Published Cover: SKI Magazine

Skier Julian Carr at Solitude Mountain Resort on the cover of SKI Magazine

Stoked on my latest cover! Julian Carr shredding Solitude Mountain Resort on the January cover of SKI Magazine.

The things we do…the places we go…

Skier Drew Stoecklein skinning through old growth forest in the Trinity Alps, CA.

The things we do…the places we go…

Is that not what this whole photography thing is all about??? The first memory I have of picking up a camera for any purpose beyond simply documenting what was occurring in front of me was to simply share with others. Share the beauty. Share the wonder. Share the ridiculous. Share the inspiring. Share something that made someone say “wow”. Share something that made someone want to go and explore their backyard, go adventuring and lose t

hemselves in that to which they are impassioned.

While some things have changed about my approach to photography, one thing remains constant–and that is my desire to share with others that which I see. I am fortunate to see crazy cool stuff in unbelievable locations all over the world. I count myself lucky each and every day.

This image reminded me of that this morning. Shot deep in the Trinity Alps of northern California, this locale felt like something out of a fairy tale. Skinning through old growth forests plastered with moss and lichen–so cool!

A telephoto lens was key in compressing the scene, enhancing the layers of forest, and filling the frame with color and texture. Understand your equipment, and how it can help you maximize each location and each shooting opportunity. Know what you want, and have the technical backing to go out and get it. Finally, share! Share your work. Share your vision. Inspire and be inspired!

Pre-visualization in Ski Photography

With snow totals thus far this winter far below normal, my portfolio of fresh work has been looking a bit meager. Nearly 50″ of fluff fell from the sky last week, which means it was a busy one for yours truly. It felt good to finally get out and get some work done. One of the challenges, however, remains in the high avalanche danger that exists in the backcountry. This means we’ve been doing a lot of shooting in resort. Couple this with the lack of light during the stormy days, and it makes for some challenging obstacles in capturing unique and fresh imagery. Essentially, as a photog in these conditions, you must address two things: unless you have pre-public access to freshies in resort, you must deal with all the tracked out snow in the foreground and background of your image. Secondly, in greybird conditions, you must add contrast to the scene, which means most often that you’re shooting in the trees.

Pre-visualization, or the ability to “see” the shot before it actually takes places, is crucial to finding success in these conditions. Not only will it help you do what you need to do from a technical standpoint, but it will also help you in communicating with the athlete to make sure that all the variables line up to get a keeper image. Read on for a behind the scenes look at a particular powder sequence shot through the trees of Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort.

The first step is finding an alley in the trees. Most often, you see something from above the shot and then ski down to the side (making sure not to track out your shooting frame) where you can then get underneath and find a legit angle on the action.

The first photo you see here is essentially the first thing I see when settling on a spot from which to shoot. It’s a decent alley with adequate contrast and spacing for the skier. It’s not perfect, but it’ll do–especially if photog and athlete can combine to make the magic happen. At this point, I’m trying to envision a shot that will a) work within the space I’ve settled upon b) convey enough action to feel as though it’s part of a continuous line and c) work naturally and smoothly for the athlete.

Once I’ve settled upon a frame, I’ll envision a line and then pick out the points within that line that will shoot best. Choosing these select points of the line is crucial to both establishing your focusing zone (if utilizing AF) as well as communicating to the athlete where you hope to capture the climactic action. It’s important for them to know where “the shot” is as this will dictate how they ski the line and how they look (form-wise) throughout the line.

This second image displays the line envisioned, with several select points highlighted. As can be seen from the graphic, the skier was to enter skier’s left of the tree in the middle of the frame in a right -hand turn, transition to a left-hand turn and then skiing out of frame to skier’s left of the blurred tree in the LRH corner.

In my mind, the select points of the line most likely to render legit images were weighting in to the right-hand turn (#1), transitioning out of the right-hand turn (#2), weighting in to the left-hand turn (#3) and finally, skiing out of frame with contrail behind (#4).

Complicating things a bit further, I chose to prioritize the select points that would allow me to utilize the same focus zone(s) in my camera throughout the sequence while still allowing me to keep the general framework of the image intact (blurred trees in FG, etc.). These prioritized points were #1 and #4.

This was all communicated to athlete Parker Cook before shooting the a single frame. The line, as well as the select points were well understood. I chose my focus zones in my camera that would allow me to follow focus on the action, and still maintain the framework of the image (this is where previsualization is crucial).

The images below show the focus zones selected as they apply to the frames as they were being photographed (utilizing AI Servo on my Canon 1D MkIV).

Finally, the finished product below without the focus zones.

Were there other possibilities with this particular shot? Absolutely. I could have approached it in a way that filled the bottom part of the frame. But as a horizontal image, placing the action smack dab in the center of the frame nearly kills its chances of running as a double spread.

