This was my first real assignment. The Snowboard Journal, a good publication now out of print, sent me to Haines, AK, to go to Alaska Heliskiing’s guide school.I had one lens, and a Minolta Maxxum 7000i that my dad gave me. Hot stuff in 1988 — still makes great images. Back in prehistory, when people made photographs with film, you didn’t know if you got anything good until it came back from the lab. This was one of the last days of the trip. I had already burned through the budget the magazine had generously given me. But I wanted a little more time in the heli, to be sure I got the goods. I talked my editor into a couple hundred more dollars, basically another run or two in the heli.
It was a brutal day — sunny but windy, and really cold. We went out anyway. It was just me and a few of the guides. As we approached this zone, the gusts were blowing the heli around and it took Mike, our pilot, three passes before he could land. We honestly weren’t sure he’d be able to get back in there and pick us up. As the boys were scoping lines I got this shot of Ted Purdy. Imagine what it was like for him, looking over that cornice, into that line with that wind blowing up in his face! It was -40 with wind chill.
Camera’s sometimes don’t work in those temps, so you have to keep it under your down jacket, visualize the shot and do as much as you can in your head, then pull the camera out, pull off your goggles, and hit the shutter. As soon as you pull your goggles off, your eyes go watery and you can’t see much, so you put it on autofocus (stopped way down in this kind of light) and hope you got the composition right. I was stoked this one worked.
Ted dropped that cornice where he’s standing, Fishbone took a line further left, Jeremy dropped about where I took the photo from, and stopped mid-slope as safety for me. I took Ted’s line, and once I was out of the steeps, Jeremy and I pointed it and ran for the heli, which was waiting at the bottom. Fishy took one look at my face, already going waxy frostbitten, and said, “Get in, we’re going home,” with a seriousness I hadn’t heard from him before.
Some days are just too damn cold — you’re really pushing your luck going outside. Luckily we still got this shot. Thanks boys!
Here are the rest.