By: Lisa Slagle
Action sports photography is a lot of fun, and it's one of our very favorite things to do here at Wheelie. Shooting outside in the elements during the winter is an entirely different beast than a warm summer day. Here are five pro tips for getting the shot during a winter photoshoot.
Scope your location ahead of time.
+Make sure it's steep enough for your athletes to send it, and that there are also a few different options for you to shoot from. Know how and when (if) the sun hits it.
+In some cases, you may need to help build a booter the day before so it freezes overnight to be solid enough for your athletes to hit the next day. Be ready to help build the jump, so bring a shovel and your digging arms. Be careful not to ruin the landing-- the best shots show fresh snow with no tracks.
+If you're hiking up a mountain, you're going to want to keep your gear as light as possible, so if you know how sunlight naturally hits the zone you've been scoping, you won't have to lug a bunch of unnecessary lights and flashes up a mountain. Your back will thank you. It's all about mobility.
+Make sure your crew knows when and where to meet and that they won't bail. Make sure they understand that getting the shot can sometimes mean a lot of hiking and methodical movement, i.e. giving up a pow day.
+Check the avalanche report all week leading up to your shoot so that you know what the snow is doing, and don't put yourself or others in danger if avy danger is high. Take an Avalanche Level I class if you don't know what we are talking about.
+Get the necessary permits you need. Your friends at the USFS will likely be the ones helping you out with this. Each ski resort also has their own policy for shooting and filming on their terrain, so look into it if you're in-bounds somewhere.
2. MAKE SURE YOUR ATHLETES WEAR BRIGHT COLORS.
Look at the pic above. We photoshopped the athletes to wear grey and black clothing. It's the same image that you saw earlier in this post, but look how boring it is now. It almost looks black and white because the sky is overcast. In the colorful image at the beginning of this post, the athletes "pop" against the dull sky. As you can see, this makes a huge difference in the overall wow factor of your photo. Same goes for video-- wear colorful outerwear.
3. FAST ATHLETES = FAST SHUTTER
The goal of an action sports photograph is to freeze the action, so you will want to be shooting at a minimum of 1/1000 second shutter speed. If you want extremely crisp shots, go for 1/2000. It depends on how overcast or sunny it is--shooting snow can be tricky-- but an aperture of f4 is usually good, although you could go as small as f5.6 to make sure your athlete is in focus in the surroundings, but also still pops off of them. A lot of cameras have an S setting (for shutter-preferred) and those are usually extremely helpful.
+You might need to mess with your camera's EV Setting, too. +2 is usually good on an overcast day because it will overexpose the shot by two steps to help fight underexposure. Take a few test shots before the real deal!
+If you're shooting video and know you're going to want to edit with slow motion, shoot in at least 4K.
4. USE MULTIPLE CAMERA ANGLES TO TELL A BIGGER STORY.
+Make sure you capture a good variety of establishing shots, mid-range shots, and close-up shots. This tells a bigger story than a bunch of shots from the same location with the same POV. It is also a good idea to capture some of the "in-between" moments to portray the lifestyle of action sports. (We always try to grab an unstaged portrait or two of our athletes during every shoot and email them to the athlete as a thank you note afterwards.)
+Always think about framing. Typically, you want to position yourself downhill from the subject so you can see his or her face and body. Strong diagonal lines are helpful for showing action. Backlit sun can give photos the snow sparkle that dreams are made of.
+Think about where you and your tripod can post up that will be safe from avalanche debris, other skiers and riders, and also one that will produce interesting photos.
+Also think about where the athletes WILL BE in the air. You want to make sure they don't get lost in details of background forest or something, so think forward when you're setting up.
5. BE GOOD TO YOUR GEAR.
We personally love the Panasonic GH-4 because it's been dubbed "The Explorer's Camera." It shoots 4K video as well as amazing stills, and for a DSLR, it's light, small, and durable. After a few years of abuse falling out of steady cams, shooting in the rain, and summiting peaks inside our Dakine camera pack, our shop GH4 is still crushing it.
+That being said, cameras don't like to get wet. It's not good for them. While we believe in actually using our gear without worrying too much about it, we do recommend looking into a few equipment options that will save your gear on wet days. Covers, sleeves, and lens cleaners are awesome.
+Bring extra batteries. Cold drains batteries faster than heat.
+Bring extra memory cards. You don't want to be out there and run out of room on your memory card.
+We also recommend bringing a thinner pair of gloves with touchscreen finger pads so your hands stay warm and you can still push buttons. (These gloves are also good for using walkie talkies to communicate with athletes.)
Be safe. Have fun. Go big.
Want to talk about hiring our crew for your next video or photo shoot? Let's talk!