How to make sure you are taking the best photos when you are skiing
With stunning mountain peaks, glinting white snow, bright sun, heavy fog or snowfall, spectacular valley views and high speed action, taking decent photographs in the Alps is a real challenge. Conditions can vary not only day to day but hour to hour, and there’s no one setting which will work for all conditions.
Point-and-click cameras set to ‘auto’ will often take decent images but they can only do so much and they’ll never do justice to the beauty of the Alps, but if you play around with the manual settings on your camera it’s surprising how much improvement you can see.
Whether you use a basic hand-held camera or a high-end DSLR camera the fact is that with a little practice, setting the camera to manual and mastering the shutter settings will almost always bring you higher quality pictures – the camera’s automatic setting isn’t always right!
How to take snow park photos and ski action shots
Everybody wants that one perfect shot of them zooming down the piste or nailing a huge kicker, which they can then load up to Facebook and show everyone how skilled they are on skis! Sadly the majority of action shots just don’t come out like that – they’re usually mis-timed or out of focus. Action photography is very tricky to get right!
The first thing to do is set the camera up correctly. To avoid blur you’ll need a very fast shutter speed, and to let enough light into the camera lens and compensate for the speed of the shutter you’ll need a wide open aperture. It’s well worth taking a few practise shots of people to get the settings right before you line up and take the perfect shot, as they’ll always vary.
Another key factor in successful park or action shots is the positioning of the camera. You can get wonderfully dramatic shots on-piste as well as off-piste if you shoot your subject as he or she skis town the slope towards you. In the park, amazing big-air shots can be captured by positioning yourself to the side of the kicker and following the skier down as he or she approaches the jump. Opening the shutter at the key moment takes practise and patience but when you get it right it’s far more rewarding than simply setting the camera to shoot 3 frames a second and picking the best one.
How to take scenic photos of snowy mountains
In the Alps you can wake up to bluebird skies and bright sun in the morning, but by the afternoon the weather has closed in leaving flat-light or low-light conditions which make photography a real challenge. The camera settings you use for each shot when taking scenic photos have to be adapted to the conditions at the time, so it’s always a good idea to take a few quick shots with slightly different light and shutter settings before choosing a setting you’re happy with and lining the shot up properly.
If it’s a bright and sunny day, attach the lens hood to the front of the camera. It blocks side light and lens flare which can so easily spoil a great scenic photograph. Line your shot up and avoid pointing the camera towards the sun. In sunny conditions you’ll need a fast shutter speed to avoid flooding the image with white light, and a very low ISO setting. It’s also worth closing the aperture quite a lot too, to stop excess light getting in and spoiling the image.
If you’re shooting in low-light or night time conditions it’s a very different story. You can slow the shutter down so it stays open longer and lets more light in, and perhaps use a tripod to avoid blurring the image. Other tricks to good low-light photography include keeping the aperture wide open so as much available light gets in a possible, and increasing the ISO setting. Bear in mind, however, that too high an ISO setting will ultimately damage the quality of the photo and it’ll look grainy.
The best thing to do when shooting out if the Alps, where conditions are so variable and the scenery is so beautiful, is simply to play around with your light settings before each shot. If you take the time to get to know the camera, you’’ll gain an understanding of what settings work best in certain situations and ultimately you’ll get a lot more out of your mountain photography. Happy shooting!