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Behind the lens: Rami Hanafi

The photographer documents the freedom, fearlessness and raw beauty of snowboarding.

For photographer Rami Hanafi, capturing pro snowboarders is the ultimate collaboration. Collaboration with the terrain, the elements and, of course, the athletes themselves. The result of these often unpredictable forces is an awe-inspiring depiction of bodies in motion. "For me, the most inspiring thing about snowboarders is their dedication, but at the same time their ability to live in the moment and enjoy life," explains the Tampere, Finland-based photographer, who travels from one snowy corner of the globe to another shooting world renowned riders for the likes of ESPN and Billabong. "The travels are always a journey of the unknown. You have great expectations but you can't be sure how the snow will be. If the conditions are bad you need to use an extra level of creativity to make it happen. The kind of energy and open minds that those guys and girls have helps a lot in that process." Click through the slideshow below for Hanafi's shots and the stories behind them.

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  • Mammoth, CA

    Mammoth, CA

    "Scotty Lago said; 'Rami...Are you ready? I'll give you 30 seconds to get ready. This one is for you, and for you only.'

    I never asked Scotty where that came from. I just concentrated to get the shot of him heading out in the dark. Scotty Lago is one of the greatest snowboarders of our time. For me, this image tells the story of Scotty's personality on one level, but more importantly it frames the core of the lifestyle, the uncertainty of the destination and the living in the moment. And it doesn't really matter what the destination is, I value the determination on the way."
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  • Tamok, Norway

    Tamok, Norway

    "Miikka Hast is one of my favorite riders to shoot with, with Tamok, Norway being the favorite location. Having these both as a starting point for a trip, the expectations were high. After two days of rain we were quite surprised to get powder this good. This image was taken as I followed Miikka down Blueberry mountain. No better way to capture the feeling of it on camera. And get to ride myself too."
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  • New Zealand

    New Zealand

    "Sometimes the weather makes it hard for you. This time the high winds made it impossible for the pilot to land on the peaks, so we had to call it a day before noon. We missed the afternoon riding, but it was pretty relaxing in this mountain hut."
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  • Tokyo

    Tokyo

    "I've been happy to be the team photographer for Flow Snowboarding for years now. The crew has never let me down. Riders like Tim Humphreys, here showing his skills to his teammates and Japanese subway commuters, who not only ride on the highest level but also know how to enjoy the life around snowboarding."
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  • Ruka, Finland

    Ruka, Finland

    "Antti Autti and I have worked together for almost a decade now. And we've seen a good part of the snowboarding scene with the contest circuit, filming for movies and the freeriding. We've been there when it was good and we've been there when it was bad. At some point the worse the conditions were the more motivated we were to go out and get the images that we had in mind. This one is shot in Ruka, Finland, in 2005. It rained for the whole week we were there. But it still gave us a good end for the whole season."
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  • Tamok, Norway

    Tamok, Norway

    "The rest of the crew had continued the hike up the mountain already. I asked Joel Lahti to do little extra hiking to the side and to do a couple of turns for me. The snow didn't look that great and he didn't see what I saw in the light. But he still gave me the effort and hiked. I got this image pretty close to how I saw it in my mind. I thanked him and we continued upwards. One day after the trip he sat next to me and saw the image. He understood why."
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  • Tamok, Norway

    Tamok, Norway

    "Miikka Hast at the end of his first decent run in Tamok, Norway. I could almost hear the scream of joy to the helicopter as he raised his arms for victory. After following him through the camera and shooting the whole tall face of the mountain, I had almost raised my camera away at this point. Luckily I held it for a bit longer. For me this image captures the essence of snowboarding. In a matter of split seconds I framed the image to simplify it to the maximum, underlining the speed and enjoyment."
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  • Hakuba, Japan

    Hakuba, Japan

    "When I started snowboarding in the early 1990's Mike Basich was already a professional snowboarder. He was a huge influence for me at the time. Some 20 years later I find myself shooting with him on a regular basis. And today his influence is way more than just the riding — it's the whole personality. This image is taken from a helicopter in Hakuba, Japan. Mike is ripping through avalanche crowns that were set off by his friend just minutes before."
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  • Ounasvaara, Finland

    Ounasvaara, Finland

    "You need to take the whole hill's worth of speed to get to where Otto Veijola is in this image. For me as a photographer, the process is not so straightforward. It takes thinking and testing, looking at the feature and knowing the rider's style and technique. In this image I wanted to not only capture Otto's style but also to make the atmosphere match my feelings of the moment, surrounded by an empty resort and the quietness of the Arctic circle."
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  • Truckee, California

    Truckee, California

    "No, it's not made in Photoshop. It's made with gasoline. Scotty's biggest challenge was to see his way to the jump in the dark forest. My challenge was to see him coming out from the dark and behind the flames. The boys in the foreground battled to stay untouched by the flames. This was the eve of a long day out on the mountain. When Scotty first mentioned this I had my doubts. But because the idea was coming from him I was easily talked into it. He has the vision for riding which usually turns into a vision of a photo in my head. It is a great collaboration between the two us."

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  • Baldface, Canada

    Baldface, Canada

    "This is the promise of something great. Rubén Vergés looking out the window in the morning and seeing the sun lighting up the new snow. The slowness of the morning is quickly turned into preparations and getting out the door to get every bit of the day. For me as a photographer the biggest challenge is to be able do the preparations while simultaneously capturing the moments."
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  • New Zealand

    New Zealand

    "The Piiroinen brothers are on fire. The two come from a tiny ski resort in southern Finland. And still they keep winning contests time after time. We shot together with Petja, the younger one, for his sponsor Billabong. After we were done with the shoot I still pushed him a bit more, just to see the angel."
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  • Tokyo

    Tokyo

    "Japan is one of the annual destinations for many in the snowboarding scene. If you hit it right, you have endless powder to ride. I've been there four times and I think we've had great conditions for three of them. The one thing that never lets me down is the Japanese people and culture. It is amazing year after year. Every time we've approached the end of a trip we've taken a day off and gone sightseeing and had some good karaoke sessions. For me these off-snow moments are equally as interesting as the action itself. I usually hold on to my smaller camera all the time, to capture the real personalities and lifestyle of snowboarding."
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