What a difference a week makes in the mountains. Last Monday I left a Melbourne warmed by winter sun and made it up to Falls Creek for the usual shenanigans of a Big Cup Monday at The Man Hotel. Tuesday and Wednesday were spent shredding the pristine Falls parks under sunny skies, and snapping a couple of shots of the local boys hitting the new jumps in Ruined Castle. All the forecasts were calling for storms to head our way, and we were fortunate to get a good day of riding in on Wednesday…but by Thursday the cloud, fog and damp had set in and I made a quick trip home to dry out before heading up to Mt Buller on Friday night.
I was back at Buller for the Dew Hut Jam, which was back on busy Bourke Street, but with more invited teams and a new big water tank feature this year. Mt Buller always manages to roll out the welcome mat for the comps…well, yes and no. I had thought that the weather for the 2009 Mtn Dew Hut Jam couldn’t get any worse – but I was wrong! Yep, it was the worst weather I have ever had to shoot in: thick dense fog obscuring the sun during the day, dampness soaking all surfaces, and then by night howling winds knocking over flash stands, seemingly thicker fog and more and more misty rain.
I was up at Buller to shoot for Aust-NZ Snowboarder’s website, and you can check out the Mtn Dew Hut Jam press release with a couple photos from their assigned photog and video here. And to compare the full gallery of shots taken by Rory, who was employed by Mtn Dew for the weekend, take a look here.
I had set up three Canon Speedlight flashes (because they are easier to transport and set up than my huge Elinchrom Ranger, and usually do the job for night shooting) with one behind the main jump, one yellow-cellophaned one to the left by the water tank, and a green one to the right by the rail (I wanted some Mountain Dew-type colours in the photos). But with the cold sapping the power of the 4xAA batteries, and the dampness soaking all electrical surfaces it was a little hit or miss to get all flashes firing at once. However, this actually created some interesting outcomes and some variety to the shots. And for the very brief moments that the fog cleared the photos came out pretty cool I think. But for the last half of the night session there was basically no break in the fog, despite the wind, and I spent more time watching and chatting on the sidelines than shooting. But I’m happy with the results, even if in tough conditions like this it’s easy to miss out on capturing a killer shot of the winning team and riders.
And of course the partying at Buller was second to none – the Hoo Har is always fun, even more so when it’s a chance to catch up with a bunch of snowboard mates you haven’t seen for a while. But the walk back up the hill to my media billet was torture! Mt Buller really is some freak-of-nature microclimate, being the first mountain that the warm, damp Southern Ocean air hits, getting forced up into the cold, high altitude as storms head north east. A storm front was on its way to the Aussie Alps, and every mountain was on the receiving end of some horrible weather on Saturday before the snow started falling that night. However, Buller has a monopoly on being the only place where you can simultaneously be smashed by a tropical-strength monsoonal rain downpour, mixed with some sort of half-ice-half-rain precipitation that somehow falls as liquid yet freezes upon you instantly, as well howling winds, and blinding fog. Walking home was like being caught on some gigantic satanic Slurpee machine. And so the headache I had when I got home was definitely not from the beers, but from the ice freezing my brain!
But I awoke late the next day to a sea of white out the window where a few hours before had been dirt, grass and asphalt! The snow had finally come to the High Country, and as I write it is still continuing…so a trip back to Falls to make the most of it will certainly be on the cards soon.
UPDATE 6/8/10: Transworld Snowboarding have put up some of the photos on their website. It’s not a feature, just a news item, but it’s still nice to get shots published on their site again. Check it here.