Apparently to Europeans, this is what Canadians look like 😀
Nine Queens Photo Contest
Early in 2012, I was invited to Austria to take part in a photographic contest during a week of skiing with the world’s best women freeskiers. Four photographers were invited from around the world, and I represented North America. The organizers had built a huge snow feature on the mountain at Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis, and we had several days to utilize the feature and create a collection of images to document the skiing. We shot several times at sunset and also sunrise one morning, heading up the mountain at 4am. Having several sessions spread over four days allowed us to get perfect weather conditions, and allowed me a decent amount of time to experiment with many different images. At the end of the week, our images were submitted to the contest in four categories and I was awarded the main award for Best Action Image, as well as the award for Most Creative Image.
Most Creative Angle
One of the professional skiers, Jen Hudak, was injured and could not take part in any skiing that week. I decided to use a macro lens and shoot right in her eye the reflection of the skier hitting the jump. Since it was a women’s freeskiing contest, I really liked the idea of seeing it though another girl’s eye, and her mascara makes it distinctively female. Working with a handheld macro lens and such a shallow depth of field was definitely tricky. It was also tough to get an angle where the reflection of the lens and camera isn’t too noticeable. Thankfully Jen was patient with me, and after about 20 minutes we got the shot!
Best Action Shot
One evening during the event, we continued to shoot on the mountain past sunset and into the dark. I set up my camera on a tripod to allow me to take much longer exposures and by doing this, I was able to bring in the light from the horizon to silhouette the mountains in the back of this shot with a 1/50 of a second shutter speed. Several large battery-powered strobes were positioned around the jump to light the skier in the sky and pick her out against the black background. With no ambient light on the skier, the long shutter speed wasn’t a problem as the flash popped to light her up for just a fraction of the shutter’s opened time. This created a tack sharp subject in the sky even with the slow shutter. From the side angle, the coloured LED lights mimic the line of the mountainous backdrop and create a pleasing balance in the image to finish it all off.
360 Degree Panoramic Sequence
The great thing about this contest was that it gave me an opportunity to experiment with some new techniques. I’m a big fan of using photographic sequences with sports photography and the interesting snow castle on this shoot was just begging for something a little different. I decided to shoot a spherical 360 degree panorama and then composite two sequences of two different skiers onto the panoramic backplate. To my knowledge, this was the first time a panoramic sequence had ever been done, let alone a spherical one with multiple sequences.
My Really Right Stuff panoramic setup with Canon 8-15mm fisheye.
When it comes to displaying spherical panoramas, you have a couple of options. My panoramic stitching tool of choice is PTGui for these kinds of more complex shots. Lightroom and Photoshop will do the job for regular landscape style panos, but for spherical ones like this you need something a bit more complex. Once everything has been combined together, you can either flatten the sphere and create a photo, or you can output an interactive SWF file.
You can click the image below to view the interactive version.
Here’s a sample of some of the resulting editorial coverage from this shoot. The story, written by Jen Hudak, ran in Skier Magazine in Canada, whilst several individual images ran in magazines all over the world.