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Wintersports Photography

Pascal Baetens (pbaetens)

Keywords: pbaetens, wintersports, winter, skiing, snowboarding, sports

When the autumn leaves start turning into all kinds of bright colours, strange sensations invade my body; I cannot wait to feel the snow under my feet, to fill my lungs with the pure air of the high mountains, to enjoy the spectacular landscapes and to glide down the slopes in gracious, round curves. And, of course I want to eternalise these experiences in gorgeous images, as visual memories for myself and as evidence of my adventures to share with anyone not believing in my stories…

But how to do so? Which material to choose, which precautions to take and which safety rules to follow? How shall I position myself on sloping terrain and how to deal with lighting and composition challenges? How can I achieve good action photos within available means?

Let's limit ourselves to photographing on the slopes. Of course we can record our hikes, the resort, our after-ski parties and other festivities. You'll find more than enough hints about this in other general articles about nature, street or night photography. To stay focused though, I speak about skiers and skiing. Snowboarders are of course included in these terms ;-) 


Val D'isère, France: in backlight conditions snow splashes look spectacular, shot high on a northern gradient (on the northern hemisphere). Position yourself so that the sun stands just above the horizon. Either wait for the right 'passenger', or give your model precise instructions about where exactly to pass and in which phase of turn he should be in. Ask him to watch his own shadow, it should point towards you. Don't forget to choose a safe spot, preferably at the side of a wide slope.
(my good old D-70, 80-200 mm 2.8 on 200 mm F9, 1/1250 sec, 200 ISO)
Click for an enlargement


There we go, up the ski lifts, down the slopes. Attached to our skis or board, dressed in a colourful outfit that protects us against the cold, with a helmet on our heads, skiing glasses, and wintersports gloves: the most practical outfit to do some refined photography… We also have to be careful where and how we place ourselves, not to start gliding downwards unexpectedly…


Valchiavenna, Italy: Luc Wouters of Sneeuw Sportacademie on full speed in a testrun for Blossom skis; It is noon, the sun is vertical, shadows fall below the skier, and the splashing snow; the colourful ski glasses are my partner, as it prevents hard shadows under the eyes, typical for vertical-light portraits… I often look for diagonals in my compositions. Luc is situated in the middle of the image, to give space for the splashing snow behind him as well as for his focused gaze downwards. His blue jacket matches perfectly with the sky. I did not do any post production on this image. Nikon D700, 80-200mm/2.8 @f5.6 and 100mm, 1/4000 sec, 200 ISO
Click for an enlargement

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1 comment

Frederic Hore (voyageurfred) on January 7, 2018

Nicely written story with some excellent tips and good images to illustrate your points. I rarely alpine ski, but I do cross-country and snowshoe extensively in Canada's great white North, eh! Merci! Thank you! Cheers from Montréal.