waste the moment. He grabbed his camera and flash, and hiked up 194 steps to Saint Tropez, a restaurant where the rest of the team, Rachael Burks, Julian Carr, and Parker Cook, were enjoying fireside Pisco Sours. Bez rallied his team and set out into the snow, capturing what would become one best photos in his winning portfolio. The photo of Rachael Burks may have been the least planned shot of the entire event, but captures the essence of the Andes.
We caught up with Bezamat for his insight into Eye of the Condor II, and what inspired him throughout his week in the Andes.
Aside from winning, what was your favorite moment from Eye of the Condor II?
My favorite moment definitely the night we spent camping. The silence of the mountains offered a comfort that despite all the busyness of the world, there still exists peace. We had clear skies and the full moon came out over the peaks behind us. It was really incredible.
Out of your winning images, which one is your favorite and what went into shooting it?
My favorite image of was the portrait shot of Rachael. We finally got some snow on the last night and I had to run up to Saint Tropez and ask all the athletes to come back down to the condo and shoot portraits. They had a long week of work, so I thought they might not want to do it, but they all jumped up at the opportunity to help me out. Everyone helped out. Julian used a flashlight on Rachael so I could focus, while Parker and Felipe threw snow into the background of the shot. Some dense fog also rolled adding to the surreal quality of the image.
What was the biggest obstacle you faced during the contest?
The snowpack on the mountain. When you have deep powder it's easier to make captivating images because any skier can relate to the sensation of riding through it. It also feels a lot less like “work” when you have those deep conditions and the riders honestly feel the high from riding it. We not only had thin, hard-packed snow, but it was also wind affected. That means the snow doesn’t fly around so easily, steep faces become extremely dangerous, and landing airs results in uncontrollable acceleration. However, it forced me to be creative.
What is your favorite moment within the video?
My favorite moment of the video is when Rachael does the moonwalk on her skis and gives a kind of a gangster hand motion to the camera. To me, it shows how happy she is to be back on snow in the mountains and to be with her friends. Happiness and contentment in life are so frequently overshadowed by greed and progression and it warms my heart to find instances where the only thing being advertised is being happy.
Icelantic edged out Discrete by just one vote to win the film contest, which caused a bit of controversy because the last vote was cast based on the drinking in the video. What do you think about that?
It’s difficult for me to know what to say about the video situation. It may sound overly diplomatic, but I honestly feel badly for all the parties involved. There seemed to be few restrictions as to what we could shoot, which is a really wonderful attribute of the contest, but in the end there seemed to be an opinion that our content had too many instances that may have promoted drinking alcohol. I understand the judges perspective that feeding that type of activity to young riders is not what they want to do and I empathize with their position of having to take that stand. But ultimately it’s the judges choice and everyone has to move on.
You hate the word stoked. So what made you super epically STOKED on this trip?
Hahah….what makes me stoked….the sensation of carving a turn is what made me stoked on this trip. Not only does it feel so good on a physical level, but it can also symbolically feel like you are giving the finger to all the crap that inundates our lives.