Check out Camera Rigs segment with Mahallia Budds from our July 2018 issue of Alliance Wake!

I’m almost ready! (photo: Guymon)

Mahallia! How’s it going? Tell the people a little about yourself … where are you from? How long have you been into photography and what got you into shooting wake?

I was born and raised in California with sand in between my toes and perpetually wet hair. I have been playing around with film since I was about seven, started developing film at 16, and I’ve been shooting digital for a little over three years now. Having a cable park built in California is what encouraged me to start shooting wake. More specifically, Noel Carter offering to trade me the cost of my season pass for photos!

You travel a good bit for work, as well as personal … where’s your favorite destination photography has taken you?

Everywhere it has taken me. We learn so much about ourselves and the world in unfamiliar surroundings. When I was in Germany, people knew I couldn’t understand their language, but still kept smiling and continued having a conversation with me anyway. By being present in moments like these and appreciating them for what they are, I found myself not-so-lost in translation. When I was in Bali, I learned to always check the tide charts, or you might find yourself shoulder deep in salt water with camera gear above your head. In the event that you are face-to-face with a 60m waterfall plunge, it’s best to hit the water feet first or your 17-hour plane ride home will not be a pleasant one. And no matter what part of the world you are from, or however many X Games gold medals you’ve won, if you share a residence with your parents and leave your winch-kicker sitting out in the driveway for an extended period of time, they’re not going to be happy about it.

Who is your favorite athlete to shoot with?  

The ones who inspire me by doing things differently and having the most fun. Those who stay true to themselves and aren’t hewing to some misplaced sense of propriety. I recently shot with Blake Bishop and had the best time. He is the future of wakeboarding, the personal point of realization being when I saw Untamed.

Is there anybody out there that you’re wanting to shoot with and haven’t had the chance to?

Bryan Soderlind. I’ve never met him, and I’d be starstruck if I did. I have admired his work for years. There are certain photographers with imagery that constantly raises the question of “how?” His work has left me speechless on numerous occasions. I recently saw the “high-roller classic” photos resurface, I loved those. I’m convinced that he doesn’t just take photos; he creates enthralling art and gives photos the most unique perspective and light, really emphasizing personality. Another would be Taylor Hanley. I know he’s behind the lens now – but Taylor if you’re reading – we should really shoot some stuff of you dusting off the ‘ole MUSE and wakeskating, ay?

You have a huge never-been-done under your belt, gracing the cover of Alliance with a female wakeskater. How did that feel?

I remember Garrett asking me to crop that photo to 8×10. I didn’t even realize the reason why. I was at my office, when Jen texted me with, ”Did you see it?!” Next thing you know, I had people congratulating, criticizing, and critiquing everything concerning women in the action sports industry. Through it all, Alliance stood behind their decision, Garrett saying that they wouldn’t change a thing about the selection. It’s funny though, when I look at that cover, all I see are positive things – things that are important to me. I went on a California filled adventure to have fun wakeskating with my girlfriends. All of the memories, laughs, epic sets, and sunsets are things that I could never take for granted and will cherish forever. Gratitude would be a feeling to sum it all up.

Outside of wake, what else do you enjoy shooting?

Portraits, surfing, outdoor lifestyle, wildlife, wildflowers, palms, succulents (plants in general), snowboarding, the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, bunnies, so-ugly-they’re-cute-cats, and Bernese mountain dogs.

Do you remember your first camera? And do you still own it?

Yes and yes. My Dad’s 35mm Nikon F. From a young age, I was taught to take care of the things that I care about. So unsurprisingly, the camera is kept in my Dad’s study, along with spare batteries and an array of lenses. Everything is in great condition and available for use whenever I am in town for a visit.

If you had to walk out of the house with a body and lens, what would they be?

It would depend on where I would be going that day. I’ve been shooting with my Rolleiflex / Zeiss combination lately, and really enjoying it. That camera is much older than I am, and I like to think, has a wisdom-filled personality of its own.

If you have some shout outs, then now is the time!

My parents, for showing me that life adventuring around with a camera is a life worth creating. Laura Guymon, for always having faith in me. Josh Smith, for teaching me the history of this sport and handing me my first wakeskate. I was 18 and it was Nick Taylor’s 38.7 Anna Maria Island Integrity; did that change my life. And speaking of, the legendary lost boy himself, for inspiring and helping me to become a better writer, creative, and to never stop having fun. Jenny (GilanFarr) Mitchell, for setting the example of what it means to be a professional female athlete / being the best surf /wakeskate /cooking buddy ever! Noel Carter and everyone at Wake Island Waterpark, Sesitec, and F-Stop Gear. The Porter and Bishop families. Garrett Cortese, Bradlee Rutledge, and Denny Bräuniger – for following your dreams and by doing so, changing this industry for the better; I am still constantly learning by your example. And last but not in the slightest bit least – all of the athletes and content creators I have had the privilege of working with – a giant hug from me to you. All of the images and films consumed by wake enthusiasts such as myself, don’t just magically appear. You are all AMAZING!

Check out the July 2018 Mag here!