Snowmakers. (How to) handle the unexpected

Sometimes photographing means having the ability to manage "the unexpected": a sudden event, a special situation that in a blink of an eye you perceive can become photography. That’s when you’ll need the ability to build  your vision, your composition, your story and, through your technique, turn it into what you saw, exactly. To turn it into a photograph. Possibly unique, possibly yours.

What happened to me on Christmas Eve 2015, while I was skiing on the slopes of Madonna di Campiglio (Brenta Dolomites), comes very close to the situation just described. That morning I had no "photographic" goals. I was just enjoying the sun, the slopes, the snow and the silence of those magnificent places. I remember the bitter cold. And that's why the snow-makers were operating at their maximum power to prepare the best ski slopes for the Christmas period.

In my little backpack I had a brand new Sigma dp3 Quattro, foveon sensor, with a magnificent 50mm f/2.8,  a camera I had recently received to do some tests, some photographs ( soon I would become Sigma Ambassador, but this is another story). I never imagined that in a few minutes I would have had to test myself to make one of my most special photographs.

And here's the story
In the ski area called Grosté, at an altitude of 2.500mt, right at the foot of the Brenta Dolomites, there is a beautiful 6-seater chairlift leading to the top of a ski-slope called Corna Rossa. On this ski-slope there are several snow-makers. That morning, when I got on that chairlift, they were all running; the sun was around 3pm o’clock position comparing to my direction and I was sitting on the seat at the very right, and right at the edge of the ski slope, where the snowmakers were positioned.

While I was fast approaching them (consider that kind of chairlift runs at 7 meters per second...) I noticed how the little snow clouds of snow generated by the snowmakers became more and more luminous as the inclination of the rays that hit them. Inclination that changed as I continued my ascent with the chairlift. At that moment I saw my my photography, I saw the light, I saw the contrast, I saw  the exaltation of those puffs of snow. That was my unexpected moment, the one to handle quickly before it vanished

It took me about ten seconds to pull out and turn on the camera. Always looking at the approaching snow-makers to shoot at the right moment. I already knew that I would need a very fast time (1/1000), but about exposure (f/?) I had to go to intuition, to experience. Yes, I wanted those snow-puffs to be bright but also readable, and I also wanted a small, light backlight to keep the details of the track, the snow, the same guns.

I finally did it; just two shots but i got it. Yes , you can say I was lucky to meet an unexpected event; but I also understood immediately what i wanted to tell (vision). And it was then the technique that helped me to bring home my photograph. Automatisms built over the years that at that precise moment decided for me.

A photograph from the chairlift. 
Sometimes it can happen. The important thing is to be ready to handle what you don’t expect. That unique situation (photograph) will probably never come back again.

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About the photograph | Snowmakers
Location: Grosté ski area, Madonna di Campiglio. Brenta Dolomites. 
Year
: December, 2015
Camera: Sigma's dp3 Quattro compact camera, featuring a state-of-the-art Foveon Quattro sensor and a fixed 50mm f/2.8 lens (equivalent to a 75mm lens on a 35mm SLR);
Data: 1/800sec; f/16; ISO 100 | No filters

Snowmakers © Alberto Bregani


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