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Snowboarder creates a snow wave

News Capturing winter sports on camera

13 December 2016 Daniel Curtis

The number of people choosing to go on winter sport vacations steadily increases every year. Whether you are an adrenaline junky or looking for a low-key off-piste experience, there are plenty of destinations to help you get your snow fix.

From the famous hills of Aspen, to the luxury alpine resort of St. Moritz, the high altitude and white dusty peaks make for some exceptional photography opportunities. If you are planning a sporting holiday in the snow, then here are a few tips to help you capture some serious winter action on camera.

Keep yourself warm…

When thinking about the potential risks that come with a love for extreme winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, you need to consider both yourself and your camera.

Obviously, with the snow comes freezing temperatures: wearing appropriate layers is key. It is important to wear clothing that allows you to easily regulate airflow and control your body temperature.

It is also important to note that if you are planning to dedicate a lot of your time to capturing photographs, you will probably find yourself remaining stationary for lengthy periods of time – depending on the type of photography you want to practice that is!

But getting that perfect shot may mean a lack of movement, in which case it’s wise to carry gear that will help you stay warm.

…and your camera!

As most DSLRs are built to withstand slightly colder temperatures, so snow only really becomes an issue for your camera when it melts. Make sure to use protective gear for your camera (as well as yourself) to keep it warm, dry and safe from those pesky elements.

Key bits of kit

Besides your camera, another vital piece of kit for photography featuring largescale dramatic landscapes is the appropriate lens. A wide-angle and a telephoto zoom lens are a must.

You want to be able to get the most out of your surroundings as well as focusing on your subject. A wide-angle lens allows you to capture more in one shot, while a telephoto zoom offers you the luxury of isolating the important details in the distance without having to compromise on quality.

Use a high capacity memory card as it can be a pain to have to swap mid-way through some extreme action. That, and changing a memory card in gloves can prove extremely tricky!

Also, unless you feel that it is necessary for the type of shot you want to capture, don’t bother with a tri-pod. For most action photography, manoeuvrability of the camera and photographer is key!

There’s no I in TEAM

There is a lot to consider in terms of your subject when photographing skiers and snowboarders, as you want to capture their hands, feet & equipment, as well as the space around them.

It can be extremely beneficial to have someone on board who will work with you to generate great photo opportunities (yes – the pun was intended). You probably won’t get it right on the first go, so make sure your subject is patient and someone who is willing to do multiple runs.

Obviously, the more skilled your subject, the more variety you will get from your shots. Be creative with your positioning and try to get as close as you can to whatever you may be capturing.

Snow and exposure

Snow showers from curving boards or skiers bursting from a bank often present the more interesting photo opportunities, as it shows the sportsman at one with their environment.

As well as presenting problems in terms of your equipment, snow can also confuse your camera’s light meter. Because of the whiteness of the snow, the camera’s natural reaction is to underexpose the image.

To counteract this, try using a higher EV compensation. For a quick fix, point your camera to the sky on a sunny day (N.B away from the sun) and use the resulting exposure settings.

Finally, Faster shutter speeds are a must as you will be photographing fast-paced action. Most DSLRs come with a shutter-preferred setting making it easier to get the right aperture while just focusing on the shutter speed.


Next time you hit the slopes with your camera, bear these tips in mind!

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