Shooting star: Grass Valley native capturing Olympics |

Shooting star: Grass Valley native capturing Olympics

A Nevada Union graduate has landed in Vancouver for his first Olympics and he’s shooting for gold.

As he gets ready for a close-up, we turn the camera around on him.

Ryan Hughes has been the photo editor of Snowboarder Magazine for two and a half years. Over the next two weeks, he’ll be focusing his camera on a few American household names, including the defending gold medal winner at the 2006 Torino games in the half pipe, Shaun “The Flying Tomato” White, as well as Scotty Lago, the 2009 X-Games silver medalist in the Slope Style.

“They are my top two picks for medals in the Vancouver games,” Hughes said.

Hughes may be a little bit biased, but who could blame him. He’s been friends with Lago for seven years.

“It is a great thrill for me to photograph a great friend” Hughes said. “I have been working with him since he was 16 years old.”

Snowboarder magazine is part of the Action Sports Group, which also publishes Bike, Powder, Skateboarder as well as the flagship magazine, Surfer. The Group is based out of San Clemente and so is Hughes, who was born and raised in Grass Valley. As well as graduating from Nevada Union in 1993, he also is a 1998 Chico State grad.

“He started skiing when he was in middle school and when he hit high school he began snowboarding,” said Pat Hughes, Ryan’s father. “He used to take pictures of his friends snowboarding in high school.”

Hughes then moved to Truckee and got a job at Sugar Bowl to pursue two of his greatest passions, snowboarding and photography.

“I was like most skater kids with a video camera,” Hughes said. “Always filming my friends, always making a movie.”

Once in Truckee, he picked up his first still camera and the combination of camera and snowboard became a lifestyle. A year later, he sold his first photograph.

Hughes has been working freelance sin 1998, capturing the life of the snowboarding. In 2002, he had a breakthrough year, shooting covers for On Boards magazine as well as its annual photo magazine. Snowboard manufacturer Flow Snowboards saw his work and hired him as their staff photographer.

Hughes’ passport has been getting a workout since leaving Grass Valley. His skill and devotion to his trade has taken him to Europe, Canada, Chile, New Zealand and, his favorite, Japan. Snowboarder Magazine eventually noticed his work and liked him so much that they hired him on as photo editor in 2008.

“I started with passion for photography and the money just found me,” Hughes said. “There is that old saying, ‘Do what you love and love what you do.’ It fits.”

Scott P. Hopper is a sports writer for The Union. Contact him via e-mail at or by phone at 477-4231.

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