Keegan Rice’s new coffee table book turns fleeting moments into lasting memories
My time in Jackson began in 2014, just a few months after I turned 19. I was young and stoked to share my wild new experiences with my friends attending college or back on the east coast. What I was up to felt unique, and I was proud to share my adventures. Back then I mostly used my phone: posting Instagram stories and sending Snapchats. I grew up with a hobby photographer dad and I took classes in high school, so I had a background in photography. But it wasn’t about that. It was just about sharing the shit I was so hyped to be doing.
I eventually stopped caring about Snapchat videos of underage drinking and bragging about how much snow we get. I found myself picking up my camera rather than my phone to document life. Instagram stories and Snapchats felt too fleeting. I hated that those good times were gone. I had briefly shared them with the world and then they disappeared. I deleted Snapchat, and my Instagram only still exists because I feel like I need it as a part of my job. I post there about as frequently as I call my grandmother. I should be doing it more, but sometimes it just feels hard.
This spring, I got an invitation that led me to a new endeavor. My friend Chandler Keene–who I met a few years ago in Japan–runs a guide service on the north island of Hokkaido called Stealth Backcountry. With Japan being closed to tourism for the last two years, Chandler wanted to get some of his team back together, and a trip to Alaska had been on his bucket list for years. He decided to pull the trigger and bring along two of his guides from Japan for this North American shred trip.
“I ended up shooting 10,000 photos by the time I returned to Jackson.”
JR Yamada and Yama, aka Orange Man, are both legendary Japanese snowboarders that ride for Gentemstick. Chandler graciously decided to bring me along to capture their Alaskan experience. The 10-day forecast called for snow every day. The mountains in Alaska are equally magnificent and dangerous, so snowfall usually means zero-visibility, and zero-visibility means no snowboarding. We thought we might get lucky and get one day of riding in. But the trip was booked; we were going anyway. We flew into Anchorage and spent a cold night in an RV rental parking lot. The following morning we began the journey to Valdez.
Every day for 10 days, we stayed up late drinking beers and whiskey, thinking the next day was supposed to be another storm day. But then every morning the clouds gave way to pure blue sky. This phenomenon is known as drinking it blue. You wake up to perfect weather after partying the night before, thinking you could sleep in. It turns out we scored the best weather window and snow of the season.
Picture the scene: 10 days in a 32-foot RV with two Japanese Zen Masters using snowmobiles, a bush plane, and a boat to access long runs of glorious powder. The only catch is: You don’t speak Japanese…and they don’t speak English. Without the means to communicate with language, we connected via smiling, snowboarding, sweet reggae music, and what I captured through my lens.
I ended up shooting 10,000 photos by the time I returned to Jackson. I wanted to show the homies what I had shot and experienced, but there was no good way of doing it. An Instagram post would not have done it justice. Making prints and having an exhibition could have worked, but there were too many photos to choose just a few to print and frame. In the end, I decided to make a coffee table book—a simple, clean way to present my photos and share them with my community and beyond. The resulting book is called Drink It Blue, and it includes 160 of my favorite images from the trip. It’s the culmination of my years honing my photography skills in the Jackson Hole snowboarding scene.
I started by choosing all my favorite photos that I felt told the story of the trip and then printing them out as little 5x7s. I laid them out on the carpet and basically designed the layout of the book like that. Seeing them printed out made it easy to cut a handful of the B-grade images and narrow them down to the best of the best. Then my good friend Carson West helped me set up the digital files of my layout so they could be sent off to the printer. I enjoyed the artistic aspect of creating this book and plan on making more in the future!
Buy your copy of Drink It Blue at keeganricephoto.com or at Franco’s Shape Shack in Teton Village.