The snow message is something that Connor Walberg and I do for Vail Resorts. Vail resorts is a huge corporation that owns eight resorts in the US and Europe. I decided to share my experience about the snow message, because it puts us in unique situations, and there’s always something to be learned. Since we are action sports photographers, I am sure that some of you do something similar for a different kind of company.
You are probably wondering what the snow message is… We get to do it every time Vail Mountain gets more than four inches of fresh snow (every other time since we alternate). We go out early, and load on the gondola/chairlift at 7:30AM. It’s an hour before the mountain opens for the public. This guarantees us fresh untouched powder for every turn we take, and we need to take a few good photos for social media, website and/or advertising purposes. 3 to 5 low res photos need to be submitted before 12pm, and meanwhile we get to take a “couple” powder turns for ourselves :).
The crew for the snow messages usually consists of a few of the best local skiers/snowboarders, videographer and may be another photographer. It’s between me and the video guy to line up the athletes. It is kind of a privilege for the athletes to ski for Vail Resorts, because they get lots of exposure and their sponsors love it. My point is that the best athletes are always down to shoot for a resort like Vail. On top of the exposure, they get a few bucks and the chance to ski all the fresh snow they can, before everyone else on that day.
I want to give you a few pointers that willl hopefully help you out when you shoot early morning powder.
Keep shooting – When the snow is amazingly light and fluffy and also very deep(not to mention the blue bird combination), it is always tempting for me to take very few photos and then just ski or snowboard and enjoy the day. The fact of the matter is that there are only a few truly amazing days, where all the elements come together. Don’t let them slip between your fingers and make the most of them. Shoot as much as you can, if you need to submit photos, do it, and then go right back to the hill. I can guarantee you that the athletes would love to keep shooting as much as you do. They know when the good photos happen, and they want them as bad as you do.
Keep it fresh – When working with so many people it’s easy for someone to put a track in the middle of your shot, and that’s something that shouldn’t happen. Talk to the athletes, and talk to the videographer to make sure you are on the same page and you are not going to put tracks in each other’s shots.
Keep it clean – As much as this is true for composition in general, make sure that your shots stay clean. There will always be people waiting around, plus you have another filmer working with you. Just talk to them and keep them out of your frame as they can easily ruin your shot.
Keep it under control – The other shooter could get focused on his shots and take away from your work, make sure to try and get your shots. You can always work together and both stay happy, don’t forget that you are working with another creative person, and he probably has some great ideas too. If that doesn’t work split the athletes and find what you are looking for. Another thing is that when people are just waiting around and not being sure what to do, take the lead and get everyone moving.
Keep track of time – As I mentioned, the shots need to be submitted before 12, and that means we have to ride/ski to the bottom of the mountain, drive home, download all the shots, select the best ones, apply some quick adjustments and send them out. This for us means that we can shoot until 10 or 11 o’clock the latest. Being professional, and on time is really important for every freelancer. So don’t be late!…we know how much fun riding powder is.
All and all this article may not apply directly to what you do, but I hope you find it useful. We’d love for you to share your experience with similar shoots, and feedback is always welcome!