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Photography While Downhill Skiing

Ski-photography - Obstacles and Enablers

 

 

The views while downhill skiing must present terrific opportunities for the photographer.

 

Not!

 

Downhill skiing and photography do not go together, or at least not in my books. I can say that, despite having made quite a few photographs - photographs which continue to please me - from various skiing expeditions, including skiing in the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia, just last week.

 

 -this image from last week used with kind permission from my brother

 

But this resembles boating/sailing, my summer-time avocation. On the water, as noted in a recent blog, I get so busy that I have very little time for photography, even though I virtually always have a camera with me, and even though I have access to stunningly gorgeous scenery.

 

 Once the day's boating has finished, then the camera can come out.

When skiing, first of all I have to stay vertical, and in my case that only happens with considerable concentration! Years ago at Edelweiss, I got to the stage where I did a top-to-bottom run with a video camera in my hands. (I had fun!)

 

I could ski down those runs with a camera quite comfortably, and have a great day on the slopes, to boot!

 

But that kind of videography hasn't recurred since then, and the obstacles to ski-photography extend beyond the skill required to do two things at once. They include factors like:

 

  • protecting the camera;

  • the cold;

  • not holding up my non-photographer ski-friends, and

  • staying safely out of the way when my attention turns from my overall surroundings to the narrower world in the viewfinder.

 

When skiing, I wear my camera on the front, inside my jacket. So far, that has worked well, and I have never hurt either the hardware or myself that way, despite some fairly spectacular tumbles. But the potential bothers me.

 

I cannot imagine skiing with a tripod, nor even a monopod. Fortunately, most photographic opportunities for me have occurred during daylight, but it does create occasional limitations. (Someone should invent a combination ski-pole/monopod!)

 

When the thermometer hovers around -5ºC, then stopping, unzipping, and whipping the camera out, feels quite comfortable. It varies depending also on sunshine and wind. At -15ºC, it feels ... less comfortable! Let alone my delicate torso, my hands suffer, and at a certain temperature, even liner-gloves, with which I can still work the camera-controls, don't quite cut it, once the mittens come off.

 

Then we have the issue that many cameras, in their operating instructions, declare that they will work well only above freezing temperatures. I have generally ignored this, with no ill effects noted other than diminished battery life. And my current camera, happily, claims cold-weather functionality.

 

Also, I will only use a smaller lens, and that means no telephoto shots. The bigger lens doesn't fit as well inside my coat. Sometimes, however - often, actually - the scene presented before me just cries out for magnification.

 

This shot, from the base of the mountain, used a 6-times telephoto lens, and not having access to that when up on the slopes does feel quite limiting.

(It also illustrates the dogmatic stupidity [did I say that out loud?] of those who say "always use a wide-angle lens for landscapes" - what about using the lens best suited to the occasion? It will vary ... of course!)

 

That should imply no disregard for wide-angle lenses:

 

This wasn't shot while skiing, but it was shot in the cold (high Arctic), and you get the idea - sometimes a wide-angle lens suits very well.

 

Skiing with non-photogs features prominently among my personal obstacles. I have to live with that, and would feel ridiculous asking anyone to stop frequently for five minutes, while I work on getting a shot, when they have spent good money and allocated precious time to go skiing - and are aching to continue carving!

 

Recently at the Panorama Mountain Resort - and by the way, if you want to see some phenomenal videography, then click that link - I stopped at the edge of one run, and made this photograph:

 

The narrowness of that run, however - and this photograph shows pretty well its full width, only perhaps three or four metres - concerned me, and so I found a long, straight stretch, got well off to the side, and unleashed my cell-phone while trying to keep a part of my mind on who might suddenly descend upon me. (Fortunately, cell-phone cameras get great photos these days [for "90%" of shots]).

 

So, with smaller mountains or easier runs, I may feel more comfortable keeping my "big" camera with me.

 

Or, I have a very nice, but quite small, camera - now a bit "old" (is over ten years "old"?):

 

 

-this photo made with my small camera last year from Mont-Ste-Marie

 

A small camera can compromise very intelligently when on the slopes. Importantly, mine has a great zoom lens, so that can take care of the telephoto problem. Do not underestimate the potential of a good point-and-shooter.

 

But of course I also like my interchangeable-lens, more versatile camera.

 

 

-made with my bigger camera

 

This camera offers more possibilities, including, as only one example, the option of editing with raw files - remembering that the most important hardware resides between the photographer's ears, not dangling from her neck.

 

And one other very minor but practical factor involves travel: I always strive to travel light, and therefore often only bring one camera. And for a major expedition, you can't ask me to leave my ILM camera at home.

 

("ILM" = "interchangeable lens, mirrorless", which I believe will eventually supplant "DSLR", "digital single lens reflex" - but enough about that.)

 

I only bring one camera, but at least two lenses - but then won't take the big lens up the slopes! If I had world-class skiing skills, then I for certain would consider it - but I don't, and I won't.

 

 -me, resting on a bench, half-way down a slope - fairly able to coordinate that!

 

-me, on the slopes last week (a bit cold!)

Obviously, I could learn to ski better! There are ski-photographers out there with much more robust equipment setups than I could contemplate, and in order to photograph world-class scenery, or world-class skiers, they themselves need superlative technical skiing skills (and a super-human tolerance for discomfort!).

 

But in my case, back to the real world, that isn't going to happen, so I acknowledge some combination of the following:

 

  • sticking with a smaller (less telephoto) lens;

  • skiing with a point-and-shoot camera (many of which have excellent zoom lenses!);

  • using my cell-phone camera;

  • get a helmet-cam;

  • photographing on relatively warmer days;

  • skiing easier runs and/or on smaller mountains.

 

I could consider a harness which would keep my camera outside my jacket, but prevent it from bouncing around.

 

I could try to find fellow ski-photographers. (Feel free to get in touch, and no I'm possibly not doing the black runs, and certainly not the double-blacks!)

 

Given those limitations, I feel very grateful for the images I have obtained, many of which continue to please me.

 

-this from last  year, skiing at the wonderful Kimberley, BC, ski resort. (We like to move around - so many mountains, so little time!)

 

-the mountains have a different beauty in snow and fog 

 

 

 

While you're here:

 

Remember that I make photographs and that I sell photographs. 


 

Almost everything which you see on this web site is for sale. Prices at the time of writing, for example, for an 11x14" fine-art print with a generous white border would be about $40, and you can go up or down from there. Check the rates page. More importantly, check out my gallery.

 

Book a portrait-sitting - the right frequency with which to commission formal portraits is a bit more often.

 

Remember also to leave a comment, or to contact me. Note that on the main blog page you can sign up for new-blog notifications. I am very careful and respectful with your privacy.

 

Thank you so much for reading.

 

Charles T. Low

Photographer

 

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