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Deep in the heart of Winter

Photographer Paul Morrison is back to defend his King of Storms title

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After all the decorations are packed away and the turkey is long gone, Whistler settles in for a series of winter storms in January. The eerie glow of the winter sun, wind, “variable visibility”, and plenty of powder snow are the elements of Whistler in January.

Last January, for the first time, a group of photographers were invited to capture the storm season in the first Deep Winter Photo Challenge. Long-time Whistler photographer Paul Morrison was awarded the King of Storms title for his work with skier Mike Douglas.

Morrison is defending his title this year in a showdown with five of the best ski and snowboard photographers in North America. All six will be presenting their current images of this year’s storms at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler on Saturday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m.

Pique’s Nicole Fitzgerald asked Morrison about the Deep Winter Photo Challenge.

Pique: Why did you decide to participate last year?

Paul Morrison: The one thing Whistler does best, is winter. While there are sunnier places than here, there are few that have better storm cycles than we do. In January, after the crowds of Christmas head home, it's a time for those of us who really love this place to get out and ski without the crowds and while the snow is still untracked. Deep Winter is a celebration of this and it's something I believe in.

Pique: What was the most rewarding part of your experience?

PM: Working with Mike Douglas and creating unique images that may not have existed without our partnership.

Pique: What was the most challenging?

The weather was at times, very tough. Super high winds (in excess of 100 km/h) and a warm storm cycle made it very challenging to get the best out of the situations we had to deal with. All in all though, it was perfect for a first time Deep Winter event.

Pique: When out shooting in all kinds of weather, what are some of the things photographers face and how do you get around them?

PM: When the temperatures are warm and it's snowing and windy, just functioning at all is very difficult. Melting snow on the lenses, snow drifting into camera bodies during lens changes, frozen hands and general exhaustion all have to be dealt with successfully. We were working 16-18 hour days and by the end of the competition, we were pretty much running on empty.

Very heavy snowfalls, extremely high winds and the already very short days of early January made for conditions where getting any photograph was tough, let alone memorable ones. To get one storm shot, I had to change my camera's lenses entirely inside my coat. The snow was falling so heavily and wind was literally screaming, it was the only way to get the proper lens on the camera body without having the mirror box entirely filled in with blowing snow. In three decades of shooting skiing, I've never had to do that any other time.

Pique: What advice would you pass on to new participants?

PM: Be prepared to work very hard, long days and be ready for anything. With only three days to shoot an entire show, it's important to find “something” worth shooting at every point in the time available.

Pique: What contributed to your win?

PM: Without a doubt, teaming up with Mike Douglas was the major contributing factor to winning last year. Mike is extremely hard working, very creative and clear thinking. All attributes that helped put our show together in such a tight time frame.

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