I could have chosen to pre-focus on just one spot, but I wanted to maximize my potential for keepers. There are plenty of times when I choose to go with one shot, rather than the potential for several, but this was not one of those times.

So what does this all illustrate?

1. Pre-visualization is key in both envisioning and capturing five-star imagery.

2. Pre-visualization is key in communicating your vision to the athlete, who plays an integral role in this whole process.

3. The more focus zones your camera has, the more latitude you have in framing up follow-focus shots like this. This image would have been much more difficult, if not impossible with a camera that only has 7 or 9 AF zones.

4. The more confident you are in your AF system, the more likely you are to utilize it, which opens up many more possibilities than simply pre-focusing.

Remember that this is all happening in a matter of seconds! Think it all through before-hand. The more you do this, the more intuitive it will all become. Good luck!

Utah is Back

Julian Carr skiing deep powder at Alta Ski Area, UT

So stoked to see some freshness (finally) falling from the sky. Today was a good one at Alta. More on the way!

Julian Carr skiing deep powder at Alta Ski Area, UT

11 Best of 2011 from AdamBarkerPhotography

2011 was a spectacular year on all accounts. Foot upon foot of pow skied, fish from Wyoming to the Bahamas hooked, festivals in the far corners of the earth, ancient pathways crossed–all contributed to what could perhaps be one of my most productive years behind the lens. Cliche as it may be, I can’t help but look back in review and share some of my favorites from the past year.  As always, many thanks to my sponsors: Arc’teryx, Suunto, Mark Miller Subaru, Mountain Khakis, Manfrotto School of Xcellence, Clikelite Backpacks and Singh Ray Filters. Hope you all enjoy, and here’s to an even better 2012! (click on images to view larger versions)

1. Jesse Hall takes a moment to ponder human flight, as he stands inside the hot air balloon from which he’ll subsequently launch himself into gravity’s liberating grasp. Park City, UT.

2. Angler Al Chidester finds himself surrounded by all that is good in this world: fresh air, fall foliage…and fantastic fishing in some of western Wyoming’s most treasured water.

3. Fire and rain over Warm Creek Bay, Lake Powell, UT.

4. Hazy skies make for ethereal and ancient interpretations of East Jerusalem, Israel.

5. First light envelopes Agua Canyon in a glow only Mother Nature could furnish. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT.

6. Ralph Lauren’s Double RL Ranch shows its true colors in crisp early morning light. Dallas Divide, CO.

7. Angler Geoff Mueller admires a healthy bonefish (caught and released) in Abaco Island’s skinniest of water.

8. Calm in the chaos of Hanoi traffic, Vietnam.

9. Bavaria’s finest color smiles upon a lone farmer’s shed in the fields near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

10. Skier Drew Stoecklein can, in fact turn right. At just the right time. In just the right place. Alta Backcountry, UT.

11. Angler Geoff Mueller and Oliver White tense up as they ply the waters off Abaco Island for huge permit.

Breakdown: Anatomy of a Stock Ski Image

It’s a pretty slow start to winter here in Utah this year, so I figured maybe I can tease ol’ Mother Nature into submission with some love from last year. I spend a great deal of time shooting skiing in the winter, and it’s about a whole lot more than shredding pow and high fives (though that definitely makes up a decent chunk of it!). There’s a great deal of work that goes into every image,  on both the part of the photographer and the athlete. It requires vision, communcation and an understanding of the end product from both parties. Read on for a little insight into the making of this image of Carston Oliver at Alta, UT.

1. Rule numero uno in most, if not all ski imagery is tack sharp focus. Obviously, there’s a little wiggle room here if you’re going after some other sort of creative effect (blur, etc.), but by and large, your images MUST be tack sharp if they are to stand any chance at getting published. This requires communication to the athlete as to exactly where you hope for the climactic action to occur. This is vital to communicate, as I typically frame my image around this “hot spot”. If the athlete misses it, the shot will likely be a throw away. Carston hits the mark nearly every time. When working with new athletes (to me), I’ll typically give myself a bit of tolerance in either pulling back from what I expect the final image to be, or by following the athlete to a greater extent instead of having him simply ski through my frame, holding the camera still. If I trust the athlete and can see the exact frame I hope to capture, I will pre-focus on the hot spot, as was the case here.

2. I am a stickler about paying attention to the edges of your frame. It’s vital to have that separation between the skier and the edge of the frame for both aesthetic and functional reasons. Firstly, it gives the subject of the image adequate breathing room, and negates the visual tension that would occur were the skier too close to the edge. Secondly, this is very usable (and necessary) space for copy. This image was shot for cover dimensions, and this space around the subject is a must!

