Here’s an idea–these are images from an architectural shoot I just wrapped of a private residence up at Alta Ski Area. It’s about to be listed on the market for a cool $6 million? This house worths all the money and i would love to buy that one.If you need more info about the house you can go to : http://www.sedonalakes.com/ and read all the information they have there.Who wants to go in with me on this one??? I’ve got a Benjamin burning a hole in my pocket…the rest is up to you. 😉
So stoked to see some freshness (finally) falling from the sky. Today was a good one at Alta. More on the way!
2011 was a spectacular year on all accounts. Foot upon foot of pow skied, fish from Wyoming to the Bahamas hooked, festivals in the far corners of the earth, ancient pathways crossed–all contributed to what could perhaps be one of my most productive years behind the lens. Cliche as it may be, I can’t help but look back in review and share some of my favorites from the past year. As always, many thanks to my sponsors: Arc’teryx, Suunto, Mark Miller Subaru, Mountain Khakis, Manfrotto School of Xcellence, Clikelite Backpacks and Singh Ray Filters. Hope you all enjoy, and here’s to an even better 2012! (click on images to view larger versions)
1. Jesse Hall takes a moment to ponder human flight, as he stands inside the hot air balloon from which he’ll subsequently launch himself into gravity’s liberating grasp. Park City, UT.
2. Angler Al Chidester finds himself surrounded by all that is good in this world: fresh air, fall foliage…and fantastic fishing in some of western Wyoming’s most treasured water.
3. Fire and rain over Warm Creek Bay, Lake Powell, UT.
4. Hazy skies make for ethereal and ancient interpretations of East Jerusalem, Israel.
5. First light envelopes Agua Canyon in a glow only Mother Nature could furnish. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT.
6. Ralph Lauren’s Double RL Ranch shows its true colors in crisp early morning light. Dallas Divide, CO.
7. Angler Geoff Mueller admires a healthy bonefish (caught and released) in Abaco Island’s skinniest of water.
8. Calm in the chaos of Hanoi traffic, Vietnam.
9. Bavaria’s finest color smiles upon a lone farmer’s shed in the fields near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
10. Skier Drew Stoecklein can, in fact turn right. At just the right time. In just the right place. Alta Backcountry, UT.
11. Angler Geoff Mueller and Oliver White tense up as they ply the waters off Abaco Island for huge permit.
It’s a pretty slow start to winter here in Utah this year, so I figured maybe I can tease ol’ Mother Nature into submission with some love from last year. I spend a great deal of time shooting skiing in the winter, and it’s about a whole lot more than shredding pow and high fives (though that definitely makes up a decent chunk of it!). There’s a great deal of work that goes into every image, on both the part of the photographer and the athlete. It requires vision, communcation and an understanding of the end product from both parties. Read on for a little insight into the making of this image of Carston Oliver at Alta, UT.
1. Rule numero uno in most, if not all ski imagery is tack sharp focus. Obviously, there’s a little wiggle room here if you’re going after some other sort of creative effect (blur, etc.), but by and large, your images MUST be tack sharp if they are to stand any chance at getting published. This requires communication to the athlete as to exactly where you hope for the climactic action to occur. This is vital to communicate, as I typically frame my image around this “hot spot”. If the athlete misses it, the shot will likely be a throw away. Carston hits the mark nearly every time. When working with new athletes (to me), I’ll typically give myself a bit of tolerance in either pulling back from what I expect the final image to be, or by following the athlete to a greater extent instead of having him simply ski through my frame, holding the camera still. If I trust the athlete and can see the exact frame I hope to capture, I will pre-focus on the hot spot, as was the case here.
2. I am a stickler about paying attention to the edges of your frame. It’s vital to have that separation between the skier and the edge of the frame for both aesthetic and functional reasons. Firstly, it gives the subject of the image adequate breathing room, and negates the visual tension that would occur were the skier too close to the edge. Secondly, this is very usable (and necessary) space for copy. This image was shot for cover dimensions, and this space around the subject is a must!
