Woods Wheatcroft’s photography belongs in its own category. While he primarily shoots lifestyle pictures, his success at capturing an oddball moment remains unmatched, and it’s proven to be a great formula for this Sandpoint-based photographer. His work is frequently found in Northwest guidebooks, travel magazines, outdoor clothing catalogs, and recent covers of Out There Monthly. Like many photographers, his style favors his interests, yet he’s never shied away from getting tough shots or elaborate photos. While North Idaho is overflowing with talented and skillful outdoor photographers, few have crossed over into so many other aspects like Woods Wheatcroft.
Initially, Wheatcroft drew inspiration from Patagonia and Black Diamond catalogs, and he won a handful of photo contests. But in order to grow, Wheatcroft knew he needed to learn from the best, so he tried to emulate Galen Rowell, Art Wolfe, and Andy Anderson. “Galen Rowell was a huge influence in my early career,” Wheatcroft explains. “I wrote a college thesis on him and John Muir. I also attended Galen’s workshop in Berkeley. The workshop was all done on E-6 slide film. Images were processed overnight from the previous day and then we reviewed. Times have sure changed.”
While digital cameras have changed the photography community enormously, they haven’t changed the pursuit of great images or the composition skills required to take award-winning or commercially successful photographs. Even now, Wheatcroft occasionally collaborates with other photographers when they have suitable assignments. While discussing a photo shoot with Ray J. Gadd, Wheatcroft said, “We all see the world differently. It’s really about finding your own vision and finding creative ways to influence one another.”
Over the years, Wheatcroft worked with several agencies, and he’s been lucky enough to work with many great athletes. He has photographed NFL players in Miami, he’s traveled to Baffin Island for a prominent U.K. clothing company, and he’s a featured photographer at Aurora stock photos. He readily admits he doesn’t gravitate to chasing high-profile or sponsored athletes; instead he looks to maintain a balance between his outdoor pursuits and his photography. “I shoot lifestyle and athletic people — people who are naturally talented and engage in a certain sport. Just real people doing real activities. I actually favor running and runners. I love to ski but I don’t always love bringing a camera with me. I have become way more selective the older I get to consciously decide when to bring a camera and when to leave it at home.”
Blending lifestyle photography with an outdoor lifestyle might appear to be a dream job on the surface, but it still requires a lot of hustle. Whenever Wheatcroft is approached for advice, he tries to deliver the same wisdom: “Shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot. One of the only ways I see to hone your style is to practice, and for photographers that means shooting. A lot. A style will eventually rise to the top of the pile.”
Wheatcroft’s website features six simple galleries: Personality, Form, Play, Light, Energy and Travel. Rarely does an image fit neatly into a single category, but these gallery titles illustrate how Wheatcroft compiles his selections and reveals them to the public. Nearly all of them are outdoor images with a wild area of settings and circumstances. Collectively, Wheatcroft shines a light on the fun and silly times we all enjoy at the lake, on the trail, or high in the mountains.
Wheatcroft is humble enough to point out many other gifted photographers in the Inland Northwest. He’s pleased with his work so far, but like so many other finicky artists, he’s always looking to improve. The Pend Oreille vistas and the craggy Selkirk mountains are more than a setting; they’re ongoing contributors, and they help him learn more about capturing the light. His imagery is an extension of his lifestyle and the activities that bring joy to his life. Visit his website at www.woodswheatcroft.com. //
Jon Jonckers serves on the board for the Friends of the Centennial Trail and is also an assistant cross country coach at Shadle Park High School. He is the co-author of “Climbing the Rocks of Sharon,” available at Mountain Gear.