Photographer Matt Angiono is showing his nature and action sports images at Art on a Whim Gallery in Vail
During the GoPro Mountain Games this past year, photographer Matt Angiono trekked straight up Vail Mountain, camera in hand, and was rewarded with a stunning shot of the Gore Range.
“There was a sunset rainbow over the range,” he remembered. “I hiked up and all of a sudden a huge rainbow appeared. The mountains were all orange. It was really cool.”
Angiono had his camera set on a time lapse, which means he got a pretty amazing sequence of photos.
“You can watch the rainbow form. I was getting rained on while I was taking it. I was covering the camera with my jacket and shirt to keep water off the lens. I was like ‘You can’t miss this shot.’”
That photo, along with plenty of other nature photography as well as action-sports oriented shots, is on display at Art on a Whim gallery on Bridge Street in Vail this weekend. In between shooting events such as slopestyle and freestyle kayaking at this years Games, Angiono will be in the gallery discussing his artwork.
This past year, Angiono took the top prize in two of the photography categories in the Mountain Games photography competition with one photo. The photograph features “Sketchy” Andy Lewis as he performs in the Slackline World Championships. It was the first time Angiono had ever photographed slacklining. Lewis is shown mid-air and mid-flip in front of an awe-struck crowd and the Water Tree sculpture in Vail Village. The sun seems to serve as a point of rotation for Lewis as he performs his gravity defying trick.
“I like to shoot into the sun, get that back lit shadow effect,” said Angiono, who is always hunting for what he calls “epic light.” He took the photo using his Go Pro and entered a color version and a black and white version of the same photo in two different categories.
“It won best Go Pro action shot and best Go Pro moment,” Angiono said.
The shot speaks to the focus, determination and daring all needed for athletes to perform at their highest level, on the highest stage.
Composing the canopy
Angiono has photographed events at the Mountain Games for the past five years, he said, but he’s primarily a nature photographer.
“I want people to look and have a connection with nature,” he said. “That’s a big part of my motivation — inspiring people to be outside, enjoy the outdoors, take care of them, all that good stuff.”
“Buena Vista Aspen Canopy,” perhaps Angiono’s signature piece to date, was taken while he spent a day lying on his back looking for the perfect combination of composition and light. The piece has the viewer staring straight up into a golden canopy of aspen leaves back dropped by a bluebird sky. An enormous 40-inch-by-50-inch version of the photo is on display at Art on a Whim.
“The piece is incredible,” said Art on a Whim gallery owner Brian Raitman who is good friends with Angiono. “You see a lot of photographers shoot similar compositions and, in all honesty, they are far from being on the same level. It is one of those pieces that instantly sucks you in. The colors exemplify that perfect bluebird, classic Colorado fall day and the piece is a wonderful mix of realism and abstraction, which I find is very hard to capture with photography.”
You never see Angiono without his camera, Raitman said, and he’s an expert at finding art in all of his surroundings.
“He has a way of capturing light that is very surreal and sublime at the same time,” Raitman said. “His depth of field is incredible. Details are always vivid in his work, to the point that you can pick out rock croppings on a distant mountain in a small print. You can tell he works hard for his shots too, as many of them come from hard to reach wilderness areas. Others come from the simplest of places, like his backyard.”
Matt Angiono found his calling as a photographer on a trip to Australia in 2006. His aunt Laura took him around the continent, backpacking and camping for two months. The adventure travel, combined with a camera Angiono borrowed a friend, saw him fall instantly in love. Today, the combination influences almost every single waking moment for the young artist.
Angiono was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado. As a result, the vast majority of his fine art photography captures the beauty of his home state. Both this weekend and next he will be spending his time in the Art on a Whim gallery in Breckenridge, regaling visitors with stories of his adventures and sharing his unique vision.
Angiono’s newest release, titled “Epic Isabelle Sunset Part II,” comes from the last evening of a journey the photographer took in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. As is often the case with Angiono’s backpacking trips, the plan was to hike as much as possible and stop any time the inspiration for another incredible photograph happened to strike. Brainard Lake was to be the starting point, with Lone Eagle Peak as the ultimate destination. This meant a three day out and back over Pawnee Pass was in order. While difficult hiking and a 3,000 plus foot vertical gain was a planned obstacle, a malfunctioning camera battery was certainly not anticipated. As a result, Angiono’s shot selection quickly became extremely limited and his camera seemed to be nothing more than extra weight.
An unspectacular sunset and sunrise on the first day and night of the trip left much to be desired. Of course, one cannot complain when they are blessed enough to spend the night in the wilderness. Hail can change that attitude quickly, however. Day two of his trip saw the weather turn for the worst, as it often can when traversing 12,000 plus foot passes. Shortly after descending from the top of the pass the sky opened up and hail began pouring down. Angiono rushed to find some semblance of shelter, eventually scaling a cliff side to take refuge under its overhang. A debate ensued over whether or not it would be wise to set up camp in the storm or to wait in hopes that it may pass. Thoughts of climbing and shooting Lone Eagle Peak at sunset were quickly abandoned and replaced with ideas on keeping as warm and dry as possible. The storm hung around through the night, eventually forcing Angiono to pitch his tent in the dark and in the rain.
When morning arrived the sun managed to burn its way through the clouds, albeit not in time for sunrise. A staple in Angiono’s work is capturing incredible light, making sunrise and sunset the most important times of day for the photographer. At this point, with twelve miles to go and nearly fifty pounds to carry on his back, the trip seemed to be a bust. The camera battery’s issues hardly seemed relevant. A wonderful day was in the wings, however.
Sun beamed down throughout the afternoon. As Angiono climbed and descended Pawnee Pass for the second time in two days it became clear that the sunset was going to present what he refers to as “epic light.”
Tired legs didn’t seem to matter anymore as he began running to position himself at the front of the beautiful Lake Isabelle. Angiono is known for doing anything necessary to get the best angle for his work. Wading knee deep into a stream is far from being out of the question. He carefully staged his tripod in the middle of the stream flowing from the lake, just on top of a nearly 100 foot waterfall, and asked his camera battery for one small moment of cooperation. The sunset to follow was incredible. The camera battery managed to work for just long enough to capture what Angiono describes as, “the most incredible sunset I have ever seen.”
The resulting photographs exist as living proof that if you push yourself, work hard and remain patient, the sky can greet you with miracles. Fiery reds, hot pinks and glowing oranges danced across Navajo, Apache and Shoshone Peaks. All the while the colors were reflected in the glass like stillness of the lake.
Angiono does extremely minimal post-processing to his work, preferring to let the camera capture what he sees and communicate that to his viewers. He is known for pushing his equipment to its technical limits and ambitiously exploring the dynamic range of his camera. His eye for detail and addiction to color enable his viewers to feel like they were standing there with him while he was shooting the photo. His out of the box ways of thinking and viewing the world are reflected not only in the unique angles he shoots from but also in the way in which he presents his work. He opts to gallery wrap the majority of his canvases, rather than frame them, to allow the photos to bleed over the edges of the canvas and seemingly go on forever. Printing on canvas gives his work a painterly feel, softening the scenes and providing an ethereal quality not often seen in photography.
Angiono’s adventurous nature has led him on countless journeys deep into the Rocky Mountain’s pristine wilderness. Capturing the areas he frequents on camera enables him to provide us with the opportunity to forever keep nature at our finger tips. Moments like his evening at Lake Isabelle are certainly worth preserving and sharing with the world. And he will be quick to tell you, it was well worth hiking the remainder of the trail in the pitch dark.