A few days ago I headed out with my photo gear to shoot some side-country skiing (like backcountry but with easier lift access from a resort). We'd had over a foot of new snow the day before, and woke up to perfect bluebird skies. These are the days that skiing photographers live for!
Not everything was perfect though.... I had no plan of attack. No run that I knew would have good light, and no real set of features that I planned on shooting. That's the lesson I learned on this shoot, and have learned too many times before. PLAN YOUR SHOTS, SCOUT YOUR LINES, AND THINK AHEAD!!!! Sometimes you can get lucky winging it though, as was the case on this shoot. I got some good shots (no award winners, but definitely good quality images), and had a blast, which is very important!
There are a few pieces of advice that I would like to share with you that I should have (and did with some) kept in mind to make this shoot go smoother:
-Plan ahead as much as possible, based on when features have good light on them at certain times of day. The days are short this time of year, and North or North-East exposures always have the best snow but the shortest amount of light.
-When shooting into the sun going for the starred effect, there can be NO clouds whatsoever over the sun or right next to it. This will ruin your starred effect.
-Listen to your athletes, communication is key and if they have something they think will look good, it probably will!
-Keep your safety and your athletes safety at the forefront of your mind. Avalanche danger is very real and likely in back or side-country. Take an avalanche class, practice with your beacon, carry a probe and shovel. Have your athletes do the same.
-For safety I also wear an Ava-Lung. These are important for a photographer because we are in places where we could likely be buried. Breath through it while you shoot in case the snow slides above you. It will let you breath for far longer under the snow while your athletes/friends can dig you out. Thankfully I've never had to use mine!
-On spotty weather days (i.e. clouds passing over the sun), set the camera in shutter-priority, there's no need for full manual.
-Over-expose by about 0.7, or the camera will try and meter the snow to a neutral gray instead of white.
-Work closely with athletes and pick a safe position to shoot from. They need to be aware of where you are at all times.
-Purchase a set of two-way radios to communicate with the athlete. If you are under a cliff they are on you won't be able to communicate without radios!
-Zip your pack while your shooting, even if you believe there is no chance snow will get in. The one time you forget, your gear is sure to get covered in snow. It's just the way things work.
-Get creative with your shots, don't just shoot action, capture everything!
Hopefully these tips are helpful, keep them in mind and make safety a priority. One great shot is not worth your life.