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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Alpine Action

Apply your scenic vision to capture unforgettable skiing and snowboarding shots

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Look for dramatic backgrounds for strong silhouette images, making sure not to have any encroaching shapes on your silhouetted subject. Athlete: Ben Murphy. Location: Alta, Utah.
Magic-Hour Light Is Still Paramount
Just as it is with most other types of photography, unforgettable action imagery is created when the sun is low and the light is colorful and soft. This means rising early and hiking in the dark through deep snow. Commitment is key if you want your images to stand above the norm, and sunrise or sunset ski shoots certainly will help you to capture moments that will stop your viewers in their tracks.

As photographers, we face unique challenges when shooting during the magic hour. In particular, we must learn how to deal with widely varying lighting conditions—conditions that often stretch our camera’s sensors to the limit and beyond. Challenging exposures are the Achilles’ heel of many a photographer—don’t let this keep you from coming away with a five-star image.

Don’t Forget Your Landscape Filters
As a scenic photographer, I feel naked heading out into the field without my grad ND filters. When I learned how to use these filters in my scenic work, I finally was able to get pictures that looked exactly as I saw the scene happening. In this digital age, there’s another tool to help with challenging exposure solutions: High Dynamic Range (HDR) software that blends several digital exposures. For action, you can create an HDR image of sorts, but a completely static subject and tripod really are required to take full advantage of the software’s multi-image blending capability.

Learning how to handhold your grad ND filters on your lens will make it much easier for you to capture diverse ski imagery. I actually handhold my filters 90% of the time when shooting scenic imagery, which gives me adequate practice for doing it under pressure when on the mountain. Remember that once a skier makes his or her turn or drops that one cliff, that snow is tracked out (and essentially un-shootable) until Mother Nature covers it up!

Know Before You Go

Many photographers choose to venture into the backcountry to shoot ski imagery, where there are less people and more opportunities for uninterrupted vistas and untracked snow. These benefits come at the risk of going into wild and uncontrolled terrain, however.

• Be trained in avalanche awareness and safety protocol. Never venture into the backcountry without knowledgeable partners and adequate safety gear.
• Safety gear includes an avalanche transceiver, an avalanche shovel and a probe.
• It’s best to have a knowledge of the terrain in which you’ll be shooting. If you’re new to an area, find an athlete or a guide familiar with the area.
• Utilize your local avalanche forecast center, where available; www.avalanche.org is a priceless resource for avalanche education and for finding a forecast center near you.
• Consider carrying a SPOT Satellite Messenger. It’s an excellent safety device that can save your life in remote areas (www.findmespot.com).


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