How long have you been photographing snow?
I started out photographing rain, a little over ten years ago. And then, since I was interested in inclement weather—that was the subject of my first book, météores— I just naturally started leaning towards snow.
What advice would you give someone wishing to start doing snow photography?
You have to find your own voice. I don’t really have any advice to give, other than you have to be very careful about condensation. Thermal shock. When you go from the outside, where it can be very cold, to an inside that’s heated, your camera can sustain significant thermal shock. Than can really ruin your shot. You might not be able to use your camera for 45 minutes because of the condensation on the lens and inside the lens. So I always recommend keeping your camera in a bag to reduce the heat effect and avoid thermal shock.
Is there any specific type of equipment that’s required?
First, in terms of the camera, I recommend using a classic body with a good grip on it, and a rather high-end body, a weather-sealed body. These are bodies that have good weatherproof abilities, which allows you to fight against the risk of runoff moisture that inevitably happens in the field. Then the clothes. Like anyone going off into the mountains, you need to make sure you cover yourself properly. Do not hesitate to put on two or three layers of clothing, because you can sometimes go a long time without moving.
“You can’t be afraid of the cold, the wind, or discomfort”
Is there any specific technique for capturing snowflakes?
It all depends on what you’re trying to do. Shutter speed is the main factor. If you’re trying to capture snowflakes as they’re falling, then I recommend 1/500. If you’re trying to achieve movement, instead, then I recommend 1/100. But obviously it depends on the type of movement!
Is there any specific attitude to have when photographing snow?
You can’t be afraid of the cold, the wind, or discomfort. Sometimes you can’t see anything, the wind turns and just like that, it’s blowing in your face. So obviously, it’s not as comfortable as working in a studio!
What is it about snow that you like?
I think that first off, I’m drawn to the aesthetics of it, to the dramatic aspect of inclement weather. I think of some of the photographers that also used rain or snow in their work: the American Saul Leiter, German photographer Ernst Hass, and French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, with his magnificent portrait of sculptor Alberto Giacometti shielding himself from the rain with his raincoat. Plus, snow transforms a landscape. It creates a temporary landscape that I find interesting to photograph. I am often reminded of the words of the writer Christian Bobin: “Snow is a little bit of cold and a lot of childhood.”
Interview by Jean-Baptiste Gauvin
By Christophe Jacrot