Award-winning photographer Jussi Grznar has been prepping for the Olympus Pro Photographer Showdown for a long, long while.
"It came out of my going to the (Pro Photographer) shows for 10 years in a row," he says.
"My first, in Whistler 10 years ago, was in my first year here. I was interested in photography by that stage already. I brought my tiny, little point-and-shoot camera and recorded the show from the back row."
Originally from the former Czechoslovakia and based in Vancouver, he came to photography after snowboarding and skiing from the age of three.
While training in hotel management in New York he saw the TGR film High Life (2003), which showed off riding and mountain culture. That was it, and he eventually headed west.
"I could kind of see myself on the (Pro Photo) stage one day and then I would go home and watch the shows over and over, study the photos and see what everybody was trying to achieve and how they edited the work, and so on," Grznar recalls.
Some might call it an obsession, but it is one that built a career.
"I definitely put a lot of thought into it. Even music-wise, I have made a certain playlist in the last few months that I would play while driving up the Sea to Sky (Highway), to visualize the images that would fit the beat or the song."
Grznar had been approached by organizers to take part in the event in the past but had declined previously.
"Every year I felt like I wasn't ready yet, I needed a certain trip or certain photos that would complete the show and that I would be really happy with," Grznar says.
"Finally, there were a few certain incidents and events in October and November led to my decision to do it. I was able to fly to certain countries for a little cheaper, and that helped my decision. I decided to go for it and get the images that was still missing for the show."
He is one of five photographers competing for the first prize of $10,000 and Best of Show crown. The others are Jonathan Mehring, Scott Rinckenberger, Krystal Wright and wildcard entry Gabe L'Heureux.
Grznar is blown away by the competition, saying they are "amazing and super talented."
The Olympus Pro Photographer Showdown, part of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF), takes place on Thursday, April 14, at 8 p.m. at the Whistler Conference Centre. Tickets are $32.
The planning was so meticulous that Grznar says it fell into place naturally.
Understandably, he has been trying to keep his choices for the competition on the downlow for the past few months.
"I'm super excited, there is not much sleep happening," he says, "I just love, love great photography. I can be shooting all kinds of stuff but I decided to shoot mostly action sports and the lifestyle, landscapes, people. That is me. It's what I am passionate about."
For more information and tickets, visit www.wssf.com.
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