3. With most side profile ski images like this, you need to decide what to include in terms of terrain and line choice. Do you want to show where the skier is coming from or where he’s going? Or do you want to include both? In this image, I knew the backlit powder trail would be an integral part of the shot, which means I needed to show a hefty chunk of turn behind the actual hot spot. Again, this is crucial to understand before the action takes place, as it affects the entire dynamic and composition of the image. Additionally, there was a small cliff directly underneath this turn. So–the shot was best when showing where the skier had come from, not so much where he was going. I’ve employed the ridgeline, turn trench and powder spray as leading lines, taking the viewer from the upper right corner, directly to the skier, where the viewer can then wander into the space below (see #2) and continue digesting the remainder of the image.
4. This background serves two purposes. First, it gives the viewer perspective and a feeling of exposure. It serves as the separating element between the skier and “all the rest”. It’s the contrast I always look for both in terms of subject matter, texture and color to give separation and add depth to an image. By using a telephoto lens here, I’ve compressed the scene, bringing that background directly in and almost “on top” of the action. This is a great way to fill your frame with the goods, and get rid of everything else. Lastly, this background serves as usable space for a magazine masthead. Ideally, it would be a little less busy, but it still works dimensionally.
5. More negative space. Again, crucial to the hopeful editorial success of this image. This space is absolutely necessary if this image is ever to have legs as a cover. Editors need aesthetic, functional space in which to add copy, headlines, etc. It also helps to provide that clean separation between foreground and background.
Want to make this work for you? Find aesthetic locations with good snow. Then hook up with skilled athletes that can exact turns with surgical precision, while maintaining that perfect photogenic form. Finally, learn how to communicate your vision in a verbal manner. It looks completely different from the athlete’s perspective, and it’s up to you as the photographer to make sure you’re both on the same page. Good luck!
I am ecstatic and honored to be occupying a significant chunk of page space in the winter issue of Mountain Magazine alongside photographer extraordinaire Jordan Manley. Run by a stellar editorial and art team (including former Skiing magazine editor in chief Marc Peruzzi), Mountain Magazine is a sumptuous mix of mountain lifestyle, adventure and profile pieces. If you live and love life in the mountains, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy at your nearest bookseller. These images were shot at a number of local resorts including Alta Ski Area and Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort, and feature local pro like Julian Carr, Cody Barnhill and Parker Cook (with an angling cameo from one Jay Beyer!). See my images below, and pick up a copy in print to see the entire feature!
Stoked on this spread in Skiing Magazine of Drew Stoecklein at one of my favorite places to shred and shoot on this planet–Alta Ski Area. This was a beaut of a morning last year–frosty for sure. There’s nothing like those first warming rays of daylight. Chicken soup for the soul, and the foundation of all exceptional imagery. Here’s to pink light and fresh pow!
My photographic career is still in its relative infancy, yet I’ve already been fortunate to shoot a wide range of imagery for an even more expansive array of industries. Whether I’m out on a scenic landscape shoot for my own collection, or racing first light for the next commercial client, I always, always have my Singh Ray filters with me.Through my experience, I’ve found that regardless of the type of imagery you’re shooting, the challenges remain largely the same. Something in your frame is often times too bright or too dark leaving the image incomplete without some aid in helping the camera’s sensor to see what your eye is seeing.
To use an overly used term, we, as photographers are taught to “think outside the box”. We are taught to find something different to separate ourselves from those less qualified. I have found that by employing my Singh Ray filters in less conventional situations, I am able to deliver a superior image. Sure, you could use artificial lighting in many of these situations, but filters are far less cumbersome. This post is littered with examples of both the more and less conventional uses of Singh Ray filters. Hopefully, you come away inspired to use your filters in ways you never previously imagined.
This first image (top of the post) was made at Deer Valley Resort, UT. When shooting images for a client, it’s important to understand what message they are trying to send through their imagery. I enjoy shooting architectural work, particularly architectural work in the mountain lifestyle genre. I connect well with this type of imagery because I love and live the mountain lifestyle. I understand what it is people hope for when visiting a world class resort. They hope for cold outside and warm inside. They hope for a larger than life winter wonderland. They hope for cozy, comfortable and TBD (to be discovered).
