Expert Interview: Dan Carr Talks Photographing in Snow

How To  /  Photography
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©Dan Carr, 2010

British photographer Dan Carr slid into his career almost by accident – while working at a ski resort in British Columbia during what was supposed to be a final year of freedom before settling down for a career in Aerospace Engineering.

A few days before leaving for Canada from the United States, he bought a digital SLR camera on eBay to take some photos of his Canadian adventures to send back home. He carried it with him everywhere he went, taking photos of his friends skiing and everything Whistler had to offer. After a while, some local magazines began showing interest in using Dan’s photos. Photo’s good enough to make the cover!
“At that point, everything changed for me, I remember thinking, ‘Maybe this can be my job?'”

Dan chose to pursue ski photography for some time, and after a couple years found himself traveling the world to take photos for the largest ski brands and working with top athletes in the sport.

Today, he’s settled in Canada and splits his time between taking photos and teaching people how to take photos through his company Shutter Muse.

We recently checked in with Dan to get his advice on taking great photos in the snow. Here’s what he had to say:

 

Why are you so passionate about photography?

I love to learn new things; and for me, the perfect thing about photography is that you’re never “done.” There’s always a new technique to learn or improve upon, or a new place to travel to with a new range of subjects. I hate the thought of doing something where you reach a plateau and can’t take it any further. My photography is constantly evolving!

 

Where is your favorite place to shoot? What are your favorite subjects to shoot?

That’s a tough one! I love Japan; it’s such an exciting and welcoming country.

My favorite subject is almost impossible to say because I can’t sit still and I’m always finding new ways to challenge myself in the photography world. I could tell you it’s wildlife photography with grizzly bears because that’s what I was shooting last week; but by the time you publish this, I’ll probably have changed my mind again! I tend to jump in feet first with whatever project I’m working on and treat the current work as my favorite. I think it’s a great way to get results.

 

What’s great about photographing in the snow?

I love how the same place can be different every year. Snow falls differently and terrain never looks quite the same from one year to the next. Sometimes, you’ll get 50 feet of snow and it creates big pillowy mounds of powder; and next year it might be less and it’ll reveal rocks and cliffs that you never knew were there.

skier-jump-whister-canada-dancarr
©Dan Carr

What are some of the challenging aspects of shooting in the snow?

Light can be tough in the snow because there’s a lot of reflected light; and if you don’t shoot at the extremities of the day, it’s easy to lose contrast and definition in your surroundings. You’re also reliant on the condition of the snow as well. If it doesn’t snow for a few weeks and there’s no fresh powder, it’s challenging to produce certain types of images. When the snow does come, it often means cloudy skies as well; so there’s a whole host of things that have to line up to create the perfect snowy photo.

 

How can we take better pictures in the snow? What should we be mindful of?

The main thing is to understand that cameras can get very confused by reflected light on snow when it comes to them trying to figure out what the exposure should be. Almost all cameras are going to underexpose the image and make your white snow look grey. If you’re using a DSLR, the best advice is to become familiar with the exposure compensation control on your camera, which allows you to essentially override the camera’s mistake and brighten the image.

A skier pows through clouds of fresh powder on Whistler Mountain with the Peak Chair in the background at Whistler Blackcomb,Whistler British Columbia,Canada. March 14, 2007. Photo: Dan Carr
©Dan Carr, 2007

What shouldn’t we do?

The next thing is that you want to make sure the sun isn’t behind you when you’re shooting. When the sun is behind you, it fills in all the shadows in the snow’s undulations and it makes everything look very boring and flat. Try and keep the sun off to your side, and the shadows it will cast in your photo will help add depth and contrast to your image.

 

What’s one of your favorite photos (either yours or someone else’s) featuring snow? What sets it apart?

A few years ago, I took a photo that went viral that really helped to put my name on the map, as it was featured all around the world as part of Red Bull’s Illume gallery. It was sequence of 50 consecutive images of a skier coming down a mountain and hitting three big jumps in the snow. The 50 images were layered onto each other in Photoshop to create a single photo depicting this skier’s journey.

©Dan Carr, 2013

A sequence in itself is nothing new, because it’s a tool that’s used a lot by action sports photographers. But 50 images is one of the longest ones that had ever been done at the time. That photo will always have a special place in my heart, and I’ll never forget standing in Victoria Peak in Hong Kong when Red Bull unveiled the outdoor gallery that subsequently went on tour all over the world.

See more of Dan Carr’s work HERE!

Connect with Dan on FacebookTwitter and Instagram




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