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Weather and Photography with Expert Joel Gratz


Since most action sports take place outdoors, weather is a HUGE factor.  But with a great forecast, we can time out when and where to go shoot for the best possible results.  For skiing and snowboarding photographers, a correct forecast can lead to amazing powder images, or gray flat images that just don’t make the cut…

Action Photo School recently spoke with Joel Gratz, a weather expert who has been forecasting snow storms in Colorado and runs an amazing weather website for snow at opensnow.com that will help you figure out the best days to head out and shoot with the most snow and bluest skies!




Joel Gratz

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I love two things above all else: weather and skiing. I knew from an early age I wanted to be a meteorologist, so I went to Penn State to study both meteorology and skiing (yes, Penn State has a ski team, and they’re actually pretty good!). I came to Boulder, CO for college part two (grad school) and studied more weather and got an MBA. After a few years working for a hurricane and earthquake insurance company, my skiing-focused snow forecasts caught on, and I’ve been running ColoradoPowderForecast.com turned Opensnow.com since December 2007.


What inspired you to create a weather forecasting site, and specifically a snow forecast site?

First, I love skiing powder and wanted to put my degree toward a good, selfish goal of skiing tons of powder. Second, I was tired of the ‘scary’ weather forecasts that sensationalized storms. I thought there could be something better for the people who actually enjoy playing outside. And my hunch has proved correct – people enjoy a focused and accurate forecast with tons of personality and humor thrown in.

You’re a photographer as well, what type of weather and snow conditions do you look for when you shoot skiing?

Shooting skiing is really hard…mostly because I want to be the skier in the powder. Knowing when the snow will start or stop, or when the clouds will clear are helpful in planning when to take photographs.


What factors do you look at to determine what a storm will be like, and how much snow it will drop?

This is the #1 question I get….people think I have my own special weather models. No way. All the data I look at is publicly available online, such as maps that show temperature, moisture, and predicted precipitation. It’s taken me over five years to get good at taking data I see on a computer screen and translating it to what that means for a particular mountain.


What should photographer’s look for when they read a forecast to get the best possible shooting conditions?

Winds and cloud cover are two big factors. My site will do a good job talking about snowfall and what to expect from a storm. The National Weather Service also has hourly forecasts that show cloud cover and winds, which are helpful. One section (that requires a small subscription fee) on Opensnow will allow anyone to ask specific weather questions, answered by myself or another meteorologist – this is a great resource for photographers, and I’ve already helped other photographers nail a sunrise, powder day, etc.


How come certain areas will get more snow than others that are close by?

It’s all about the mountains and the wind direction. Mountains create their own wind patterns, as air that is pushed up creates more snow and air that descends a mountains dries out and produces less snow. Knowing the local topography is as critical as knowing meteorology.


Surfing photographers also have a lot to learn from weather.  Do you have a site you recommend for surf forecasts?

www.Surfline.com is the go-to site for surfing forecasts around the world.


Will you be forecasting the summer weather as well at opensnow.com?

We already are, but over at www.Chanceofweather.com. Give us your location and activity and we’ll tell you the best times to get after it.


Joel and opensnow.com will help you time out your winter shooting with the best forecasting around!

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At only 25 years old, Connor has been published in many major international publications and is a signed Getty photographer. His writing and photos have been published in Photoshop User and Light It Magazines, amongst many others. He believes that if you work at what you love, you'll be able to make a great living. Connor currently resides in Edwards, CO with his wife, Kelly, and dog Tucker. You can view his portfolio at www.cnwphoto.com



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