Six internationally renowned ski/snowboard photographers finally sat warm and comfortable at the Deep Winter Photo Challenge screening last weekend at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
It was a long three days of shooting and braving the elements on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains to compete in the photo competition, which challenged shutter bugs to put together a three-five minute photo slide show to music with images only taken between Jan. 2 and 4.
Even before the sun rose, the six photographers and their athletes were facing 106 centimetres of snowfall over the three days. It sounds like every powder hound’s ultimate dream, but when photographers are changing lenses with frozen hands inside their jackets in an effort to save their already soaked camera gear and athletes are trekking up the mountain to rip off another jump for the third time because a camera flash failed, the whole notion of three days of non-stop snow can dampen the spirit.
By 3:30 p.m. on day three, gear, photographers and athletes were soaked to the bone, dealing with wind, sleet and snow from dawn to dusk. However, spirits were warm and sunny the next day as an audience of more than 400 cheered on their favourite photographers.
Last year’s King of the Storm winner Paul Morrison didn’t quite retain his title, finishing in second place this year. Photographer Jordan Manley was crowned the new King of the Storm with images that had audiences shivering in their seats.
“It was really mentally challenging,” Manley said of the competition shoot. “It’s a fantastic competition. Normally, I would have been skiing on those days, but (the competition) forced me to get out there and be creative and to keep telling myself to keep going.”
The three-day shoot was anything but the bluebird days illustrated on the covers of most skiing/snowboarding magazines. Manley appreciated the honesty of the competition.
“This showcases Whistler how it normally is,” he said. “It’s a more accurate picture of skiing.”
At 23 years old, Manley is a relative newcomer to the world of ski photography, but he has already made his mark with one of his images earning the distinction of being Skier Magazine ’s first self-portrait cover ever. He was also lauded for a distinctive cover for Powder this season.
Manley was unanimously named King of the Storms by event judges.
Audiences could feel the speed of the snow cutting past wind-burnt faces in Manley’s unique slide show. Audiences looked through windows ornamented with ice, looked down from tree tops at athletes weaving through snow, and looked up into a foggy abyss with three skiers making ready to drop in.
Some photos were easy for the everyman rider to relate to. Snow accumulating on jackets on the chairlift ride up, snow dusting a waiting ski pole handle and water blurring between ice and snow mounds on Fitzsimmons Creek, still alive in the dead of winter.
While Morrison placed second he produced the Best Image of the Show — a photo half rock and half powder with only a green hood and two poles visibly charging through the white. Morrison’s presentation was part imagery, part documentary as riders, Whistler figures and friends narrated their relationship with Whistler’s elements.
“I don’t know anyone who has moved to Whistler for the sun,” the narration began.
If Manley’s images put audiences in the elements, Morrison had them worshipping it. His incredible use of light had viewers cheering on images from start to finish, from ice crystal art to a silhouette of people hovering over hot chocolate inside while watching skier Mike Douglas surf through the powder below.
Bryan Ralph placed third with images that were very nearly alive as photo sequences rolled out like film. He lent humour to the show with an image of skiers on their way to another day at the office in three-piece suits and ties with skis.
All six photographers brought a unique take to capturing Whistler’s winter storms: Ian Coble with high action, Dano Pendygrasse with style, and Phil Tifo with humanity.
There were no editors dictating what photographers shot or what audiences would see. Deep Winter gave audiences an intimate look at what these photographers were individually about.
“Our success came from collective coloration,” Manley said of his athletes Jonny Law and Les Manley. “I was really honoured to be amongst such great talent and vision of the photographers involved, especially Paul Morrison, who has been a big inspiration for me.”