Photographer Dan Himbrechts was part of the AAP team covering this year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang - the second Winter Olympics he’s photographed. Dan is an experienced action sports photographer and, as we found out, goes way back with Australian snowboarder, and Olympic bronze medalist, Scotty James.
When Scotty won bronze in the snowboarding halfpipe, Dan was there to capture the action and emotion of the epic showdown between Scotty, American Shaun White and Ayumu Hirano of Japan. Dan managed to pull Scotty away from the celebrations to congratulate him and grab a few pictures. The images portray a private, calm moment between Scotty, Dan, his camera, and those famous red gloves.
Dan spoke to us as he warmed up after a long day shooting in minus 16 degree conditions, answering a few questions we had about Scotty and his experiences at the Winter Olympics.
You have spoken to us about your love for shooting action sports, is that how your photographic career began?
Before I transitioned to being a full-time news and sports photographer, I used to shoot for action sports magazines, predominantly snowboarding and skiing mags. I began my photographic career shooting for snowboard magazines, even though it was skateboarding that drove me to pick up a camera.
"After he won bronze last week, I was hoping I might get a quick moment with him."
How did you meet Scotty James?
I first met Scotty James when he was 9 years old. I was down at Perisher, in the NSW Snowy Mountains, sometime in the mid 2000's shooting photos of some professional riders when my good friend and very talented snowboarder Ben Bright – the brother of the yet-to-be-famous Torah Bright – told me had taken a young snowboarder under his wing and I should take some pics of him as he was going to be a "big deal one day". Ben went on to coach Scotty through to the Vancouver Winter Olympics many years later, when Scotty was 15 years old. Ben’s sister Torah famously won gold in the halfpipe that year, putting the sunburnt country on the map as a serious contender in the freestyle winter sports.
"Ben Bright told me I should take some pictures of him (Scotty), as he was going to be a big deal one day."
So, what was the reunion like in PyeongChang?
The last time I saw Scotty was in Vancouver, years ago, so when I caught up with him at the PyeongChang test events last February, he joked about me looking much older. We caught up to do a video interview for AAP, shoot some portraits and then some action photos in the Halfpipe. A couple of days later, he went on to retain the FIS Halfpipe World Title in Sierra Nevada. Incredible!
The images from your private portrait session with Scotty are very different from the other Winter Olympic images you’ve filed. What brought that on?
After he won bronze last week, in what was easily the most progressive Halfpipe competition I've witnessed in my almost 20 years of documenting the sport, I was hoping I might get a quick moment with him. Scotty was due to front the Australian media outside the venue an hour or so after he'd won the medal. I waited around and after he was done with the questions, I used that first quiet moment to shake his hand, congratulate him and then asked if we could do a quick portrait of him with his now iconic red boxing-style snowboard gloves. He, of course, was more than happy to comply.