Backlighting is perfect for infusing extra drama into one’s ski images. It also helps to draw the eye to a strategically placed silhouetted skier. Athlete: Jared Allen. Location: Solitude, Utah.
Using the larger 4x6-inch filters will help you handhold at the wider angles without getting your fingers in the frame. Ideally, you’ll have communicated precisely what you’re trying to do to the skier to make the magic happen. This includes the what, how and where on their end (see the sidebar “Communicate With Your Athlete/Model”). In order to avoid unnatural filter lines or dark parts of your image, take special care not to pan or tilt while photographing your skier when using grad ND filters.
You’ll be well served to have a polarizing filter on hand. A polarizer will add dramatic contrast, helping clouds and mountain peaks to pop, and deepening blue skies for that complete image. Take care to align the polarizer properly. At altitude, the darkening effect is much more pronounced than at sea level, and if you don’t have it well aligned to the angle of the sun, there will be a marked difference in the darkness of sky from one side of the frame to the other. It really never looks good and it’s almost impossible to fix. The full effect is at an angle of about 90º from the sun. Because the effect can vary so dramatically depending on the filter’s angle to the sun, it’s easier to use a polarizer on a telephoto lens than a wide-angle.
Communicate With Your Athlete/Model
Unlike scenic imagery, ski photography requires you to be in sync with a fast-moving model hurtling down the side of a mountain. Here are a few tips:
• Be explicit about where and how you want the skier to turn.
• Explain the “type” of shot to the skier. Are they filling the frame? Will they be placed in a particular part of the image that requires precision on their end?
• You must be able to explain visual concepts in a verbal manner. This is perhaps the greatest challenge in communicating with your athlete.
• Ask them if they understand; listen to their tone. If they’re unsure, explain again.
• If any confusion remains, have them join you at the spot from which you’ll be shooting. Explain it from your viewpoint. You even can shoot the image without the skier and show them your “vision” on your camera’s LCD display.
• Two-way radios can be very useful for communication during windy conditions or for long-range shots.
This winter, before heading to your mountain, don’t forget to pack your array of scenic photography techniques and tools. With a little practice and a commitment to capturing something a bit different, you’re sure to come home with ski imagery a step above the rest.