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Interviews

Winter Photography with Ross Woodhall

12th November 2019
Ross Woodhall

In the UK, we are no stranger to a cooler climate, but action and lifestyle photographer Ross Woodhall is a professional at navigating himself through tough climates to get that perfect shot.

Based in the UK but working globally, Ross specialises in winter sports, having spent many years living and perfecting his craft in the mountains.

It’s the perfect time of the year to be inspired by Winter Photography, so we caught up with Ross to discuss his insight behind the lens.

A small warning, after reading this blog – you may find yourself wishing for snow…

Sunset behind a mountain view

How long have you been interested in photography?

I have been interested in photography since my late teens, but my interest increased massively when I ended up in the alps in 1991 – that type of scenery demands to be photographed.

Was there a defining moment that set you on your career path?

Sunsets in the alps and an absolute determination to leave behind a career as an electrician! In fact, rewiring hotels is how I came to be in the mountains.

How did you become a professional photographer?

I am self-taught – with a little help from my friends. It was never part of the plan as I originally wanted to be a professional snowboarder. I was actually modelling as a snowboarder when it dawned on me that the guy behind the lens had a better career path – I ended up blagging a job with him. I’d swapped a crash helmet for an old Zenith camera and I was keen to use it. So, I ended up becoming the person standing at the top of the chairlift asking to take a photograph of the skiers as they got off the lift.

First day on the job, I’d forgotten how to open the camera to load the film, which was all very embarrassing! I had to learn how to develop film in a baby bath filled with warm water, how to use a Patterson tank and bring the chemicals up to temperature in a small room that was halfway up a mountain in a cafe. The job was quite a tough gig. You had to develop a thick skin as some people told you to “go away” in no uncertain terms. But, I shot a lot of film every day and I really learned how to use the camera in manual. Plus, I was making money from day one.

black and white image showing clouds in the sky

How long have you been interested in photography?

I have been interested in photography since my late teens, but my interest increased massively when I ended up in the alps in 1991 – that type of scenery demands to be photographed.

Was there a defining moment that set you on your career path?

Sunsets in the alps and an absolute determination to leave behind a career as an electrician! In fact, rewiring hotels is how I came to be in the mountains.

How did you become a professional photographer?

I am self-taught – with a little help from my friends. It was never part of the plan as I originally wanted to be a professional snowboarder. I was actually modelling as a snowboarder when it dawned on me that the guy behind the lens had a better career path – I ended up blagging a job with him. I’d swapped a crash helmet for an old Zenith camera and I was keen to use it. So, I ended up becoming the person standing at the top of the chairlift asking to take a photograph of the skiers as they got off the lift.

First day on the job, I’d forgotten how to open the camera to load the film, which was all very embarrassing! I had to learn how to develop film in a baby bath filled with warm water, how to use a Patterson tank and bring the chemicals up to temperature in a small room that was halfway up a mountain in a cafe. The job was quite a tough gig. You had to develop a thick skin as some people told you to “go away” in no uncertain terms. But, I shot a lot of film every day and I really learned how to use the camera in manual. Plus, I was making money from day one.

three people sitting in the snow by a helicopter

How would you describe your style and approach to photography?

Loose.

What do you hope people think/feel when they see your photographs?

WOW… hopefully!

Do you have any inspirations?

Mother Nature and Colin Prior.

Do you have a favourite story or experience that led to a great photograph?

In 1999, I started shooting the FHM winter sports features. It really was a different time – the internet was in its infancy and magazines still ruled. They were selling eight hundred thousand copies a month and were awash with cash. We went up to the Swedish arctic and spent a week racing around on Skidoo’s and in a private helicopter. With 24-hour daylight, we could work whenever we wanted. It was quite an experience. That job carried on for the next few years with shoots in Canada and Alaska.

Ross’ Top Tips for Photographing Winter Sports

  • Most importantly, be aware of your surroundings and the hazards that are present on that day.
  • Make sure you have the correct equipment with you if you are going off piste. An avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe are essential kit for all parties. An avalanche air bag backpack is also a very, very good idea. They are expensive but worth every penny. And of course, a basic knowledge of how they all work!
  • Keep your gloves in your jacket whilst shooting. There is nothing worse than putting cold fingers into cold gloves.
  • Always zip up your bag. Models don’t mind if they fill it up with snow if they come in too close.
a person performing a jump in a snowmobile

What does photography mean to you?

Photography is a fantastic vehicle to earn a living doing something that verges on obsession. I really don’t like to miss a shot whenever I see it. I’ve nearly crashed the car many times pulling over to catch the scene in the rear-view mirror.

a frozen photography kit bag in the snow

"Trick of the trade – If your AF stops working, use a bit of grease from behind your ear on the lens and body terminals. Works a treat every time!"

Keep Up with Ross

If you’d like to keep up to speed with Ross’ adventures and the photographs he captures, you can find him on Instagram at rosswoodhall or at PFD Skis.

Your Adventures, Preserved Forever

If, like Ross, you’ve captured a series of photographs that deserve to be showcased, it’s time to create a CEWE PHOTOBOOK. Whether you are preserving memories of a beloved family holiday, collating a body of work or crafting an anniversary present, we have a wide range of paper types, cover options and sizes to choose from.

landscape CEWE PHOTOBOOK with winter photography

Get started today with the CEWE Creator Software. Don’t forget to show off your masterpieces with us on social media via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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