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!
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!
With fresh powder, golden light and skilled athletes, the ski shooting earlier this week was…all time. My fingers still hurt from the cold, but when it’s good, there’s no time for hand warmers…
I’ve adopted a credo in my shooting that there must be three elements in an image for it to be considered a “complete” image. …You must have:
1. Superb light
2. Engaging subject matter
3. Dynamic Composition
This image of Carston Oliver at Alta Ski Area is a testament to all three of these elements coming together, and the impact it can have from a visual standpoint.
We waited for nearly 40 minutes at this spot as the sun gave us the ultimate in and out tease. The waiting paid off as the clouds parted for ten minutes of delicious golden light. Like I’ve said before, if I could bottle this light up and sell it, I’d be a rich man!
I composed the image in such a way that placed the skier in the left hand side of the frame, and left the entire remaining 2/3 of the frame open. This gives the viewer context, and lends a satisfactory balance to the entire image. It also gives the image depth, including the setting sun and Little Cottonwood Canyon for the full three-dimensional effect.
Believe it or not, no filters were used on this image. Just careful exposure for the highlights, ensuring that there was still enough mid tone and shadow detail by checking the histogram. Use your histogram! It’s a ridiculously useful tool for digital photography.
Find a way to include the three elements listed above, and you will fin yourself with more complete outdoor images than ever before.
With 100+ inch bases before Christmas at many of the area resorts, winter is officially on like donkey kong here along the Wasatch Front. I get many questions from people wondering as to whether ski photography is simply a matter of lugging your camera up on the mountain and shooting random skiers as they shred by. This may come as a shock, but what many consider to be the best job in the world really is quite a good deal of work that comes with its own unique challenges and obstacles.
So the big question is, how does it all come together? In a nutshell, it goes something like this:
Check weather. Check snowfall. Text athletes. Check snowfall. Check weather. Charge batteries. Text athletes. Field bro-brah calls. Dismiss the guy down the street who says he loves to “get rad” and do “extreme skiing”. Check in with resort personnel for early chair or early tram. Finalize athletes. Have athlete bail. Text more athletes. Check snowfall. Check weather. Check avie report. Backcountry? Sidecountry? Resort? Hmm….
Get pack ready. Check batteries. Lay out gear so you don’t wake the kids when you wake up. Fill giant bag o’ stuff with apparel to throw on athletes. Check snowfall. Check weather. Set alarm clock. Hit the sack.
Wake up early. Throw gear on while still in a sleepy haze. Drive to resort. Pit stop at 7-11. Down breakfast of champions: Red Bull & Sausage McMuffin. Let recurring regret settle in after breakfast of champions. Arrive at resort. Bro-brah with bros. High five. Yell at token late athlete. Make him feel stupid for being late. Hug it out. Throw on more layers than you should. Check in with patrol. Get on lift. Freeze until sun hits you. Wish you had thrown on yet one more layer. Head to promised land of fresh snow, good light and milk and honey. Pull out camera. Watch athletes get rad like the guy down the street. Click away annnnnnd…voila! You’ve just captured one of your best images born to a life of sitting on a hard drive before being sent out to an editor who will call dibs, hold onto it for a couple of months, and release it back to you just in time to NOT submit it anywhere else for the season. Congratulations!
Raise your hand if you want to be a ski photographer.
Oh. I forgot one more thing to add to the list. SKI POW. That seems to happen here and there as well…(but don’t tell my wife).
It’s been a great couple of months on the editorial front lately. Super pleased to have numerous shots in several different publications. Looking forward to sharing more once several ski issues hit newsstands.
Ski Magazine Buyer’s Guide Table of Contents, Todd Ligare at Alta, UT
Ski Magazine “Where Is It?” full page, Skier Brant Moles
Flyfish Journal Gallery Spread, Speckled Mayfly
Flyfish Journal Gallery Spread, Various Belize Images
Flyfish Journal Gallery Spread, Various Belize Images
Trout Unlimited 2011 Calendar, Angler Matt Warner on the Middle Provo River, UT
Fly Fusion Magazine Six-page photo essay (missing a couple pages here, but you get the gist!)
Fly Fusion Magazine Table of Contents, Unknown angler on the Madison River, MT
It’s late, and I’ve got photography on the brain (what’s new). So hold on for what’s sure to be a semi-coherent rambling on a topic that has been covered by countless photographers the world over.
I posted this image on a well known photography forum the other day. I regularly try to post on several forums to both participate in photo-centric communities (online) and drive a bit of traffic to my website as well. It’s a great opportunity to see good, and sometimes great work, as well as get a feel from the photo public out there as to what they think of my work. In the end, there’s a lot of back patting, ego padding, armchair quarterbacking, pixel peeping and the occasional solid critique with well thought out criticisms and compliments. It must all be taken with a grain of salt, and, depending on who you are, it may have more effect on some than others, as to what they think of their work, and how they approach new imagery in the future.
Which brings me to a question that every photographer asks themselves over and over throughout the course of their career. Do I care what others think of my work??? To say no would be a bold faced lie. To give an outright “yes” would be misleading. My answer? Yes. Sometimes. Kind of. It depends. Perfectly clear, right???
