Six snap-happy photographers compete in Deep Winter Challenge 

Annual contest to find best images inbounds in Whistler in a 72-hour period

click to flip through (6) Conrad Rud by Erin Hogue
  • Conrad Rud by Erin Hogue

The annual Deep Winter Challenge 72-hour photo competition kicked off on Jan. 15, pitting six pro photographers against time, the elements and their own imaginations and shutter skills.

Competitors must stay inbounds at the resort and prepare a slideshow montage of six shots for the presentation night on Saturday, Jan. 18, at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. The competition is sponsored by Arc'teryx and organized by Whistler Blackcomb.

The total prize purse comes to $9,000, with the winner taking home the title of King or Queen of Storms.

Lauren Everest of Whistler Blackcomb says that along with the judged competition on Jan. 18, a people's choice award will be presented with votes being cast by the public in the 72 hours following the end of the competition.

The popular show is already sold out, but the images can be voted for on the Whistler Blackcomb website.

"We're giving power back to the people a little bit. It's a chance to vote if they disagree with the judges' choices," Everest says.

Everest adds none of the competitors for Deep Winter 2014 competed in Deep Winter last year, so the way each rises to the 72-hour challenge will be interesting to both the Whistler audience and to themselves.

In their own words, this year's competitors talk about their plans and experiences, along with showing a sample of their work:

Jason Hummel

When contacted, Hummel is out on the slopes reacquainting himself with Whistler's contours and conditions. He says he hasn't been inbound at the resort since he was a teenager.

The Tacoma, Wash., native has been in a similar competition in Leavenworth in the summer months, covering rock climbing, biking, "whatever we wanted," he says.

"It's a lot of hustle and bustle, but it's really exciting because you get to meet a lot of new people and you're focused on 100 per cent imagery," he says. "It's crazy to do it all in the timeframe, including the slideshow, the music and all the editing. "

Hummel says it is nice that Deep Winter won't be a total mystery. He held his group meeting on Jan. 13 and firmed up their ideas.

"We definitely want to do something on overcoming challenges and injury and still getting out there, doing something we're passionate about. It depends on how positive we can make the show and see it that's the direction we want to go."

Zoya Lynch

Winning the Out of Bounds photo competition in Whistler in October 2013 has made a difference for her work, Lynch says.

"As soon as I got the win for Out of Bounds I was invited to Deep Winter. It definitely helped me have tangible success... it gave me backing as an artist," she says.

She has competed in a similar event, the Pro Photographer Showdown in Revelstoke, her hometown.  

"It's super similar. You have to be focused and committed, have fun and whatever bumps come your way, you have to work with what you get and enjoy the ride. It comes together organically, in the end," Lynch says.

She says her plans for Deep Winter are secret and she can't say anything, followed by a wicked laugh.

"But I hope everyone is impressed with my show and enjoys my concept and the story that I try and tell," she says.

She can, however, spill the beans on her athletes: her sister Izzy Lynch and Whistler local Ryan Sullivan.

Nic Tiechrob

Tiechrob says that he is just beginning to see the impact of winning the Deep Summer photo competition in 2013. At the very least, it looks good on a resume, he says.

"That piece (for the competition) was something for me that meant a lot, personally. The most important thing that I got out of Deep Summer was the artistic joy of creating something and having people see it and then have it recognized as something that is really good," he says.

"It's not a job with money, but it's really satisfying. Winning helped build my reputation and maintain my biking connection. For the last two years I've been working on a standup paddle/surf/oil pipeline story called Stand and I've been out of the mountain biking side of things. Deep Summer helped me maintain my presence in the bike world."

He says he has a concept for Deep Winter with his athletes Matty Richard and Matt Elliott.

"I do all my own editing and editing the video, but I have a friend helping with equipment. Although these things are stressful and super busy, in the end they are a lot of fun and that's why I am doing it," he says.

Cameron Hunter

This is the first time Hunter has been in a beat-the-clock photographic competition; he is just entering his fourth year of shooting snowboarding.

"I want to do the whole package of showcasing Whistler, between action, landscape, lifestyle and I don't think any one type of photo will win. I think it will be a combination of all these things."

"I think I have a good plan and will stick to it as best I can, weather permitting," he says. We're going to have a lot of fun while we're out there shooting and that's about all I want to share. We want to enjoy the snow while it's there, before the freezing level rises."

Erin Hogue

Deep Winter competitor Andrew Strain had Hogue on his team last year.

"I worked with him to get an idea of how the contest runs," she says. "It was pretty crazy trying to figure out the best places, where the light was going to be good and when, the weather conditions were right and pulling everyone together.

Hogue was later to the competition than the others and had a challenge finding her team, but now it has all clicked together, she says.

"It's a team effort, you definitely need to get some key people involved that will help you out. A few people on my team have had experience working on Deep Winter before, so that will be really valuable. And we have a mixed bag of athletes who are coming together nicely."

Hogue notes that she and Lynch are, along with Robin O'Neill (who came 2nd in 2011, winner in 2012 and judge in 2013) are the only women to have ever competed in Deep Winter.

Chris Brown

Brown grew up in Whistler and was a professional snowboarder. He's been taking photos seriously "for about four or five years now." It's his first event of this kind, he says, but he is trying not to be too stressed.

"I've never done it before. I guess Whistler Blackcomb follows my photo pages and my stuff on social media and they liked my photography and asked me if I'd like to compete," he says.

"I did snowboarding forever being in front of the lens and now it's time to do something different.

"The weather just took a U-turn on us and it got warm. It's supposed to get warmer towards the end of the week, so the game plan is to get up there and use my knowledge of some spots and hopefully get some good snow. I have great riders in it with me and I am excited to see what we can pull off."

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