First Try! Snowboarding Photography

The apocalypse has begun. All of Southern California is either underwater, under a landslide, washed out to sea or sinking into the depths of the Earth. This is a sign from God. It is the End Times. We. Are. Doomed. But...

...snow is dumping in the mountains right now. As of this writing, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit resorts have received thirty inches of powder in the last forty eight hours and it is still coming down. Even the smaller resorts are benefiting from this biblical amount of precipitation. In light of these historic storms, I thought it was the perfect time to share my first attempts at snowboard and ski photography.

My primary reason for getting on the slopes was to actually snowboard, not to take pictures. I only shot for about 30 minutes at the end of the day. I had a few ideas for different jumps and jibs (log, rails, walls, boxes) but as the day turned into evening, fewer and fewer riders where hitting the park. So I only shot at one jump.

Note: My camera and lighting set up was my Canon T3i with a Rokinon 8mm fisheye and a speedlight being triggered by a radio slave on a tripod. My shutter speed was 1/250. If I shot any faster my camera and my flash would be out of sync. I also curated and edited these photos as I normally would and I threw in a few extra pictures of the drive up and the bros. It's not always about shredding the gnar.

Not a horrible way to start your day.

Not a horrible way to start your day.

Pizza, beer and staches: the three keys to success.

Pizza, beer and staches: the three keys to success.

Stephen would have made a great dirtbag in another life. Here he's pulling out his ground pad and sleeping bag to take a parking lot nap.

Stephen would have made a great dirtbag in another life. Here he's pulling out his ground pad and sleeping bag to take a parking lot nap.

I exposed the shot for the sky and was relying on my flash to expose the rider and to freeze the motion. Unfortunately, my flash isn't the most powerful and it throws a very narrow beam of light. It's great in controlled environments but it's hard to use for sports. I think the flash fired underneath the rider. Because of this I had to brighten the entire photo and paint in exposure on the rider himself. In the original, unedited picture the sky and the background was darker and showed more detail but the rider was too dark.

I exposed the shot for the sky and was relying on my flash to expose the rider and to freeze the motion. Unfortunately, my flash isn't the most powerful and it throws a very narrow beam of light. It's great in controlled environments but it's hard to use for sports. I think the flash fired underneath the rider. Because of this I had to brighten the entire photo and paint in exposure on the rider himself. In the original, unedited picture the sky and the background was darker and showed more detail but the rider was too dark.

You can see in the bottom right corner where the flash is firing. The light is landing on him a little better but if I had taken the picture a little later he would have been even more illuminated and he would be at the height of his trick. You can see on the bottom edge of his board a halo effect. This is caused by me having to bring up the exposure and the shadows on the rider. Looking back I wish I had another light to provide a rim light on the rider and to give the landing some definition.

You can see in the bottom right corner where the flash is firing. The light is landing on him a little better but if I had taken the picture a little later he would have been even more illuminated and he would be at the height of his trick. You can see on the bottom edge of his board a halo effect. This is caused by me having to bring up the exposure and the shadows on the rider. Looking back I wish I had another light to provide a rim light on the rider and to give the landing some definition.

This is probably the most success I had. One thing that all of these photos have in common is motion blur. This is due to the relativity slow shutter speed and the flash missing the riders.

This is probably the most success I had. One thing that all of these photos have in common is motion blur. This is due to the relativity slow shutter speed and the flash missing the riders.

I messed around with a higher angle, which I'm not thrilled with. It wouldn't be too bad if the rider was higher and I was a little closer. I really needed a rim light on this shot to separate the rider from the background.

I messed around with a higher angle, which I'm not thrilled with. It wouldn't be too bad if the rider was higher and I was a little closer. I really needed a rim light on this shot to separate the rider from the background.

The biggest variable in all of this was the riders. Because my flash is very narrow, I had to guess where they were going to be in the air. The problem is that all of them took different trajectories so aiming the flash was almost useless. They also did different tricks so taking the picture at the height of the trick was a challenge. In hindsight, I should have chosen a rail or box to shoot instead of the jump. That way I could have a better idea of where the riders where going to be in the frame.

These are photos ok for my first time and I learned a lot. I am definitely stoked to get back up to the mountain and get some killer shots.