Monday, January 12, 2009

Avalanche Dangers, again

With the dawn of a new year, thoughts return over the past 52 weeks and the memorable photos captured. Naturally, any recap has a logical starting point at the beginning of the year.
Coincidentally, the first news assignment I photographed in 2008 is coming back with a vegence again 53 weeks later.
A Vancouver daily newspaper called me up on a Sunday afternoon with word of an avalanche that buried people at Big White ski resort earlier that day. Could I get photos of the search that continues in the slide path inside the ski resort, asked the assignment editor.
Quickly, I grabbed the photo gear I thought would best fit the shoot and some extra gear to get to the site. Along with set of downhill ski gear, I grabbed my telemark skis and boots - just in case I'd have to do a bit of manual pushing on the flats or even uphill.
Fortunately, I arrived in time to catch a ride on the last chairlift ride of the day (for the general public) and arrived at the cloudy summit as the light was starting to dim.
From underneath my jacket, I attached my 300mm lens to my camera body and shot a few quick shots of the searchers visible from about 500 metres away. Staff guarded the roped off access to the region, making a closeup more challenging.
Bypassing the immediate approach, a few turns down another run led to a flat area of some 300 metres of pushing to get closer to the bottom of the avalanche debris zone. Good thing I put on the telemark skis - my downhill gear would not have served me well for this skitrip.
Profusely sweating, I arrived just as the searchers were starting to pack up to leave. The new location that took me at least 500 calories of energy to get to, afforded a few quick images of ski patrollers and their helpers riding out on snowmobiles. Not much of a shot usually, but the one who was clutching his search-dog on his lap made it more interesting.
The first grab shots of the searchers made front page of at least a half-dozen daily newspapers across Canada. What a way to start a photo year.
I'll revisit a few more shots in the coming weeks.
Here's a couple photos from the event.