If you follow the BDN outdoor editor John Holyoke, you likely read his story about braving a quinzhee, a type of snow shelter, at Unity College earlier this week.
I was the photographer that traveled along on the escapade and discovered a few tips I’d like to share.
One thing I failed to do was to bring along my smartphone – friendly gloves. These gloves allow electrical conductivity from your body to your smartphone’s touch screen and provide screen control. Regular gloves just won’t work. The other good thing about these gloves is that they act like a base-layer and fit snugly underneath my winter gloves, keeping my hands extra warm.
Because John and I maintained a live blog uploading tweets, photos and videos throughout the experience I heavily relied on my iPhone. So unfortunately for me, my hands froze every time I needed to tweet.
Another problem I ran into was the condensation inside of the shelter itself. There’s one point in my video interview where I’m talking to Sierra Marchacos, a Unity College Senior.
Almost as soon as I entered the cave condensation started fogging up my lens. This is where bonehead mistake #2 comes in… I didn’t bring a lens cloth. Usually in this case I use my cotton t-shirt. But because I was sleeping in the cold the last thing I wanted to wear was cotton. I wore all wick away layers, which didn’t help wipe away the moisture at all.
Lastly was my snow cave lighting. I skipped sunset, in favor of a warm dinner, and had the idea of lighting the snow cave from the inside and out with a flash unit. (I did a similar shoot of some ice near the Kenduskeag Stream in a recent post.)
There were two problems I encountered.
First the walls of the shelter were too thick to get any glowing light from the inside with the flash. Second, lighting it from the outside seemed like a good plan except for the fact that the cave was located on a college campus with a lot of ugly, orange glowing street lights. The lights were too distracting and, I think, killed the photo.
I had another chance.
The early morning light cast a beautiful array of
pink, purple and bluish color tones on the snowy dome. The addition of an exhausted reporter who just crawled out of the shelter was just the human element I needed to tell the story.