Twists of fate lead to career in photography

By MICHELLE BURGER/Montana State News

Pancreatic cancer took Ben Reed’s boss shortly after learning the terrible news. Reed had to take over both his work and his bosses, without notice. His first instinct was to take regain control.30028-293881-stover-tim-feb-17-2017-909-am-profilepicture2

“They wouldn’t let me take a vacation,” Reed said about the stress and agony of what he endured those years before quitting the job at CMC as a rebar estimator. Night after night of sleeping in his office on and off for two years, Reed had enough.

Life struck again, this time in the form of a car accident. Reed was hit head on in a collision with a truck. He seemed to tense up when questioned further about the event.  Reed avoided discussing it deeper and dove into his path to photography school.

You can hear his North Carolina accent when he talks. Originally from the outer banks of North Carolina, Reed grew up surfing and developed a strong Southern accent mixed in with trace amounts of surfer lingo that persists, regardless of where he goes.

Reed said “I was sitting on the toilet one night. I picked up a surf magazine and it just dawned on me, I just knew I wanted to become a surf photographer and I set out to do just that.”

Five months is all it took Reed finish the Rocky Mountain School of Photography. “I never picked up a camera before stepping foot into that school,” Reed said.

Haleiwai, Hawaii, must have been calling his name from the beginning. Reed spent four years on the beautiful sandy shore of pipeline.

For being 35 years old, the Hawaiian culture still runs strong in his veins. He’s wearing a faded pair of blue jeans, a nautical grey speckled hoodie and his Patagonia hat.

“The surf industry is broke,” Reed said as he moved further into the topic of the crumbling industry of surf photography and cinematography.

Reed presents the struggles and realism of what broke means to the surf industry. “I have had multiple companies send me boxes of clothes for payment instead of a check. I would send them right back demanding money instead of clothing.”

Reed isn’t easily rattled but a box of clothing in lieu of payment definitely hits that box. His cheeks flushed and his voice raised quite a few octaves as he recalls the incident. The box of clothing seems trivial compared to what came next for Reed. He had a son.

“I didn’t know about my son for the first 3 years of his life.” The gut wrenching truth flew out of Reed’s mouth. The man has led an interesting life. He missed out on three years of his son’s life. It’s hard to imagine what that might feel like.

“I wasn’t angry that she kept it from me, I was angry that she lied about it in court though.” The truth leaked from his mouth. He continued to talk about this sensitive subject, but remained calm the longer he talked. It seemed odd.

At the age of 35, Reed has been a photographer and cinematographer for the International Surf Association “On and off for three years now.” You can see his name being credited for most of the photos from the website, to get a feel of how in touch he is with the surf community.

While surfing has been around for some time, Reed is witnessing the birth of an emerging sport. Stand up paddleboard surfing and racing, or typically known as SUP, comes to the fore.

Reed, a professional part-time photographer for the Waterman League on top of the ISA position, has the opportunity to travel to five new countries for this SUP league.

France, Dubai, Japan, China, Denmark and various locations in the U.S. are all up on Reed’s docket for 2017. Reed is most excited for Dubai and Japan. These locations are new to him and the sport.

“I finally got my first cover of a magazine, photographed and edited by me.” Reed radiated with pride as he spoke these words.

The cover was shot in Fiji. Reed has been waiting for this moment for quite some time. His eyes lit up as this topic ventured into the rolling waves. “I’ve never had a cover in a magazine solely from me, usually it was shot by someone else and edited by me.” Reed was lucky enough, when he lived in Hawaii, to work alongside Brian Bielmann, a renowned surf photographer.

“I’ve been slammed into reefs many times. It’s just how the job goes.” Reed did not ease into the dangers of the job. He dove right into what can and will go wrong. No surfboard for himself, “Just a pair of fins and my camera.” Reed describes this adventures with a cavalier attitude, almost as if it were as easy as falling on ice. “I’ve gone swimming with sharks without a cage to get over the fear of them.”

A typical day for Reed in the surfing world describes it as “Being in the water and hanging out with some of the best surfers in the world.”

“Sometimes I’m really hard on myself, but I do it for a reason. Others usually say I am too harsh, but only I can be the judge of that.”

Reed is constantly striving for the best he can do in all the fields he works in. His motivation has kept him going through the thick and thin as he continues to do what he loves, photography and cinematography.

Currently, Reed works at the Camphouse at the Yellowstone club.  Four years ago, right out of photography school, Reed worked this exact same position, right before moving to Hawaii for his career in surf photography and cinematography. Reed will be the new and sole Private Powder Photographer for the Yellowstone Club starting summer 2017.

– edited by Tim Stover

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