Words by Lydia Paleschi
Ross Taylor found his calling to photography after suffering a snowboarding injury in 2020. Today, his work is featured in some of the UK’s leading action sports magazines. We get to know the man behind the lens and how his passion for action sports has driven him to find a way to stay in the thick of it, chasing the stoke and sharing it with others through imagery.
If you’re a fan of action sports, in particular surfing, there’s a good chance you’ve come across the work of Cornwall-based photographer Ross Taylor. Having picked up a camera just a couple of years ago, he’s now become an almost permanent fixture to any line up in Kernow’s west coast. Ross’ tenacious approach to capturing action shots of people up and down the Cornish coastline has landed him some serious features online and in print as a result. His photography has graced the pages of Carve, Wavelength, Surfgirl and regularly features online for Magicseaweed. Away from the surf world his images have featured in Radio Times, Mountain Bike UK and the prestigious Red Bull Illume photo competition.
With a talent for capturing the skill and energy that surrounds action sports, it’s hard to look at one of Ross’ images without it invoking a sense of thrill or even awe at the people in them. Often captured in the setting of the Cornish coastline, Ross’ shots also pay homage to the wilderness of this corner of the UK and how it’s been harnessed by people to give them a hell of a ride – whether on a board or a bike. Ross also has a talent for storytelling through sequences of images in what he calls “the build up and the banger”. Through his compilations, he conveys the bigger picture, including the people and the feelings that build up to a moment, before capturing it in all its glory.
Life as a competitive snowboarder
Undoubtedly, part of what contributes towards Ross’ ability to capture action sports and the build up behind them in such a way, is his background as a competitive snowboarder. Having spent ten years representing the Armed Forces in snowboarding, he understands what goes into those “banger” moments. Ross has entered events alongside professional snowboarders and olympians including Jamie Nicholls, Billy Morgan, Katie Ormerod and Aimee Fuller and won overall men’s in the combined services six times during a decade of competing. In January 2020, he was on track for yet another successful season, aiming for his seventh win. However, after overshooting a jump in the Val-d’Isère snow park he broke and dislocated his shoulder. Ross’ season came to a devastating early end and he is still dealing with the implications of that injury two years later.
Finding new ways to chase the stoke
Being used to spending six to eight weeks a year in the alps and most of his spare time doing sports, Ross found himself looking for a way to fill the void of time which had now unexpectedly arrived. This was the moment his vague interest in photography – perhaps better described as dabbling – catapulted into a commitment to capturing some of the most attention grabbing shots in the southwest. Ross explains, “When I hurt myself I was gutted. I knew I’d need to focus on the physical side of things and rehab, but I needed something else to focus on too. Sport has always been my motivator to go out and about and I needed to find something to replace it. I still wanted to be a part of the action sports community, so I thought I’d go and capture other people enjoying it.”
Since then, Ross has been hitting the line up with his camera almost obsessively. If there are waves in Cornwall’s south or west coast, there’s a good chance he’ll be there – rain, shine, dusk and dawn included. He’ll shoot all year round, spending hours in the sea on a freezing winter’s morning. If something catches his eye after he’s left the water, he’ll jump straight back in without hesitation – determined to not miss a shot. On weekends, Ross heads to motocross events and races, or even stakes out at his friend and UK freestyle motocross legend Wayne Jacobs’ house to watch him practice and capture what Ross describes as “insane, risk your life kind of tricks”. Like with snowboarding, there’s no half-hearted approach to Ross when it comes to photography, the result being a regular supply of beautiful imagery which ignites the stoke not only within himself, but also within others.
“Opportunity and community”
According to Ross, as his passion for photography has grown he now gets almost as much enjoyment from watching others having fun as he used to when competing himself. He’s come to get a buzz from being able to share his images with the people in them, knowing how rare it can be to have action shots of you when you’re doing what you love. He also gets immense satisfaction when people ask him for prints of his work, whether that be for magazines or for them to have on their walls at home.
However, his favourite part of being a photographer is “getting out and about” and the “combination between opportunity and community”. Taking up photography has given Ross a new sense of purpose and led him to experience some “amazing things whilst becoming a part of Cornwall’s creative community”. In particular, Ross has been spending the last year swimming and shooting with the “Dawn Days crew”, based in St Ives — including Nick Pumphrey, James Hardy and James Warbey. “The opportunities, memories and moments with those guys have been amazing” he tells me. “We’ve seen dolphins, swum with seals, watched the sunrise, been in storms. We’ve been warm, we’ve been cold. All of those things have come from a group of us being crazy enough to get up and swim before the sun has risen with a camera.” Ross tells me that shooting with other photographers also helps him to improve his own skills behind the lens. “I love going out with better photographers so I can try and take inspiration from them and learn new ways to use my camera as a creative outlet. I’ve been lucky to hang out with some really talented people and Cornwall has a lot of incredible photographers.”
Back to the slopes
Despite achieving huge amounts with his camera, it’s clear that for Ross it’s been difficult being away from his biggest passion in life – the mountains and snowboarding. When I ask if he will take what he’s learnt with a camera to the slopes when he returns, there’s no doubt in his mind that he will. “I really look forward to shooting snowboarding because it’s the sport I know the most and the one I’m most passionate about,” he explains. “But obviously when I’m in that environment the main thing I’ll want to be doing is snowboarding. If I can get my shoulder fixed I’d love to go back to competing because it’s fun and it pushes me to be at my best. But even if not, I’ll still head back to the slopes with a lens.”
Ross also has ambitions to combine his newly acquired photography skills with a split boarding expedition which was previously cancelled because of his injury. “It involves hiking to places that people wouldn’t usually access,” he tells me. “Now I feel confident I’d be able to capture it on camera, it makes me want to pursue that side of snowboarding even more.” When I ask Ross where he has in mind for such an adventure, he replies “Iceland and Norway especially. I’ll be stoked when I get that opportunity.”
No half measures
Ultimately, it’s clear that no matter what Ross turns his hand to, it won’t be in half measures. Whether he’s back to competing on the slopes, documenting snow laden expeditions or continuing to shoot in Cornwall, we can expect to see him put his all into it. “If you’re passionate about something or want to get good at it you have to put in the time”, he explains. Ross’ determination and persistence is perhaps something that all of us could have a bit more of. It’s inspiring to see someone being so committed and resourceful in finding ways to stay involved in what they love, even when things don’t go as planned.
To see Ross’ work, visit @_rtshots on Instagram.