3. With most side profile ski images like this, you need to decide what to include in terms of terrain and line choice. Do you want to show where the skier is coming from or where he’s going? Or do you want to include both? In this image, I knew the backlit powder trail would be an integral part of the shot, which means I needed to show a hefty chunk of turn behind the actual hot spot. Again, this is crucial to understand before the action takes place, as it affects the entire dynamic and composition of the image. Additionally, there was a small cliff directly underneath this turn. So–the shot was best when showing where the skier had come from, not so much where he was going. I’ve employed the ridgeline, turn trench and powder spray as leading lines, taking the viewer from the upper right corner, directly to the skier, where the viewer can then wander into the space below (see #2) and continue digesting the remainder of the image.

4. This background serves two purposes. First, it gives the viewer perspective and a feeling of exposure. It serves as the separating element between the skier and “all the rest”. It’s the contrast I always look for both in terms of subject matter, texture and color to give separation and add depth to an image. By using a telephoto lens here, I’ve compressed the scene, bringing that background directly in and almost “on top” of the action. This is a great way to fill your frame with the goods, and get rid of everything else. Lastly, this background serves as usable space for a magazine masthead. Ideally, it would be a little less busy, but it still works dimensionally.

5. More negative space. Again, crucial to the hopeful editorial success of this image. This space is absolutely necessary if this image is ever to have legs as a cover. Editors need aesthetic, functional space in which to add copy, headlines, etc. It also helps to provide that clean separation between foreground and background.

Want to make this work for you? Find aesthetic locations with good snow. Then hook up with skilled athletes that can exact turns with surgical precision, while maintaining that perfect photogenic form. Finally, learn how to communicate your vision in a verbal manner. It looks completely different from the athlete’s perspective, and it’s up to you as the photographer to make sure you’re both on the same page. Good luck!

Published Gallery Feature: Mountain Magazine

Mountain Magazine Photo Gallery Feature with Adam Barker and Jordan Manley (highlights added)

I am ecstatic and honored to be occupying a significant chunk of page space in the winter issue of Mountain Magazine alongside photographer extraordinaire Jordan Manley. Run by a stellar editorial and art team (including former Skiing magazine editor in chief Marc Peruzzi), Mountain Magazine is a sumptuous mix of mountain lifestyle, adventure and profile pieces. If you live and love life in the mountains, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy at your nearest bookseller. These images were shot at a number of local resorts including Alta Ski Area and Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort, and feature local pro like Julian Carr, Cody Barnhill and Parker Cook (with an angling cameo from one Jay Beyer!). See my images below, and pick up a copy in print to see the entire feature!

Mountain Magazine Photo Gallery Feature with Adam Barker and Jordan Manley

Mountain Magazine Photo Gallery Feature with Adam Barker and Jordan Manley

Mountain Magazine Photo Gallery Feature with Adam Barker and Jordan Manley

Published Spread: Skiing Magazine Jan/Feb 2012

Published image of Drew Stoecklein at Alta Ski Area, UT by AdamBarkerPhotography

Stoked on this spread in Skiing Magazine of Drew Stoecklein at one of my favorite places to shred and shoot on this planet–Alta Ski Area. This was a beaut of a morning last year–frosty for sure. There’s nothing like those first warming rays of daylight. Chicken soup for the soul, and the foundation of all exceptional imagery. Here’s to pink light and fresh pow!

Sneak Peek: Through the Eyes

We’ve been busy creating the first of many episodes of AdamBarkerPhotography: Through the Eyes. Check out the teaser for the first below. Special thanks to Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort for the sick location! Huge shout out to Hammers Inc Photography and Nate Balli for the mad film/edit skills.

Through the Eyes Teaser EP1 from HIP VISUAL ARTS on Vimeo.

Breakdown: The Complete Outdoor Image

Carston Oliver samples some deep powder in golden light at Alta Ski Area, UT

With fresh powder, golden light and skilled athletes, the ski shooting earlier this week was…all time. My fingers still hurt from the cold, but when it’s good, there’s no time for hand warmers…
I’ve adopted a credo in my shooting that there must be three elements in an image for it to be considered a “complete” image. …You must have:

1. Superb light
2. Engaging subject matter
3. Dynamic Composition

This image of Carston Oliver at Alta Ski Area is a testament to all three of these elements coming together, and the impact it can have from a visual standpoint.
We waited for nearly 40 minutes at this spot as the sun gave us the ultimate in and out tease. The waiting paid off as the clouds parted for ten minutes of delicious golden light. Like I’ve said before, if I could bottle this light up and sell it, I’d be a rich man!
I composed the image in such a way that placed the skier in the left hand side of the frame, and left the entire remaining 2/3 of the frame open. This gives the viewer context, and lends a satisfactory balance to the entire image. It also gives the image depth, including the setting sun and Little Cottonwood Canyon for the full three-dimensional effect.

Believe it or not, no filters were used on this image. Just careful exposure for the highlights, ensuring that there was still enough mid tone and shadow detail by checking the histogram. Use your histogram! It’s a ridiculously useful tool for digital photography.
Find a way to include the three elements listed above, and you will fin yourself with more complete outdoor images than ever before.