Photography isn’t Rocky’s first career, it’s actually his second. In 2003, he fused his passion for photography and his experience competing in endurance sports together and focused on building his career as a professional sports photographer. His advice to new photographers is to not quit your day job, but by that he doesn’t mean be prepared to fail, he says the primary income is crucial while you develop your craft. Sooner or later (hopefully sooner), the jobs will flip and what was once your day job will be smaller than your career work. As Rocky puts it, “Whenever it comes to a career goal, anything really worth having is worth fighting for:”
SCOUT: What are some of the challenges of photographing athletes/sports?
ROCKY: Definitely attempting to do something different. In that, I mean eventually photos begin to look the same image after image and sometimes each photographer’s work starts to look the same. So the challenge is to attempt to try a new angle, a different lighting effect, a different location or even just an entirely different style to see what comes of it. Doing something different and being able to be do it over and over again and not just by accident is definitely something that impresses potential and current clients, which helps to keep work coming in.
SCOUT: How does your sports and athletic background help when taking your photos?
ROCKY: Having a sports background gives me a sincere interest in subjects that I love to shoot. If you're shooting something that you don't really have an interest in, then more often than not it'll show in your work. If it's a subject that you have a real passion in, it'll show in your images and that in itself will help set the goal post forward with the quality of your work.
SCOUT: Your talent has been recognized by some very notable people. Tell us about some of the achievements you’re most proud of:
ROCKY: I honestly think that one of my biggest achievements in photography is being able to attain work from some very notable clients. This includes Runner's World Magazine, Xterra and World Triathlon Corporation (Ironman). Once those larger clients begin to give you opportunities to shoot for them, it's a serious boost to your confidence as well as a challenge to try even harder. Another personal achievement is garnishing a living doing something I really enjoy. Finding something that you love to do, doing it, working very hard at it and receiving steady paychecks for it is like making money for doing nothing. A fourteen hour day will seem like three hours at the end of it. Time flies and before you know it the day is over.
SCOUT: Where do you hope to take your photography?
ROCKY: I definitely plan to keep focusing on photographing athletes but also will be trying new sports and getting a better variety. This includes snow sports as well as shooting from underwater. Aside from that I'm focusing on doing my artistic photography (sports related) for more editorial and commercial purposes. That's been a big challenge of mine in recent years, but the wheel has slowly begun to turn with that. Photo journalism is definitely on my radar as well, but finding work and opportunities in that field has by far been very tough.
SCOUT: What photos have you recently shot in the Bay Area?
ROCKY: Most of my work is steadily taking me away from the Bay Area, but one of the best local assignments that I take on is the Nike Women’s Marathon in October. I've been able to cover the start of that race from the rooftop of the Nike Town Building and see this critical mass of runners slowly build up at Union Square and then take off virtually all at the same time. It's always exciting to see the start of large race like that and then make your way to the finish to see the front runners come in.
SCOUT: We heard you’re a runner and a mountain biker. What are some of your favorite spots to tear up?
ROCKY: I live in the Inner Sunset, so running on the west side of the city is my favorite local spot. I love running everywhere from Lake Merced, West Portal, Ocean Beach to the Golden Gate Bridge, The Richmond District, Pacific Heights, the Marina and North Beach. Then, well, back again. For mountain biking, my favorite local ride is an easy stroll up into the Marin Headlands or up to Corte Madera and back. San Francisco is great "Big City" to live in because it has easy access to dirt roads and plenty of open space just outside city limits.
SCOUT: Are there other Bay Area photographers who inspire you?
ROCKY: Most definitely. Two local photographers whose work I really admire are Kevin Berne and Mark Hanson. Kevin has an amazing ability to be a very versatile commercial and travel photographer. Being able to try new subjects and doing it well is valuable asset to have as a photographer in today's market and Kevin does just that. Mark has a very unique style that runs very parallel to the way that I attempt to do my artistic work. He has a gift to be able to include that eerie and scratchy look to his images, which in turn makes them truly different.
SCOUT: Your professional work is sports-related, but do you shoot anything else in your personal life?
ROCKY: I really enjoy shooting with medium format film cameras like Holgas, Mamiyas as well as 35mms. Digital cameras traditionally create near perfect images, but with a lot of film cameras such as Holgas, the photo is definitely not perfect, and in fact, is shrouded with imperfections such as vignetting, film scratches and film sprockets. Likewise, my favorite non-professional camera right now is definitely my iPhone camera. With all the photo applications that keep coming out that replicate the traditional film effects it's bar none the hardest consumer camera to put down.
SCOUT: Where can we check out more of your work?
ROCKY: My sports related work can be found atwww.arroyophotography and my non-sports related work can be found at www.arroyophoto.com. I also have occasional updates on my Sports Shooter site.