Travelling to Winnipeg, Manitoba in the centre of Canada in the middle of winter was not how I intended to spend Valentine’s Day this year. After all, this is a city that CANADIANS refer to as “Winterpeg” due to its extreme winter conditions. However my trip was an expression of love as I travelled to say a final farewell to my Godmother who had lived in the city for nearly forty years and had passed on in January.
I do not enjoy funerals. I don’t know anyone who does, especially for someone who is instrumental in making you the person that you are. Aunt Sissy is the reason I am a photojournalist. Firstly, she introduced my brothers and I to National Geographic magazine and she also gave me my first cameras. She made it clear that yes, you can be successful following your dreams and she never failed to encourage and support me. My Godmother also emphasised the importance of telling loved ones how you feel about them while they are still alive. I ensured that I did so with her and this helped to deal with her passing.
The day after the funeral I decided to brave the winter morning and shoot in downtown Winnipeg. After all, Aunt Sissy would find it ridiculous that I came to Winterpeg and not do any photography. So I dressed accordingly for the relatively warm -7° C temperature (it can get down to -40° C), and stepped outside with a 24mm, f/2.8 lens attached to my D200.
There were a number of aspects to shooting in unfamiliar conditions that can be challenging. Firstly of course is the weather. I’m used to temperatures of 28° C and the granular white stuff on the ground being sand, not snow. (Yes, it was the first winter that I can remember – anything that I experienced before three years old I have problems recalling). However, I soon warmed to the conditions, although I had to fight the images of frost-bitten, snowed-under photographers that kept appearing in my head.
I always tell my students that “the more time spent with the subject, the better the photos”, and “spend time shooting from different angles”. It’s a lot easier to do this in Jamaica than in “Manislowba”. My initial approach was to shoot and walk. Eventually I slowed down, stood still, looked, composed and yes, squatted in the snow to vary the angle. The walk lasted just over half an hour until the wind chill started to get to me. It resulted in just a few shots. I like to think that Aunt Sissy would have liked them.