I am able to convey this feeling by enhancing the warm appearance of the lodge on a cold winter’s eve. A 2-stop hard step Grad ND was used to balance and even slightly darken the sky, giving a natural vignette that draws the eye directly to the lodge. Dusk is a fantastic time to use Grad ND filters, as the rich blue sky is deeply saturated and void of harsh contrast.
This second image embodies two of my life’s greatest pleasures: skiing pow, and the warm, soft glow of first light. Images like this require foresight, preparation and a desire to capture something not many others can. I am a big believer in capturing nothing less than a complete image. There are countless photographers out there who could shoot a similar image, but the sky would simply be void of detail, tone and color.
With my background in scenic photography, I’m always particular about making sure the sky is given its just attention, regardless of whether it is a secondary part of the image or not. I hand held a 3-stop reverse ND Grad on this image to ensure no detail was lost. The result is a pleasing, complete image, with pink light so sweet you could drink it up, and a sky with detail to boot.
There are two key things to remember when shooting an image like this (with a hand held filter): 1) make sure to communicate with your skier as to exactly where you’d like the turn/action to take place. 2) Find the proper position for your filter, and don’t move with the skier—keep your camera steady and resist the urge to pan with the skier. This will ensure your initial filter placement doesn’t get skewed and lend an unnatural look to parts of the image.
This next image shows a classic commercial scenic image. It’s not too far off from what many of us do when heading out for a standard scenic sunset shoot: find an engaging composition, hope for great sunset light and shoot away.
This image was made during an editorial shoot for Volkswagen’s Das Auto magazine in Saguaro National Park. The art director for the shoot stood there mesmerized as he watched the 4-stop Reverse ND Grad work its magic, effectively bringing the image to life on the liveview display. One thing worth mentioning is the incredible ease that liveview shooting offers us. If your camera has liveview, make a habit of using it! It’s so much easier to pinpoint filter lines, and to see in real time how the filter is balancing out your exposure/histogram.
This winter I have been shooting a great deal of architectural imagery. I am a student of existing light (read: I’m terrible with flash photography). Interior lighting can certainly pose some unique challenges when shooting architectural imagery. My preferred time to shoot is at dusk or dawn, when the ambient light balances with the interior light, and you get that soft purple glow in the windows. (Please note that there are countless other ways to shoot architectural imagery, this is simply my preferred method and style).
Even if the exterior/interior light are balanced, however, there still may be hot spots in your image. On a whim, I began using my soft step Grad ND filters to balance out these lighting obstacles. The results were more than pleasing, and before long, I found myself shooting with Grad ND filters inside as much as I do outside. Soft step grads are the perfect filter for this type of imagery as there is little in the way of a defined filter line. Experiment with grad ND filters the next time you shoot interior architectural imagery—it’s much less expensive than an extensive lighting setup, and there’s no setup at all!
These last two images demonstrate classic uses of a Reverse ND Grad filter. I am a sunstar fanatic, and have found that with the combination of my 3-stop reverse ND grad and my Canon 16-35mm MkII (and a bit of help from Mother Nature), I’m able to create dynamic images rich in color and detail, with the added bonus of a sharp, succinct sunstar. The ideal time to capture images like this is right as the sun is either cresting above or dipping below the horizon line.
The fly fishing image on the Middle Provo River, UT was shot at sunrise. The cactus image, shot in the Tucson Mountain Park was created at sunset. The “perfect opportunity” will last literally just seconds for this type of image, so take special care to find your composition and adjust your camera settings early, allowing yourself to take advantage of the short period of time in which the sun is just hitting that horizon line. Take special care to stop your lens down to (at least) f16 or so to ensure a tight, defined sunstar.
Regardless of the imagery or circumstance, don’t leave your Singh Ray filters home. As was mentioned earlier in this post, the images may change, but the challenges remain the same. Take your scenic expertise to other genres of imagery and you will find yourself capable of creating magic wherever the camera takes you.
For the last three years, I (with the help of Ski Salt Lake and the Cottonwood Canyons resorts) have hosted a ski-based photography competition called the Ski Salt Lake Shootout. It’s a frenetic mess of photographers, athletes, loads of equipment, inevitable cell phone exhaustion and always, exceptional photography. I know by now that, for five days, I am encased in a veritable bubble of shutter clicking, bro-brah-ing, thumbs-upping, and little, if any…sleep.
