The boy is back in town…
Some of you guys have been asking about my ski photo routine. I’m no pro and my stuff is only a bit above average if that, but I do have a process I’m happy to share. For a while now, though I could afford a better camera, I’ve been into a minimalist approach, equipped with a cheapo point&shoot camera (albeit one that has an optical viewfinder and a variety of user settings). Thus, I’m still using the Canon A720 as mentioned above. I could keep using this camera, but I’m seeing that a better lens would improve photo quality with no user intervention, so I’m shopping for another camera that might be a bit more on the high end, but still in the pro-sumer range. We’ll see how that goes.
Meanwhile, for those of you curious how I got the shots above. First, Louie is a good ski model who’s been both skiing for the camera and shooting for most of his life, so he knows what the photog can probably use. Next, backlight is the standard in ski photography currency. We were on our second lap on east facing terrain, so the afternoon sun was beginning to provide good lighting (though it would have been even better a bit later). After all that, our radios failed so we were skiing at pre-discussed intervals of only a minute or so.
Result is I got to a position and had to whip out the camera with only a few seconds to prepare. My prep process went something like this:
“I’ve only got a few seconds here, I’ll set zoom to a moderate wide angle so I can catch a somewhat tight shot when he gets close, ok, no time to prep manual settings, so set ‘Scene’ mode to snow, which I know yields good color balance and better snow exposure. Shoot test shot and look at histogram. Whoops, overexposed because of back lighting. Ok, punch exposure compensation and knock exposure back two notches (about a stop in old time photo language). Another quickie exposure test shot. Great, histogram shows exposure shifted to left, thus compensating for Canon A series tendency to do crumby tonal separation in the highlights. Whoa, here he comes, push the button!”
What’s interesting about my approach (interesting to myself, anyway), from an artistic standpoint, is I’m not using “machine gun” shooting because my camera doesn’t have a fast enough multi-shot mode to make it work that way for action shooting. Thus, I’m back to the old-school “decisive moment” style of shooting. One might not get as many good shots that way, but the process itself is quite satisfying to the artist in you — and art should be an evocative process for both the maker and the viewer, shouldn’t it?
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.