The hill manager at Mont Ripley, Nick Sirdenis, asked me if I wanted to take photos at the ski hill again this year. It’s a great excuse to go hike around the hill with my camera, and my wife and I both get season passes out of the deal… how could I say no. So, yesterday morning I headed over to the hill to get some photos of the early season snowmaking. Here in the Keweenaw, even though we average over 200 inches of snow each year, we the ski areas rely heavily on snowmaking equipment. Making snow in the early season ensures a solid base, and makes for much better skiing earlier on than if we had to wait for the base to build up with natural snow. In my mind this equipment is crucial to the operations at our local hill and having a small library of images showing this equipment in action seems like it might be useful for marketing purposes. So, here I am hiking around the hill at 7am on a cold December morning with my camera.
Some of the guns are lit with relatively powerful spotlights. I’m assuming that these are used so that the operations crew can tell if the gun is still producing snow when it’s dark out. I look at it and think… that’s some cool light… how can I make that into a sweet image? In hindsight I should have gotten to the hill a little earlier than I did. I was hoping for a sky full of those really deep inky blues, but the cloud cover worked to diffuse and distribute the light in a way that didn’t mesh with the image in my mind. Also, the guns had been moved since the last time I was at the hill, and their positions made it a little more difficult to incorporate multiple lit guns into one frame. So, I hiked around for a while looking at the different angles, looking for subjects to include in the background… the chalet, the town across the canal, other snow guns.
As it became lighter out and the color started leaving the sky I decided to set up shop at the big snow gun below and use a few strobes to highlight the plume and at the same time underexpose the sky a little to preserve some of the blues. In the image below you can see how my lights were set up – one on each side at 1/2 power feather away from the ground and the main body of the gun, and one in the back aimed at the gun itself at 1/32 power to provide some fill on the rear of the machine and provide some small highlights to give texture to the metal mesh and dome on the back.
Check back often as I’ll be sharing more images from the ski hill as the season progresses.