I have very mixed emotions about posting this photo. It was one of those shoots where everything felt like it was coming together. Wakeboarding on Lake Michigan under the shadow of the city of Chicago is something that I think anyone who’s wakeboarded in the midwest has thought about yet finding the right conditions to ride in can be tough, let alone try to shoot a cover. But that was Meagan Ethell’s dream, to get her first cover for Wakeboarding Magazine, in her home state of Illinois, with the city of Chicago in the background.

Back in August we set out to do just that, we had a small window of opportunity due to both of our busy schedules and surprisingly somehow got two calm mornings in a row to attempt our plan. I felt lucky, yet also felt like Lake Michigan was working for us on those days. Giving us just the right conditions to make our image happen, because as anyone who lives near the Great Lakes can tell you, they can change on you in a matter of minutes.

But not only was this shoot special for Meagan, it was for myself as well. 2018 marks my 10th year shooting “professionally” as a Wakeboarding photographer. My first photo was published in 2008, my first “big shoots” happened in 2008 and while I never had a cover with Wakeboarding Magazine in that time, I was about to kick off my 10th year with my first one. Something that felt very serendipitous at the time.

But that has all changed. In the past 10 years, the world has changed, the way we consume media is different, social media is spreading like an uncontrollable wildfire and slowly killing off print.

About two weeks ago I got the word that the parent company of Wakeboarding Magazine, Bonnier Corp, declared that it was shutting down all future production of print for many of their brands, including WBM. Meagan’s cover, was slated to be the next issue. It was literally days away from being shipped off to print.

I was crushed, my childhood dream of shooting a photo that graced the cover of my favorite magazine got ripped from my hands… forever.

The irony in all of this though is that more people will see this image in a digital form than they would had it gone to print. But the value and importance of the image has been stripped away. Never will anyone be able to hold a physical copy of it. Never will a young aspiring wakeboarder rip it out and hang it on their wall. Never will it find it’s permanent home in a stack of magazines next to the toilet, occasionally flipped through years later during one’s morning routine. But now it has found it’s fate in the endless scroll, looked at, “liked” and forgotten.

I may sound bitter in all of this, and I currently am, but that will pass. As the days go on, I’ve reminded myself that the main take away in all of this is that the industry is evolving, and we need to evolve with it. I think for many of us, we think of a “wildfire” as a natural disaster, when in reality, it’s a rebirth. What is exciting is that we [as photographers and publishers] have the opportunity to create the new set of standards. To shape the future of photography and media, of how it’s consumed and most importantly, remembered. Because at the end of the day we are capturing memories, memories of the past deemed important enough to be shared in the future. And if those memories aren’t remembered, then what is the point?

That all being said, I really have to thank everyone involved in this, Garrett Cortese at Wakeboarding Magazine for giving us both this opportunity. Tracy and AJ, I feel humbled to have the continuing support of a brand like Red Bull and I cannot thank you enough for everything you did. Jeff McDade for driving and getting us home safely after almost getting swept to sea. Adam Wensink at Nautique for the boat loaner, Ian at Chicago SUP for the chase boat and Lake Michigan expertise. And finally, but most importantly, Meagan for riding several long sets and hanging in there as we lined up the perfect shot. Really proud of you on this. Even though it’s completely out of our hands I honestly feel like I let you down.

Created By
Ryan Taylor

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