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!
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!
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
“You’re not hiring me for my shutter finger–everyone can push a button. You’re hiring me for my creative vision and my ability to convey a particular message about the (blank) experience through unforgettable imagery.”
This is an excerpt from a recent email to a potential client of mine. And really, although the word “passion” isn’t even mentioned, I think it sums up nicely what separates an exceptional photographer from many of the good photographers out there. Regardless of your technical prowess, your lens collection or your abundant knowledge of a certain location or activity–without passion for the medium of photography and the action of capturing timeless moments forever, you will fail at connecting with people as they view your work. It’s as simple as that.
Sure you could probably shoot skiing if you don’t ski, but would you really capture the subtle nuance of an epic powder turn? Or would you simply be documenting it…
Sure you could probably shoot fly fishing if you don’t fish, but would you really capture the connection between man and water? Or would you simply be going through the motions…
Sure you could probably shoot scenic imagery without a personal connection to the landscape, but would you really personify Mother Nature in your imagery? Or would you simply be tracing an emotionless empty stencil onto a digital sensor…
We are not just photographers. We are interpreters.