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The ski and snowboard season is in full swing right now and for a bit of extra fun, I urge you all to bring along your camera to one of your ski trips.
I had the chance to watch some amazingly talented skiers and snowboarders at both Marmot Basin in Jasper as well as Whistler and collect some of my best tips for ski and snowboard photography. So here they are, a couple things to watch out for when heading to the slopes with a camera:
1. Colour, colour, colour!
The good news is that ski and snowboard gear is often very bright already and it isn’t hard to find someone zooming down the slopes in bright pink. But just as many people decide to wear black or camo-colours, which makes it hard to distinguish them from the background. So make sure your subject dresses in bright and vibrant colours in order for them to stick out from the usually very white, black and blueish scenery.
2. Capture the face
Keep in mind, faces are a lot more interesting than backsides and add some emotion to the image.
3. Watch you exposure
Photography in snow is really tricky and since everything from the ground to the sky is very bright, your camera tends to think that you don’t need much exposure on top of that. The result? Pictures of winter scenes can come out grey and some serious overexposing may be necessary to correct that. When shooting snow, an exposure compensation of something between +1 and +2 usually does the trick and will turn the image from grey to the proper white.
4. Get low and close
To make jumps look more impressive and higher, get closer to your subject and shoot from lower to the ground. For a super dramatic effect, go for a fish-eye or super wide lens, but standing back with a 70-200mm zoom lens is just as awesome.
5. Find a clean background
Ski and snowboard photography is all about the action and you want the viewers of the image to focus on the rider. Therefore, make sure to keep the background as simple as possible because messier the background is, the more it distracts from what is important. This of course doesn’t mean that you have to avoid the background alltogether and it’s always a good idea to include the story of where the rider is coming from and going to.
6. Set the shutter speed to light speed
Photographing fast moving targets such as snowboarders and skiers doing tricks requires a high shutter speed to keep the images tack sharp. If you want to freeze the action, start at 1/1000 and adjust from there, but, of course this also depends on time of day and the amount of cloud cover. When using a DSLR, shoot in manual or at least shutter priority mode, if you use a point and shoot, make sure to select the sports mode for a faster shutter speed.
7. Bring plenty of batteries
Cold weather is literally the death of batteries. In Canada at Marmot Basin, I was shooting in -20°C and I got maybe 60% of my original battery life. Bring at least one or two spares and keep them close to your body to keep them from getting too cold and loosing their charge.
8. Choose your depth of field wisely
You can make a messy background less distracting by using a smaller f-stop number and a shallow depth of field, or show everything in focus with a narrow aperture. Think ahead, decide what you want to show and adjust accordingly.
9. Find and keep the focus
If you happen to shoot with the new 7D Mark II, do not worry as the focus tracking across the 65 cross type autofocus points basically does all the work for you. But no matter what your camera, I highly recommend using AI Servo for continuous autofocus tracking. Therefore, as the rider moves closer to you or further away, the camera constantly updates the focus. If you know exactly where your subject is going to appear OR have subjects suddenly popping up, you can also prefocus on the spot to make sure you won’t miss the focus when it counts.
10. Shoot multiple frames
Actually, shoot as many frames per second as your camera allows in order to track the snowboarder or skier on the jump and hopefully capture that sweet peak spot. Milliseconds can make the difference and shooting in bursts really helps to hopefully capture that perfect shot.
This is it guys, head out there and have fun. But don’t forget, while the skiers and snowboarders get to move around, you as the photographer will be sitting and standing in the cold snow. Snowboard and ski photography is fun, but only as long as you’re not violently shivering. So wear an extra layer to stay nice and toasty.