Every once in a while the stars align and everything seems to be perfect. A recent commissioned day shoot in Winter Park went just that way. This was a great thing especially after the shoot I'd had the year before.... Here's how last year's shoot went down: I drove to Winter Park with my friend/model Kyle Green the back way due to a super powerful storm in Vail. Winter Park was supposed to be getting that same storm as well. Long story short: Winter park received 2 inches of snow on top of ice(AKA dust on crust), and Vail got 17 inches. Wrong place, Wrong time. The weather was super cloudy and gray all day and my battery grip was glitching causing the shutter button to fail, blowing several great shots. Still got some usable images that day but was feeling worried about this year.
This time around was a whole different story. Soft, new snow everywhere, and some of the bluest skies that have ever existed (that's a fact). It's funny how much better life is as a photographer when you have some great weather!
For an on-mountain daytime skiing shoot I will generally carry the following gear:
-Nikon D300 w/ batter grip
-10.5mm fisheye lens
-50mm (favorite due to ease of use)
-1 SB800 flash with extra batteries
-20 GB's of memory (why not always shoot sequences when not using flash?)
-some type of sugary snack (hypo-glycmia really makes me lose focus at times)
It's a fairly heavy pack but I like to keep all of my options open. When setting up for a day like this, I cannot stress how important it is to pack everything the night before. Waking up in the morning and packing can cause havoc and you may forget something vital. Also, get every detail from your client as to what images they are looking for. The more info. you know in advance, the easier it will be to plan out the day.
We started out with early lift rides before the public to capture some untracked corduroy images on a main groomer. From there we moved to moguls, and then went to some hidden powder stashes to drop cliffs. The resort was looking for images with a view, so I made sure to spend most my time making that happen. When it comes to a location shoot for a specific company, they are looking for images that reflect the uniqueness of the place. Capturing too many shots that have a skier and trees in them will not fulfill their needs. Find out the major views, and what the company/resort is known for and build your shots around these elements.
Some photographers are super hands-on with their athletes, planning out every image without input. I feel that this won't lend itself to solid images. If you listen to your models, they may have something amazing in mind. Build your shot around that trick, turn, or feature that they want to hit. It never hurts as well to ask for any suggestions from the company/resort that has hired you because they know what they are hoping to achieve with you.
When it comes to focusing there are a few tricks that will help you secure more in-focus images. Number one is to pre-set focus whenever possible. If you have one spot in mind set your focus on it and keep it there. But when you must use Auto-Focus, and the Nikon system DOES have amazing auto-focus, there are a few menu tweaks that will make it faster. First off, I limit the amount of focus points to the smallest number (9 on the D300). Then, I set it to dynamic auto-focus so that it will also use a few points around the one I select. Finally, I set the focus lock-on time to short, or off. It comes standard in normal and this setting will cause it to wait too long for perfect focus and not achieve many in-focus shots. With these settings you can shoot head-on at a fast-moving skier and 99% of your images should be sharp.
Work closely with the athletes, and make sure at the start of the day they know that this is not about skiing for fun. Photo-shoots can be fun, but there is a lot of standing around for models/athletes. As long as they know this they won't get to eager and impatient.
Here's another tip: Be ready to move out of the way when things are going wrong like the image below. Luckily I was ready and dove to the left!
This was an amazing day of shooting and I was lucky that everything went smoothly. But it's not all luck, hard planning and knowledge of gear can make every shoot a success. I learned on this one that even though I thought the shoot the year before went poorly, they still had many great shots that they could use for their ad. campaigns. What a relief!
Now get out there, promote your imagery, and land some day jobs. If everything works out right, your client will be happy, you will be happy, and your portfolio will be way stronger!
That's the BUZZ for Today!! Please check back soon for more.