How I fell in love with Snow photography

23 August, 2021 By Chris Chase

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When I hear those two words, my mind travels through so many memories.

To those familiar with the snow industry, you know those two words come from amazing powder days at the resorts and getting blinded by a sheet of snow after slashing a soft powder turn.

To the untrained ear through, pow shots might not mean much.

For me, the meaning behind those two words have slowly shifted over the years and become intensely personal to what I do now as a photographer.

As a child, I was lucky to grow up in an area in the suburbs outside New York City that experienced all four seasons...and I would patiently await the winter every year because it meant lots of things.

It meant snow days home from school because it too unsafe to drive.

It meant days waking up at 6 am to shovel mom and dad out of the driveway so they could get to work.

It meant spending the days adventuring and building snow caves with my brother and sister.

It meant pure happiness and escape from whatever troubles a young adolescent boy had in his life.

I spent more hours than I can count in the snow as a kid and truly believe those hours shaped who I am today and the love I have developed for the season.

I began learning to snowboard somewhere in those snow days home from school in the backyard with a plastic snowboard from K Mart or Walmart. My brother and I would build jumps at the bottom of the hill in our backyard and sometimes find pipes or things to add to make the jumps more interesting.

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We were ABSOLUTELY terrible...but like with anything else, the more we practised, the better we got...and the more POW SHOTS we got.

Soon we got too big and too good for the backyard and the natural progression was to find places in the area that could help us grow.

We found a small hillside with a running ski lift and grew our skills there, to ultimately become snowboard instructors as our first actual jobs in high school. It was the first time I understood you could make money using skills you learned in the snow.

Him and I loved it so much, we would go after school and on weekends. We were truly sucked into the world of snow and it looked like there was no turning back.

Before you know it, we were in university and chose our schools based on how close we could be to the snowy mountains. I was gifted a camera out of high school and found I loved to take it with me on all of my adventures (read more about how I fell into photography on page 56 here), so I took it hiking and out in the snow when I wasn't in class or studying.

I soon realised how much fun it was to bring the camera with me and found a way to bring it along no matter what.

Where I realised I was getting better with snow photos was when my brother and I would meet up on our breaks from university or on weekends, and drive to the mountains together to go snowboarding.

He started asking me to bring my camera along and I bought a backpack to hold it in. There is something that changes within you when you snowboard with a backpack on. If you know, you know...

At this point in uni, I had been snowboarding several years, but I realised I was just doing it for myself really...learning skills and getting more confident.

That was fun and all... But at this point, I was super confident on the board and when I had the backpack on and camera in it, I almost felt like I had a newfound duty to document what me and my brother were getting up to out there in the snow.  I felt like I was really important for a minute and the snowboarding gained a new purpose.

We began to frequent a local mountain called Jay Peak in Vermont (USA) and pushed our skills more and more.

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Sidenote **If you have been to this mountain before, then you already know...but for those who haven't...this mountain on average produces the second highest snow totals in the ENTIRE US, second to the potential here for powder is unparalleled and worth checking out!**

My brother would push me to try harder and harder trails and before you know it, we were going down from the hardest trails on the mountain. He encouraged to get my camera out and I began to snap our experiences.  I started shooting with a Canon Rebel t6s and a basic kit telephoto lens.

It felt right to have this camera in my hands and it was the first time I felt like I was taking photos of something that not a lot of people get do. For some reason it felt necessary for me to be the person to be doing this.

So from then on, I brought my camera on nearly every snow mission we did for the rest of my three years at university and practised and practised in different situations and places at Jay Peak. From on trail to off trail, tree skiing to cliff dropping, taking photos out in the snow was getting more and more interesting and it gave me a reason to go down harder sections, because if I couldn't get down that trail or that small jump or cliff, it meant I wouldn't be able to photograph it...and I would miss out on an opportunity to capture a moment.

The first snow photo I was really ever proud of, ft. my brother

What I began to realise was that arguably the thing most pushing my skills as a snowboarder was my photography. I wanted to get into those interesting spots and capture what it was like to be there.

I realised I hit on something with snow photography, because I found a way to keep doing my passion of snowboarding and add something in (photography) without it getting in the way of having fun. So over the course of what I would say was a 4 to 5 year transition, I went from wanting to chase my own powder shots, to wanting to set up and create pow shots for other people to see.

Snowboarding arguably played a pivotal role in me recognising my knack for photography, but at the time in uni I still had no idea that people could turn this into a career. So I got to spend so much time honing in on my craft and specialising in such a unique form of photography without all of the pressure of relying on it to survive.

It wasn't until I moved to New Zealand that I was able to find a way to monetise my hobbies and skills and end up in the position I am in now, a professional adventure sports photographer. I get paid to do the thing I love most, and what I realise I had been doing all along as a kid anyway. Playing in the outdoors.

I am truly thankful to have grown up where I did and have the exposure to snow to realise all of this. I recognise I have developed a very particular set of skills (no...I am not Liam Neeson :D) and I couldn't be happier today helping people capture moments on snow that I was so lucky to have.

If I could do just one thing for the rest of my life, it would be this, without a doubt.

Who else has had their life positively impacted by the snow? Leave me a comment below and let me know!

What are your thoughts about taking photos in the snow? Let me know below

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