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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Park City Fire District firefighters respond to a house fire in the Summit Park area on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY —

The snowfall came hard and often to Utah last year, providing the state with the largest snow totals in half a decade, including two big storm blasts in January. So when the call came into the newsroom of an avalanche in the out-of-bounds area near Canyons Resort, Deseret News photographer Scott Winterton hitched a ride on KSL's Chopper 5 and went looking for the cut in the mountain.

"From the air you can see the ripples in the snow, but it can be difficult to see because the light bounces off of the snow," Scott told me. "If there is a shadow to be cast, you try to use the shadow to reveal the size of the avalanche."

But this would not be the image that would mark the day nor appear in the paper.

"We were on our way back and Ben (Tidswell), the pilot, got a call saying there was something going on," Scott said. The chopper headed toward Summit Park where smoke was rising. A house was in flames, and the fire grew as Ben and Scott approached from the air.

"When you cover a breaking news situation … like a fire, it's a living thing at that point and growing and growing until firefighters knock it down. You end up shooting a lot of frames on a fire because every frame is a different aspect of the fire. One frame the roof could be there and the next frame it's not, and it's totally different."

The family was not at home when the fire broke out so no one was hurt, but this home at the top of Parleys Canyon would be a total loss and a personal tragedy for the family.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
FILE - Park City Fire District firefighters respond to a house fire in the Summit Park area on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017.

The photo that ran in the Deseret News (and the photo gallery online) had the quality of a Christmas card, if it didn't show something so tragic and destructive. It reveals both the eye and technical expertise that this month brought recognition to Scott Winterton as the Photographer of the Year in the Northwest Region of the National Press Photographers Association's monthly news clip contest.

Deseret News photographers Jeff Allred and Laura Seitz also finished in the top ten and are part of a remarkable photo staff that continues to shine.

"Scott has a unique ability to be in the right place at the right time and capture some extremely dramatic moments," said Chuck Wing, director of photography and the managing editor of the multiplatform Deseret News and KSL newsroom. "I tease him that he's kind of a fire-breathing photographer. He loves to chase the smoke. But he goes beyond the fire and flame photos to go for that human impact of what tells the story."

That was the case during last fall's football game between BYU and Utah State in Logan. BYU had struggled during the year but had gotten off to a good start against the Aggies. (BYU would eventually lose after suffering more injuries to their quarterback).

"BYU had thrown a pass for a touchdown, but it was a questionable situation and they didn't know if (the receiver) had gone out of bounds. It took several minutes for the review. I decided I could follow the team, but Coach Sitake had been very animated up to that point so I decided to stay on him. And I was rewarded when the announcement was made that it was a good catch for touchdown."

The image showed the joy of BYU head coach Kalani Sitake when the announcement was made and is part of Scott's strong sports photography portfolio.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake celebrates a touchdown as BYU and Utah State University play at Maverik Stadium in Logan on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017.

Being in the right place at the right time, being aware of the situation and the surroundings help make Scott an excellent shooter on one of the best photo staff's in the western United States.

He credits award-winning Deseret News photographer Ravell Call for mentoring him in the early years, including in high school when Ravell came to judge a photo contest in Roosevelt, Scott's hometown, and took an interest in a young man who loved to take pictures.

"I had the opportunity to go to lunch with him and a teacher. Just in talking I had mentioned that my family had considered moving to Salt Lake. He agreed to let me follow him and on occasion he would call and allow me to assist him on assignments."

How important was that mentorship?

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Deseret News photojournalist Scott Winterton poses for a photo outside the Deseret News building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018.
Trent Nelson
FILE - Scott Winterton on assignment on Friday, Oct. 24, 2014.

"He was huge. I carried a picture of him in my wallet for probably three years," Scott said, recounting with a smile the influence of the entire photo staff.

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Chuck, our photo director, says the staff is talented and motivated and is able to maintain a passion for the people in the community. But he says there is something else that allows them to excel.

"They are good people first, good photo journalists second," he said. That allows them to maintain empathy for those facing the camera, in both celebratory or tragic circumstances. Empathy provides clearer vision for a photographer in understanding the moment and gives respect to all they come in contact with.

For Scott, it helps him follow his dreams.

"I fell in love with photography. There is always something intriguing about freezing time and history."