Every Friday I will be posting a Photo of the Week. Here I’ll be sharing the details on how I got the shot, where I was, and the backstory that went into it. I hope you find this enjoyable, and helpful in your own photography.
Before moving out to Utah, skiing days were precious to me. I’d have to be on the road, driving the 2hrs to Vermont, by 6:30AM every Saturday. And because I had to commit so much to getting to the mountain to ski, I would never spare any time while I was up there to do anything but ski until the last lift. Now that I live 1 mile from a ski resort, my priorities have changed a little bit.
On a Friday afternoon in December, after I got out of work, I shot up the lifts with all my camera gear. Finally, I had set out with the intention of getting some shots, and not really to ski. I rode the 3 lifts to get to the top of McConkey’s Express, stoked to find out the ropes were dropped for hiking access to Jupiter Peak. I had never been up there before, but I saw a few groups heading out onto the ridge and figured it’d be a perfect opportunity to get some shots of skiers and snowboarders dropping into some fresh Utah powder.
The hike didn’t look far, but the snow was deep, so I knew I’d get hot from the trekking. I clicked out of my bindings, threw a ski strap around both skis, clicked my touring boots into walk mode, and followed the boot pack onto the ridge. After walking 700ft along the ridge with my skis over my shoulder, I found a great spot to shoot the skiers that were about to drop in. The spot was good because of two main reasons. The angle of the shot would have me looking down on the skiers as they dropped in about 20-70ft into the bowl. Additionally, the frame of the shot, due to the angle, would be snow in the foreground and a group of trees in the background. The lip of snow I was sitting down on overhung, just a little bit, so that there was nothing but air beneath me to get in the way of the shot.
I threw my skies down into the deep snow, dropped my pack at my feet, and got my camera gear situated. First, I threw the long lens on (200mm), adjusted the ISO for the bright sun, stepped down the aperture to capture the whole frame in focus. Spun the dial to High-Frame-Rates. Fired off a few test shots, and then just waited for a group of skiers to drop in.
The trick with ski photography, that I now realize, is that unless you can communicate with the subject on where to turns, it’s quite difficult. You’ll be tracking the skier, setting up the shot, and either they don’t turn back into frame or they straight line it thru the frame. And worse yet, if they don’t ski/snowboard hard enough, their turns won’t generate enough powder into the air, resulting in a poor photo.
Luckily for me, this skier dropped in, made one hard first turn, setting him up to make his next turn, right in the center of the frame. I lined it up, one last time, then held down the shutter. I was able to get a sequence of shots from his first turn, to his second turn. With the light at his back, the pow cloud he produced casted a big shadow downhill, merging with his body’s shadow. The trail of snow behind him looked incredible. His pole pointing towards the blank canvas in front of him was primed for his 3rd turn (which I missed). If only the 3 other tracks weren’t in the photo uphill of the skier.
Overall, I’m pretty stoked about this shot, especially for my first time shooting in those conditions and that type of subject. Next time, I’ll definitely be heading up there with a tripod and hope to be able to shoot a skier I can communicate with. Can’t wait to get up there again, especially after a storm.
Location: Park City Ski Resort, on Pinyon Ridge, looking down onto O-Zone.
My name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.