Backstory: Coldest Take | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

News + Opinion » News

Backstory: Coldest Take


Published December 28, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.

  • Eva Sollberger ©️ Seven Days
  • Eva Sollberger

This "backstory" is a part of a collection of articles that describes some of the obstacles that Seven Days reporters faced while pursuing Vermont news, events and people in 2022.

I dread outdoor winter video shoots. I don't perform well in the cold, and neither does my electronic gear. Despite this, I made a date in late January to visit John Predom in Island Pond to film him making one of his massive snowshoe designs. For the prints to work best, it has to be cold, when the snow is light and fluffy. When the day came, it was nine degrees with clear skies. My friend Howard Fisher offered to act as chauffeur on the two-hour drive.

Predom makes the masterpieces in his 15-acre backyard. We had to hike past his latest design to get to the equivalent of blank canvas. The snow was deep, and I used my iPhone XS to film the walk out there. It was my first time snowshoeing. The straps didn't tighten properly and came off every now and again, which slowed us down. I carried a large backpack that held my Canon C100 camera, a few lenses and batteries. Fisher was saddled with my tripod and a light stand for the GoPro. I started to sweat and worried I'd freeze if I removed any layers. It felt like forever clomping through the powder, but I later found out we only walked one-fifth of a mile.

Finally, we reached the fresh snow, but there was a snag. In order to preserve Predom's design, I could only film from within the corridors of footprints that he was making with his snowshoes. We followed Predom to the center of the field, and I set up my camera on a tripod. Happily, I removed my defective snowshoes.

Only a thin strip of my face was exposed to the frigid air. I spent much of my time taking my gloves off to adjust the camera dials and change lenses and then putting them back on when my fingers started freezing. My glasses fogged up and made it hard to see the view screen. My batteries were draining faster than usual. The iPhone malfunctioned at times, as though protesting the extreme working conditions.

For about an hour, I filmed Predom as he tromped around, making mysterious patterns that somehow added up to his grand vision. I had a body mic on him, which allowed me to hear his heavy breathing as he worked. I tried following a few times with my iPhone, but it was hard to keep up and stay on the path, especially when he started backtracking toward me. The whole thing felt like this complex dance with steps that I didn't know.

After shooting an interview, we headed back to Predom's for snacks with his partner, Julie Barr. As my limbs started to warm up, we chatted and feasted on an impressive spread of delicacies. Nothing like a walk in the punishing cold to make you appreciate shelter and comfort.