Blizzardfest 2020

Winter Assignments in your Backyard!

In previous posts, I’ve covered the importance of finding fun and beneficial events to photograph in your community, or at least, your greater surrounding community. Blizzardfest in Grayling, Michigan is exactly what I was referring to. My methods of finding local happenings is often the same: look at online event calendars, then scope out the local newspapers and news channels. You can imagine my delight when I came across an event that featured kayaking and canoeing down a ski and tube run and it was only an hour away. What draws me to events like this is that it sounds unique and there were definitely be people there. Important to note also, aside from unique photos, I was also making it a priority to capture at least one portrait. Adding portraits to your repertoire can fill out whatever project your working on or it can be the showcase. At this self-assignment, I did a little of everything.

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As soon as I pulled my car in to the Hanson Hill Recreation Area, I began to get excited. It was frigid out but knowing people in the area, it takes more than cold to prevent people from having a good time, especially on the weekend. People towing kayaks and canoes allowed me to head in the direction of the action’s heart. There was a scene of kids playing and adults standing around and, vice versa, that looked like very Norman Rockwell-ian. Prepping, announcements and hill grooming were taking place in advance of the races. After photographing some scenes of the crowd, I made my way over to the kayak and canoe staging area, hoping to capture a racing participant.

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Sure enough, a two-man team had set their snow-worthy vessel down and were talking strategy. When the team talk was done, I walked over, introduced myself and asked if I could make a portrait. Approaching strangers for a portrait, it’s always the same: be kind, be quick and be direct. While the team members were talking strategy, I was plotting my photo shoot so I had some ideas of where to shoot. This is key because since you’re likely working with little time, you should have some ideas. Often you’ll find that people have a limited amount of time they’ll allow you to take their photo. Therefore, it’s important to have your gear dialed in and yourself dialed in too. It makes things quicker and it doesn’t get any weirder than it can be.When the shoot was finished, it was the final location that looked the best, which was a surprise—a happy one of course.

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Next, it was on toward the hill. The best part about being at this event and the best part about small-town community events, is that they can allow almost unlimited access; this was the case here. It was simple to walk almost anywhere I’d chose. Once I’d established a couple of good vantage points, it wasn’t long before they kayaks and canoes began their races. There was applause, there was speed, there were crashes (none too serious) and it was all glorious.

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Overall, I was happy with how the photos turned out. As always, there’s something that can be improved upon. In the case of this shoot, I wish I would’ve captured more portraits and I wish I would’ve went to the top of the hill. It seems in my experience that this kind of self assessment helps to think of each photo shoot a little more critically.

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