We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
Last fall, I was given access to the Mont Rigaud ski center. We were doing images to put in the main lodge. Of course, we were trying to convey a wintery feeling to the images… with no snow. Some worked ok, some very well. I wanted to shoot in the white snow still.
So snow came in. I started snowboarding there with my son while my daughter opted for skis. We were there practically every day. For a while, we looked at the snow cannons throwing the white powder in a part of the ski center; the snow park. Then, one day, the Bombardier grooming machines rolled in and started to carve the jumps. I immediately sent Karine an email: “We need to talk”. Karine is one of the co-owner of the place and was onboard with the idea. “If you can get me a few riders and we can get together on a nice sunny day, we could pull some nice images”. The Mont Rigaud might not be the biggest mountain in Quebec; it does not mean it can’t give you trills.
So after a few attempts to book a day, it was finally here. The one day where sun was in the forecast. The one day where it wasn’t supposed to rain. The one day where the weather was -15 Celsius with the wind factor. When we were kids, playing outside at -15 was nothing; no colder than -10, no warmer than -20. If you are in the right set of mind, it isn’t different when you’re 36.
In mid-afternoon, we scouted the park and set up the gears. Victoria came along with me and helped me around with the logistics. After setting up a safety parameter with cones, I installed my 50D on the tripod to shoot wide sequences while I carried my 5D for different angles. I was initially tripping my 50D by myself but it came clear that I would need Victoria to work the shutter; running around on a partially frozen surface with a camera in my hands was simply asking for trouble.
The shoot started smooth and easy. Each rider taking the time needed to warm up. And then it started. Our initial shooting spot was on the larger jump. We needed to take advantage of the natural light fading quickly.
After a few captures, I moved to the other side of the ramp to shoot against the sun. I loved how the cold weather turned the top snow layer very powdery and volatile. It added an additional element to the shot.
And I then leaned against the back of the ramp to get lower to the ground. Victoria was then then spotter, calling the action as the riders were hitting the ramp behind me. What a feeling to hear the snow cracking inches from your ears…
Christopher Farrell and Thomas Morin
Luke Kitching and Charles-Antoine Duquette
After a while, the team suggested to move to the upper part of the mountain where all the big rocks are. We weren’t ready yet to shoot on the boxes and ramps so we headed up. Once there, I saw what they meant by “jumping the rocks”. The light we were getting up there was very warm; the sun was just above the horizon leaving an orange tint all over the place. That part of the shoot was challenging, trying to manoeuvre through snow up to my waist. The efforts were rewarded with some incredible shots.
We finished the shoot on the box. It was now a race to the finish. Victoria and I could start feeling the frost working its magic. Noting like that burning feeling in fingers and toes. You see, -15 was fine, until I realized I left my photography gloves home. All I had were my snowboarding gloves, way too cumbersome to handle a camera. In the whole shoot, I must have worn my gloves 20-25 minutes. It was also getting very dark. It was time to pull out the Alien Bees but the slight wind combined with shoot through 60” umbrella installed on an inclined surface wasn’t a good idea as pointed out by Victoria. Instead, I opted for the reflectors only. The effect worked well and the sky started to turn pitch black anyway.
I like it. I saw potential, proposed the project, got a great crew and assistant, trusted to shoot whatever I wanted. I felt like a kid playing in the snow again.
Special thanks to the Mont Rigaud, Karine Labbe, Luc Elie (ski), Christopher Farrell (snowboard), Thomas Morin (ski), Chris Repath (ski), Charles-Antoine Duquette (snowboard), Luke Kitching (snowboard), Catherine Bélanger and Victoria de Martigny
While planning the shoot, shooting it and editing it, this song was in my head. I had to put the images on it.