Let me preface the rest of these thoughts by saying this–no matter where you are in your career and how accomplished you are with your imagery, I think you can ALWAYS benefit from critique. Whether it be positive or negative, it is always well worth it to hear what others think of your work. What you do with that critique really depends on who is giving it. Do I care what the amateur photographer thinks of the work I just submitted to “X” magazine? Probably not. Do I care what the editor of that magazine thinks? You’d better believe it.
Do I care what the editor of “X” magazine thinks of the fine art/scenic work I just did? Maybe. Do I care what the amateur photographer enthusiast with a penchant for photo workshops thinks? Yes I do. Do I care what the editor of “X” magazine and the amateur photographer enthusiast think about the edgy personal work I just did? Actually, yes. Because in the end, everything I put out there reflects my ability to perform behind the lens. It is a reflection of me. My brand. We all have a brand, whether you understand it or not.
The key is this: while I care what others think, I will never, NEVER be able to please everyone. And neither will you. And that’s just how it works. Once you have found your personal style and have become comfortable with that, the criticism will sting less and the truly worthy critiques will shine through. It’s important to give ample attention to what others think of your work. It’s even more important to understand when your personal and creative vision trumps the mainstream minds of…the mainstream.
Care what others think. You have to care to some degree to see success in this business. But we all know that the path most traveled is worn for a reason. There are times when you must leave the comfort of the well trodden path, buck the unfounded criticisms and venture off into your own photo-topia of sorts. I can remember the first portfolio review I ever received. I took my work to one of my professors (I didn’t study photography in college) who was a former photojournalist. I got ripped apart. Torn to shreds. Can’t recall one positive thing said about my work at that time. And I am now so grateful for an honest eye. I cared then, and I care now. But the extent to which I let the critique of others direct my work has changed to some degree. I know what I want, and I know where it will take me. I know my style, and I know what I want to convey when I shoot an image. This will always serve as my internal creative compass. Let’s hope it points me in the right direction!
I am uber, super, ridiculously stoked to have landed the cover of the October issue of Skiing magazine. Huge props to Brant Moles for still getting it done after all these years. Brant crushes it in front of the lens. I’m also pleased to have two full page images published in a new magazine called Mountain Sports & Living. Super nice publication from a crew that knows their stuff. Look for it in a mountain town near you.
It seems lately that I’ve been assaulted with numerous mini challenges these days on my shoots. Whether it’s bad weather, disappointing locations or camera malfunctions–any seasoned photographer will tell you that coming home with keepers is about overcoming obstacles. Capturing memorable and moving imagery is never easy, which is why proper shooting technique and creative vision need to be second nature.
When the scenic shooting is best, light is fleeting. When the action is best, time is scarce. Seconds can make the difference between a 3-star and 5-star image. If you’re fumbling with equipment or second-guessing your composition, you will miss the shot. It’s that simple. Here are a couple of tips that may help in making your photography second nature.
1. Shoot often–this is perhaps the most important tip I can think of. Practice does make perfect. This is a proven fact. Know your camera controls, but more importantly–know when to do what. This can only come with repetitive practice. Your camera should be as familiar as your favorite spot on the couch. It should feel natural in your hands, and you should be able to react quickly when pressed. The more you have to guess, the greater chance you have of missing the shot.
2. Read your camera manual–and then read it again. A lot of the features on your camera may not apply to what you shoot, but you never know when you might discover a nugget that will make what you do ten times easier. Take it when you travel. Read it on the plane or sitting at the airport. Have your camera in hand as you read it so you can practice implementing what you read.
3. Previsualize your shot–this is a concept I discuss often. The better idea you have in your head of what you’d like to capture, the better you will be able to capture it when the image presents itself. If you’re shooting action, try to picture where you’d like your model/athlete to be in the frame for that perfect shot. If it’s a frame filler, decide exactly what part of the athlete to be in focus (most often the face) and make sure to put your pre-selected focus zone on that spot if you’re using autofocus.
If you’re shooting scenic, picture where the light needs to be to capture what you want to capture. Will it be backlit/front lit/side lit/not lit??? Are you going for the big picture, or will you be shooting something more intimate. What is required for each particular shot? When you know this, you can be taking a mental inventory as you hike or drive to your location. By the time you arrive at your destination, you will have a good idea of what type of shot will work best with the conditions given you.
4. Understand your histogram–much of the time, if a shot is botched it has to do with either blown focus or incorrect exposure. Understanding what your histogram is telling you about your image will allow you to make quick adjustments to get the right exposure. This can be done quickly with the exposure compensation feature (most all digital SLRs and even point and shoots have this feature).
5. Understand when to use which Grad ND Filters–mostly applicable to scenic shooters, this is also important for action and/or lifestyle shooters looking to separate themselves from the pack. Here’s a quick field guide: the greater the difference between shadow and highlight (or sky and FG most commonly), the stronger Grad ND you’ll need (i.e. 2-stop, 3-stop, etc.). Uneven horizon with trees or mountain peaks poking up? Soft step filter. Even horizon line? Hard step filter. Shooting into the sun at sunset or sunrise? Reverse ND Grad.
Hopefully this list will help you in being better prepared for those fleeting moments that can make or break you as a photographer. We all miss it sometimes, but the better prepared we are, the greater chance we have of tasting success!