We all want to know if there is a magic bullet or some special techniques to capturing outstanding Ski Photography.
To be honest, I don’t think there are any. When I’m shooting winter sports there isn’t really a special technique I use, I just stay ready and I’m not afraid to use my gear.
When i am up on the Austrian mountains I stay ready by setting my camera to shutter priority with a shutter time of a 1/1000 or faster and the ISO on auto with a max of about 1800. I also tend to underexpose my shots by 1/3 stop to avoid burnt out highlights. This is kind of my “go to setting“ to be ready for the shot when the action happens.
Your Camera is a tool!
Cameras these days are pretty rugged, they can stand cold and even moisture for quite a while. For example my gear is far from being top range. I use a canon 80D, it has got an APSC sized sensor which is a mid range product when it comes to Focus, frames per second or price.
Non of my lenses cost more than € 550,- NEW! They aren`t weather sealed nor are they top quality when it comes to glass or image quality….. F**K all these Reviews and DXO scores or whatever… Treat you Camera as a tool, take care about it, keep it clean but USE IT!
On more then one occasion I have been around photographers with pro gear that kept their cameras in their bags because they have been scared of the elements while i kept on shooting and ended up with great shots.
If it`s a blue bird day on the mountain, pretty much every person with a camera will take pictures.
Keep in mind, that these days pretty much everyone can afford a camera that is capable to capture some serious photography. Even smartphones have burstmodes and can produce RAW files.
Every day millions of pictures are taken but very little of them stand out. If you want your pictures to stand out of that mass you need to be ready to shoot while everyone else is having a hot chocolate and warming up in the mountain restaurant.
While skiing I wear my Camera attached to my backpack’s chest strap with one of those clips that hold a acra-swiss tripod plate, so I have it ready whenever I need it.
The only protection i give to my lenses are a lens cap while I ski, so I avoid water drops on the front element. If there is snow or ice on the camera or the lens I blow it off and clean it with a microfiber towel. – There is a tip: Have multiple microfibre cloths!
The good thing abut snow is that it’s frozen, so it wont get inside your camera as fast as rain probably would. Just make sure to give your gear time to dry when you get back home. I always detach the lens from the camera body and let it dry on my table. Make sure to place the Camera with the sensor facing down, to avoid dust on the sensor.
And hey, I would rather have a broken €500 lens than a €1500 lens that I never use because I’m always be scared to break it.
My favourite lenses when it comes to Ski or Snowboard photography are my 70-300mm and my 10-20mm.
Having your camera out and ready is essential! The other thing is how you use it.
I use the wide one when i want the surrounding landscape as a part oft the picture, for example when it snowed half a meter over night and you have that “winter wonderland look“ all over. What I also like about this lens is that you don’t have to care to much about the focus, as pretty much everything from 2 meter is in focus. When I use the wide angle i always tell the rider where I want him/her in the frame and that he or she has to get really close to me, because thats where this lens has it’s strength.
What I love about my tele lens is the huge amount of zoom! When I use it I try to give the subject as little advise on where they should ride as possible. I purposely don’t communicate much as I don’t wanna affect their riding, I just ask them what line they are going to pick and get myself on a spot that looks interesting to me. I don’t always get the shot on the first time, but when you do it’s100% authentic as the subject will try to make his run as play full and spectacular as possible.
When I get myself in position for a shot I try to line up some elements in the foreground, this could be trees, a fence or some rocks. This helps to compose the shot as you can place these elements before and then wait till the subject will take place in the frame where I want it to. To raise my chances of getting the shot as I want it I mostly shoot in burst mode with a frame rate of 8 pictures/sec. I pre-focus on the point where I would like the subject to be and wait till they are pretty much on spot. It takes some timing practice, but I try not to press the trigger to early! Otherwise I end up with dozens of pictures showing a boring in run that I just have to delete afterwards.
Knowing when your subject will be on the right spot also takes some practice. Communication is key and once you get to know the style of the person you are shooting you can pretty much know what they will do, so grab your friends and bring them out to the backcountry.
If there are no objects like trees, rocks etc. I try to shoot from a very low angle to have some snow in the foreground to ad some depth in the picture.
So thats it, no rocket science or magic bullet to ski and snowboard photography, just some basic settings, a bit of creativity lots of practice and luck 😉
Some famous athlete once said “the more I practice the luckier I get”.. I think it was Tiger Woods, so there you have it, get at it!