Deep Winter Photo Challenge

Deep Winter Photo Challenge


Words by Mason Mashon

They call the Deep Winter Photo contest a ‘Challenge’ for good reason. As if it were planned, on the day before the contest shooting began, a storm with cruel intent rolled into the Coast Mountain range. Being that the contest is named ‘Deep Winter’, this storm system would further provide the credibility to its designation. Carrying an abundance of moisture, the system wreaked havoc upon the mountains, of which the photographers will have had to occupy the slopes of for every waking moment of the three shooting days.

This year I think was particularly challenging for the photographers. The first day of shooting was probably the most successful for most, given that the freezing level remained in the valley bottom and the snow was fresh. However, the successive days after would provide some of the worst possible shooting conditions. The temperature spiked, and the freezing levels climbed up the mountain nearing the top, so instead of powder snow it was cold and miserable rain. You wouldn’t even want to take your cell phone out in those kinds of conditions, let alone pull out thousands of dollars of photography equipment.

For example, one of Robin O’neill’s ‘weather sealed’ cameras decided to shut down for three hours mid shoot, and all of Andrew Strain’s lenses were fogged inside and out at one point. It was definitely less than ideal conditions for most. Thereby, being able to cope with the harsh conditions, and still manage to produce an abundance of remarkable images is a true test of ones resiliency and professionalism as a snow sports photographer.

To fill a 3-5 minute slideshow with images is not an easy task, especially when your audience is accustom to the highest quality snow porn. I’ve been in a slideshow contest before, and by far the slideshow component is one of the most challenging aspects of the contest. So when photographer Ilja Herb reached out to me to help him edit his slideshow, the obvious answer was ‘yes’. When he presented his materials the night before, I knew it was going to be difficult. It’s like a race against the clock when you’re sitting there in front of the screen, sucking back multiple coffees and getting into the zone.

You have to plug away with crossed-fingers knowing that you made all the right necessary steps the first time, because when 2:30pm deadline starts creeping up, there will be no time for mistakes. One of the most difficult parts to bear is actually once you’ve completed the slideshow, and you begin to export. This process can take anywhere from half an hour to 5 hours. So there we were, staring down the progress bar on the screen, sweating, as the estimated time continuously rises.

On this occasion, I think we were quite lucky. The compression went smooth, and we were out the door just in the nick of time. Within a pressurized six-hour time slot, we had managed to compile photos, edit, and export the show.


Apparently, the export of John Scarth’s slideshow literally finished minutes before the judges entered the room. You can only imagine the level of stress, when you’ve poured three days of your life into 5 minutes. The harsh reality is that show must go on, whether your slideshow works or not. Lucky for John, it worked.

The Deep Winter slideshow event is always a local favorite. The who’s who of Whistler’s action sports community comes together at the Chateau Whistler, from photographers to pro shredders alike. It’s always a good time to catch up with all the gypsy-like snow chasers and slap some high five before the show.


Andrew Strain opened the competition with his bar setting slideshow, including an entertaining and very well shot mix of skiing and snowboarding. Next up was Ilja Herb, of which his slideshow included some artsy shots of a caveman skier, mixed up with some creatively lit skiing shots. John Scarth’s edit was snowboard rich, combining some impressive airs and pillow lines. Robin O’Neill not only was the first woman in the contests history, but she also put together a beautifully shot editorial with a women-only cast of skiers and mountain staff.

Blake Jorgensen went for the all out epic, using a really dramatic song backed up with high contrast lighting and moody settings. Tim Zimmerman also chose a snowboard crew, and put together a notable slideshow. All of the slideshows were impressive in so many different ways, making it extremely difficult to be a judge at such an event.

Blake, being no stranger to the slideshow contests and combined with a home ice advantage, came out victorious on the evening. Robin O’Neill set the benchmark for women shooters across the globe, with a well-deserved second place in the previously male dominated competition. Andrew Strain and his high-energy team placed third respectively, and Ilja Herb took home the ‘Best Image’ of the event.


The harsh conditions and unnecessary stress make it all worthwhile once the slideshows have hit the screen, and the audience has melted into their seats. The photographers in these competitions say it is some of the hardest shooting conditions they’ll have all year, and that is nothing short of the truth.

– Mason Mashon

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