The town’s top photographers will be under the gun during Whistler Blackcomb’s seventh annual Deep Winter contest, which runs Jan. 12 to 15.
Six local professional photographers will have three days to capture the best landscape, abstract, lifestyle and action photos on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. They will all create a montage of their best shots, which will be shown at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler on Jan. 19. A panel of judges will pick the top three slideshows based on composition, originality, theme and the overall quality of the montage, with the top winner taking home $5,000, $2,500 for second place and $1,000 for third. A separate $1,000 will be awarded for the single best photograph of the competition.
“Slideshows that have a storyline really seem to do well with the judges and I think it connects with the audience. Having that thread that connects all the photos has always been really good, and when they’ve been able to capture that authenticity of Whistler … people really seem to love that,” said Whistler Blackcomb’s public relations manager Michelle Leroux.
Deep Winter’s tight shooting schedule tends to get the seasoned shutterbugs out of their comfort zones, said Leroux, and can result in some unexpected shots on Whistler’s famous twin peaks.
“I think the photographers feel a lot of stress, this is something that’s really difficult for them to do, but every photographer that I’ve ever talked to also speaks of how it makes them rise up to the challenge and how having that time constraint has actually powered their inspiration a lot more than when they have the whole season to get some shots on Whistler,” she said. “Being forced to go out and get things if the weather isn’t doing what they want it to do, they really need to get creative and it’s forced them into maybe angles, ideas and areas that they wouldn’t normally shoot.”
Through its extensive industry connections Whistler Blackcomb invites established professional photographers who have access to the town’s top skiers and snowboarders. Other will approach the resort operator to see if they can be a part of the contest.
“We’ll check out their portfolios to see if they’re up to the calibre that we’re hoping for and other times we will approach specific people,” said Leroux. “We try and get a mix of really established photographers and hot people who are coming up, like Mike Helfrich right now. He’s someone we’re considering to be a bit of a wildcard.”
Helfrich, who has shot for Snowboard Canada, will compete against Adam Clark, Reuben Krabbe, Russell Dalby, Nic Alegre and Chris Christie in this year’s Deep Winter contest.
With such a small window to craft a winning montage, organization is the key to success, said Krabbe, who placed third in last year’s competition and took home the prize for best overall photograph.
“The biggest thing is that you have to really plan your creativity, rather than letting it flow organically, which is normally how I shoot. Because you have to use every moment in post-production and while shooting, you really have to have everything built in advance, and there’s not as much room for creative flexibility when you’re in the competition,” said Krabbe. “I definitely have a plan ahead of time to make sure that it’s going to fit together into an idea I’ve chosen, but at the same time I still try to leave flexibility in the way I plan it so that it can work with different weather situations or any creative thing that can happen while you’re out on the hill. You can all of a sudden have some inspiration and you want to be able to follow that rather than sticking to a very rigid plan.”
The event has always been well attended by locals, with the showcase night at the Fairmont rivalling the exciting atmosphere found at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, said Leroux. “It feels almost like the beginning of the season with the energy that happens in that room by having all these people silently watching these images. It’s not really like anything that we get any other time of year. People can expect to really get immersed in the energy this town has for skiing and snowboarding,” she said.
The competition’s success led to Whistler Blackcomb expanding it into the sunny months, with the Deep Summer contest going into its fourth year this August.
Doors open for Deep Winter’s showcase at the Fairmont Chateau at 7 p.m on Jan. 19. The slideshows begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 and are available at Whistler Blackcomb guest services sites around town at the base of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains and at Creekside Base, or by phone at 1-800-766-0449.
Visit www.deepwinterphoto.com for more information.