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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Alpine Action

Apply your scenic vision to capture unforgettable skiing and snowboarding shots

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Just as with landscape images, exceptional light is paramount to creating photographs with impact. Early morning is a fantastic time to capture soft light and fresh snow. Athlete: Mike Zangrilli. Location: Wasatch Backcountry, Utah.

It’s the middle of winter, and majestic mountain peaks are dressed head to toe in light, fluffy powder. As the sun crests the horizon, white turns to rose, and rose turns to fire. Lost for a moment in the solitude and beauty, I’m reawakened to the reason why I slogged a half-mile up a mountain in the dark by a familiar radio transmission: “3-2-1, dropping!” In the blink of an eye, a skier gives in to gravity, engaging in a cyclical disappearing act as bottomless powder explodes with every turn. As the shutter rattles incessantly with each depression of the index finger, I know I’ve captured something magical, something unique.

Standard landscape photo tools can be particularly useful in capturing bold, beautiful ski images. Here, a Singh-Ray grad ND filter was used to balance the sky. Athlete: Brant Moles. Location: Alta, Utah.
You’ve seen the “standard” ski shot. It’s the one in all of the magazines and every ski shop window in the world. These in-your-face action shots are usually made by highly talented photographers with a background in sports photography. Outdoor photographers, with an added appreciation for the landscape, however, have a unique way of seeing that can produce action imagery reaching beyond the activity occurring in front of the lens.

With a little practice and an understanding of how to apply your scenic vision most effectively, you can translate a three-dimensional, sensory sport into a two-dimensional, action-infused scenic masterpiece. Here’s how to take your ski photography to the next level by combining it with your scenic shooting skills.

Choose A Location That Offers More
There are countless patches of undisturbed snow out there. Any photographer with the slightest bit of local knowledge can find places to shoot a nice turn here or there. Go the extra mile and choose a location that offers more than just a fresh patch of snow.

Look for distinguishing landmarks that add depth and interest to the scene. This might include unusual tree and rock formations, or perhaps a unique cornice or wind lip. The more you have to work with, the less you’ll be tempted to just point and shoot.

Find Compositions That Take The Viewer “There”
Why do we create imagery, if not to give the viewer a sense of being at that exact place during that exact moment? This is one of the most challenging aspects of photography, and certainly one that separates the exceptional from the ordinary. Stretch your creative vision in finding compositional elements that provide context and meaning.


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