Snow blows through the air above St. Nicholas Church in East Chicago, Ind., early Monday, February 2, 2015. The image was created by back-lighting the church with a 600 w/s strobe, fired remotely via a PocketWizard unit.
I’m not sure what it is about major snow emergencies that gets my creative juices pumping, but during the bad winter storms we’ve had over the past few years, I’ve repeatedly gotten the urge to gear up and make some unique visuals amidst Mother Nature’s chaos. Some of you might remember my Vapor Chill video from last year, where I lit clouds that formed from tossing boiling water into the frigid air. There was also my Snowpocalypse Voicemail Remix from 2011, where I juxtaposed my friend Jeff Grafton’s message about his power going out with doomsday footage of the blizzard from around my neighborhood.
With Winter Storm Linus, which rolled into the Chicago area late Saturday night, I was struck not only with the amount of snow we received in a 24 hour period, but with how the snow was whipped through the air by the bitterly cold north winds. I was in awe as I watched the snow swirl high in the gusty air overhead, sailing downward an instant later to twirl through the streets in tiny vortices. I decided that focusing on the snow’s interaction with the wind and the air aloft specifically would make the best images this time around.
With a nod to one of my favorite photographers, O. Winston Link, I decided to wait until nightfall and use a strobe to backlight the snow in the air, where it would be isolated against the dark sky. With the monochromatic snow dominating my frames, as well as the contrasty lighting technique I’d employ, black and white was the clear choice for my final edits.
I set out with an Elinchrom Style 600 monolight (600 w/s) with a 50 degree sport reflector, mounted to a 24″ c-stand for added stability in the wind. The unit was powered with a Paul C. Buff Vagabond Lithium Extreme unit, and triggered with PocketWizard Plus remotes. I used a combination of Ziploc bags and ClingWrap to protect the electronics from the snow. The images were shot with a Canon 6D body and a Canon 17-40mm ƒ4.0 lens, typically shot wide open and between 1600 and 12,800 ISO. Some images in this series had the strobe placed almost a block from my shooting position. Despite the distance and the terrible weather conditions, the PocketWizards fired fairly consistently.
Over The Wire.