Tuesday, January 1, 2008


When a creative slump happens, change your visual diet

This past spring, I had a great opportunity to shoot backcountry skiing and snowboarding with two pro photographers and friends of mine, Dawn Kish and Doug Marshall, along with videographer Scott Rulander. I’ve been skiing since I was a little kid, but to shoot skiing isn’t something I’ve played with much. I had always figured that the market for ski photos was already filled with photographers who produced excellent work. That was fine with me, since it allowed me to do what I really love to do in winter—ski as much as possible.

Doug arranged a great location for our Photo Circus—the party would spend a week at the new Icefall Lodge in the Canadian Rockies. Our four models were either pro or semi-pro skiers, snowboarders and telemark skiers.

When I’m recovering from burnout, I find ways to put the fun back in photography.

A short helicopter ride from the town of Nelson brought us to the lodge perched at tree line. After the helicopter dropped our gear and us at the lodge, we’d be alone for a full week. The location was chosen mainly because it hadn’t been photographed and for the spectacular scenery of cliffs, steeps couloirs and gleaming glaciers. To reach these mountaintops and bowls, we’d climb sans helicopter under our own power up the steep slopes with special "skins" attached to our skis that gave us all the traction needed to move uphill. Once at the top of the ski pitch, we’d remove the skins and our fast descent was assured.

I was under no pressure to shoot at all, but the energy of the group and the spectacular location made that impossible. The skiers and the landscape were perfect, making the challenge just deciding when and where to shoot. For seven days, we played in the snow and shot thousands of digital stills. Sometimes, the photographers shot the same scenes; radios allowed us to avoid getting in each other’s photos. Other times, we split off with a specific idea to shoot. The party environment and energy never let up, and the photo-video crew was shooting from sunup to sundown. Each day, we pushed our own creativity and proposed new ideas and techniques for each other. Despite a week of hard work, we left Icefall Lodge creatively reenergized, ready for our next shoot and the real work.

My favorite shot from the week at Icefall is skier Scott Miller dropping off a 30-foot cliff. The 16mm fish-eye, with its 180-degree angle of view, captures Scott perfectly in the beautiful environment of our Photo Circus playground.

Bill Hatcher travels the world in search of adventure and good stories. A regular contributor to
National Geographic and Outside, his images have appeared on the cover of 40 magazines. Visit his website at




Add Comment


Popular OP Articles

  • 7 Deadly Compositional Sins7 Deadly Compositional Sins
    Forget about adhering to the rules of composition and instead focus on staying clear of the pitfalls of a particular scene or situation More »
  • Sharp & RichSharp & Rich
    As a digital photographer, you can learn a lot from Ansel Adams. Choose the right gear and emulate the attention to detail that Adams devoted to his craft to get your best possible landscape photos. More »
  • Zoo PhotographyZoo Photography
    Take better zoo shots More »