ROGER COX Gallery images

FOUR SEASONS: HUNT IS ON FOR MYSTERY SKIERS

Published: The Scotsman (TSMag) 3 April 2010

THANKS to the advent of the digital camera, the world is now full of ski photographers. Unfortunately, hardly any of them are any good. I should add that taking pictures of skiing (or snowboarding) is a tricky thing to do. Shooting a moving target is hard enough, but when you add in mountain-specific variables such as flat light and extreme cold – not to mention the fact that in order to get the best shots you usually have to be perched somewhere precarious – it isn’t hard to see why wannabe Scott Markewitzes often return home from a hard day on the hill with nothing to show for their efforts but third-degree sunburn and a memory card full of rubbish.

Also, it may sound obvious but to take the perfect ski photo it helps to have perfect conditions. I don’t care how handy you are with a camera: you’ll never get that backlit shot of your mate throwing a giant rooster tail if it’s overcast and icy.

This goes a long way to explaining why there are so few classic pictures of skiing in Scotland: sunny powder days are rare, and when they do come along the last thing anybody wants to do is waste time fiddling around with f-stops.

As already noted several times in this column with varying degrees of smugness, this has been the best Scottish ski season since one-piece snowsuits went out of style.

As a result, I’ve seen more Class A ski and snowboard photos from around the Highlands (and elsewhere) in the last four months than I’ve seen in the preceding ten years.

The party is still far from over and more gems may yet come to light, but so far my favourite shots have to be a trio taken at Glencoe, e-mailed in by snowboarder and Scotsman reader Joe Shurgold.

At some time between 2pm and 3pm on 20 February, Joe rode to the top of the Main Basin T-Bar and then hiked from there to the summit of Meall a’Bhuiridh in search of fresh powder.

When he reached the summit he looked down into the distant gullies of Clach Leathad to the south-west just in time to see two skiers drawing dramatic lines right down the middle of a majestic craggy canvas. Whipping out his camera, he took three shots: one close-up and two showing the whole run, (see above) with the skiers little more than ants hurtling towards the valley floor.

Joe doesn’t know who these skiers are, but he’d like to find out so he can send them copies of his pictures. It’s hard to do them justice in the tiny photo slot on this page, but you’ll have to take my word for it: if you were playing around on Clach Leathad on the afternoon of 20 February you definitely want copies of these shots so you can blow them up to poster size and hang them over your mantelpiece.

You’ll probably end up getting T-shirts made too. If you think you’re the star of Joe’s pics, drop me an e-mail at rcox@scotsman.com and I’ll put you in touch.

THE 2010 Scottish Surfing Championships were held at Thurso East last month in thumping, well-overhead waves. Last year’s champ Mark “Scratch” Cameron narrowly defeated Thurso legend Chris Noble in the men’s final to retain his title.

The win means he’ll get the chance to compete against the pros again in a couple of weeks’ time when the 145,000 O’Neill Coldwater Classic returns to Scotland’s North Shore.

Last year Scratch drew 2000 world champion Sunny Garcia of Hawaii in his first round heat and was unsurprisingly eliminated, despite putting in a characteristically gutsy performance. Whatever happens this time, he will almost certainly get an easier first round tie.

Congratulations are also due to Jill Noble, who won the ladies division of the Scottish, Louie Chadwick who won the juniors, and Sam Christopherson, chief instructor at Dunbar-based Coast to Coast surf school, who took home the longboard title. Speaking of Sam and C2C, they’re helping to organise a sponsored one-mile paddle at Dunbar’s Belhaven Bay on 10 April to raise funds for Sport Relief. For details visit www.c2csurfschool.com

And while we’re on the subject of surf-related websites, two recent discoveries have been brightening up my desk-bound days of late. The first is www.surfingnorth.wordpress.com – an archive of Scottish surf images taken by photographer Martina Cross featuring a nice mixture of spray-flingin’ action shots and atmospheric line-up pictures.

Also worth a look is www.surfingscotland.info in which east-coast surfer Neil Munro delves into Scottish surfing’s colourful history and interviews some of the first people ever to dip a skeg in Scottish waters. Because to understand where you’re going, you must first understand where you’ve come from.

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