I have known Steven Currie for years and I can say with confidence that he is a top notch producer. Nothing flusters him, not even the weather – or lack there of. He is resourceful, creative and one of the best problem solvers out there. So, when he sent me the post he wanted to submit for the blog, I was not surprised that he chose to write about producing in the snow during one of the warmest winters in history.
Here is what Steven has to say.
“Talking about production on snow related projects seems ironic during one of the warmest winters in United States history. But our clients have needs and it’s our job to fulfill them. I have learned over the years that there are four key aspects to working on or in snow. While they seem obvious, they are crucial to the success of the shoot.
Working in snow takes 25-50% more time than working on dry land. Let me repeat, working in snow takes 25-50% more time than working on dry land. Whether it’s transportation, lighting, catering, communication, safety or simply walking from point A to point B, it just takes more time. Managing a client’s expectations regarding this is imperative.
Park the SUV, you are going to have to find another way around. Whether it’s a snow cat, snow mobile, helicopter, dog sled, skis, or in the case of shooting Simon Dumont for Oakley (Blake Jorgenson Photographer) hiking 1,000 feet straight up to the top of Highlands Bowl at 12,000 feet for that top of the world look. (It’s amazing how many agency and clients pass on the opportunity to observe this kind of shot.) If you can utilize a snow cat, it’s the most efficient. You can move 12 people and equipment comfortably and utilize it as your motor home once you reach your location. But keep in mind cats go about 10 miles an hour, so when you need to get to that location that’s “only” 20 miles away, realize it’s going to take …. more time. Snowmobiles are much quicker, but moving 1 passenger at a time is not efficient. They are better utilized for short hauls to move things around the location, not for transporting crew long distances. But If money’s no object go with the Helicopter, it’s just cooler.
Whether it’s avalanche danger, moving machines, or the extreme conditions, it’s safest to have someone solely concentrating on everyone’s safety, and not distracted by another role. Wherever your location, more than likely you will be assigned someone for your safety in extreme conditions. Most resorts will assign you a patroller, a heli or cat operation who will have someone solely watch for the safety of the crew. If they don’t, ask for one.
As far as safety goes, be sure to remember that in order to find snow you are more than likely at a high altitude and it’s going to be cold. It is important to realize that altitude equals dehydration. So, if you can only carry one thing with you, make it water. Most clients and agencys seem to come from sea level (where it’s safe and warm) so when they come to the snow and altitude, their bodies need time to adjust. Altitude sickness is simply dehydration. So have plenty of water on hand and constantly remind people to drink it. More than any type of production, I have “lost” more crew/agency to altitude sickness. Trust me, it is not pretty.
Because of the particular places that snow falls, permissions are usually more complex than our friendly summer counterparts. Most US ski resorts sit on Forest Service land, so it’s not enough to just clear things with the resort. More than likely you’ll need a Forest Service Permit. And since it’s the Department of Transport’s job to keep the roads clear and you are trying to showcase a cars capability on snow, you are more than likely going to have to use private property. If you see a road with snow on it, more than likely it’s not public. Local scouts will know where the snow is and who to speak with to get access. In rare cases you’ll find snow on public roads and it will save money if you can find them.
And finally, if you can’t find the snow, make it! There are many options for creating a snowy effect in your image. They are usually very costly and it takes more …. Time! (You’re getting the idea.) The most effective way to make it look cold is a snow flake filled sky, but who can schedule a shoot day around a forecast for snow? There are several products that will make it snow on a clear day. I find the most effective to be a bio degradable starch product that can be blown with fans. It falls to the ground slowly, making it look like Christmas in Norway.
Over my 10 years of living in the mountains, I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of working in and on the snow. Some of my most memorable projects have been working in the white stuff. So for a few more months, until we get our feet back on the ground and back to the “easy productions”, don’t be intimidated by the thought of shooting on snow. Just put a little more time in you plan.”
Thank you Steven for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us. If you would like contact him directly or see what else he has worked on, please link to his site: stevencurrie.net.