In the end, however, the visual and emotional rewards are extremely gratifying. It’s humbling to see what the photographers and athletes are able to produce within such a short window of time. It’s always great to see how other photographers see, and to talk shop with others in the biz. This year we were blessed with a mix of weather conditions and what seemed like consistently good (and at times exceptional) snow. The talent pool of athletes here across the Wasatch Front is staggering, and it’s always cool to see how many top level athletes call SLC home.
While I spend the majority of my time documenting the event for awards slideshows and the like, I do search for differing angles from which I can shoot some of my own imagery during the week. Check out the images in this post for a peek at the action, and I’ll be sure to post a link to the Shootout site as soon as we have the winning images uploaded.
For you antsy folks, there is a contest at the bottom, but you’ll have to have read the post to have a fighting chance!
Earlier this week we were blessed with a bounty of blower (read: ridiculously light Utah powder) here in the Wasatch. It was the first day of shooting skiing for me this season, and it did not disappoint. There are some days where most everything goes right, and this just happened to be one of those days.
Anyone that has ever attempted to shoot fast and unpredictable action knows well the challenges of coming away with a sharp image. It’s hard enough to frame it up exactly as you’d like, let alone focus. Any athlete that has ever shot with me knows my typical response when I see something I like on my camera LCD display–“that will be killer if it’s sharp”. IF IT’S SHARP….
Nowadays, the auto focus systems on pro (and even some prosumer) cameras are so advanced that it’s tough to screw things up. That said, it still happens, and it always seems to happen to the shot or frame that you wanted the most. There are a few things we can do as photographers to nail the shot every time. When shooting skiing, there are essentially two techniques I use to focus. I will use a focus tracking method where I’m utilizing the auto focus in my camera throughout the image sequence and at other times I may pre-focus on a specific spot where I’ve directed the athlete to go. Both techniques work well in certain situations–some better than others.
Focus tracking works well when:
a) the athlete is moving towards or away from you at a rapid pace
b) you’re not sure where the climactic action will occur OR there are a number of images throughout the action sequence that you may want as keepers
c) there could be confusion between you and the athlete as to where exactly it is you’d like them to turn, air, etc.
d) generally speaking, the athlete will not remain parallel to the focal plane throughout the sequence
*Note: As a Canon shooter, I focus with my AF-On button instead of my shutter button. This allows the camera to continue micro-adjusting focus as the shutter clicks away.
*Note #2: It is best to manually select a focus zone in your camera. Place that focus zone over the part of the athlete you’d like in focus (most often the face). I typically start “tracking” focus about two seconds or so before I start clicking the shutter.
Pre focus works well when:
a) you have a specific, mutually understood spot (between you and the athlete) where the climactic action will occur
b) the athlete is maintaining approximate equal distance from the focal plane throughout the action sequence
c) you’re shooting at infinity focus–in particular, this pertains to long lens, big line shots where the athlete is a great distance away OR wide angle shots where you’re shooting at infinity
d) there may be anything present (obstacles, weird lighting, atmospheric conditions) that would confuse your auto focus (there are ways to tweak your AF system so it doesn’t get thrown off as easily with things like this)
* Note that pre-focusing requires precise explanation and understanding on the part of the photographer and athlete as to where the action should occur. Generally speaking, the longer you have worked with an athlete, the better you will understand each other, and the more confident you will feel that the athlete can nail the spot on which you’ve pre-focused. Additionally, it’s wise to use larger apertures when possible, thus giving yourself and the athlete a margin for error across the focal plane if for some reason they are a bit closer or further away than the spot you mentioned.
So. Contest time. I’ve included images throughout this post from shooting at Alta Ski Area on New Year’s Eve Day. I have a super cool Clik Elite medium lens pouch (great for wide angle zooms or moderate primes) and t-shirt for the first person that can correctly state which focusing technique was used on each image in this post. The contest will end on Wednesday, Jan. 6. Good luck!