Stoked on my latest cover! Julian Carr shredding Solitude Mountain Resort on the January cover of SKI Magazine.
For those of you who live in or near Park City, UT, you will quickly recognize this barn. It is certainly one of the more photographed structures in northern UT. And rightly so! The Osguthorpe Barn (or McPolin Barn depending on who you talk to) has greeted visitors and locals alike traveling in to Park City since 1921. Simply put, it is a classic.
I have photographed here many times before, I’ll
I arrived at this location later in the morning, and low fog was just beginning to thin out. I was excited to be at this spot with conditions I’d never seen before! I worked through several compositions, but none of them really worked as a whole.
Finally, I settled on a wider angle image, utilizing cattails as my FG subject. I’ve shot from this exact location before in the winter, but this time the grouping of cattails seemed more elongated towards the barn, and a vertical composition seemed more appropriate.
I actually began composing this image with my 16-35mm lens. I wanted to incorporate a more complete wide angle foreground, but I still wanted to maintain emphasis and hold the viewer’s attention on the barn itself. With the 16-35mm stopped down for maximum DOF, the scene felt busy, and my eye simply wouldn’t settle on the barn as I’d like it to.
Finally, I chose to pull out my 24mm tilt shift lens. By both tilting my plane of focus and shooting at a wide open aperture of f4.5, I was able to have my cake and eat it too.
The cattails are selectively blurred, giving context and providing the FG filler that I was looking for. Yet the sharp contrast in sharp vs. blurred takes the eye directly to the barn. Why didn’t I just shoot my 16-35mm wide open? Being a super wide angle f2.8 lens, it wasn’t giving me quite the separation that I needed from a DOF standpoint. Why didn’t I throw on a longer lens and utilize a shallow aperture to achieve that separation? Throwing on a longer lens would have effectively flattened this scene. I would have gotten that separation, but I would not have achieved the depth I get from a wide angle composition–I would not have that immediate, engaging FG element grab the viewer in the same way it does from a wider angle approach.
Much of photography is about simple problem solving. It all begins, however, with a clear vision of what you hope to capture. Know what you want out of a location. Know what type of image you hope to come away with. This will serve as your mental blueprint as you work through the small problems to achieve your final photographic goal.
Stoked to be featured as part of the World Open photography contest this week. There’s some inspiring work being posted over there. Check it out, and give ol’ ABP a vote while you’re at it!
So stoked to see some freshness (finally) falling from the sky. Today was a good one at Alta. More on the way!
It’s so easy these days to reduce photography to nothing more than pressing a button on the latest camera, with the latest lens, packed in the latest backpack, etc. etc. etc. There’s no question that photography has much to do with equipment. It’s also true that generally speaking, better equipment will yield better results, assuming the photographer has the technical knowledge necessary to utilize the added features and from more advanced equipment. It is most true, however, that exceptional photographers rely on that which is in their head, and not in their hands to produce imagery that will rise above the clutter of mediocrity.
Which brings me to this image from this morning’s shoot in Salt Lake City. I hadn’t planned on shooting this house. I hadn’t really even planned on shooting at all to be honest. But I woke up and the skies looked promising and I needed to breathe some cold air. The skies certainly delivered, but I soon realized that my vision for the scene in front of me had nothing to do with vibrant, cheery color.
This home is a replica of one built in 1877 by a mormon settler named William Atkin. It was located eight miles south of St. George on a 160-acred farm that later became the one-family town of Atkinville.
A one-family town in the middle of nowhere–I’m sure they saw some beautiful sunrises, but I can also imagine the over-abundance of hardships encountered in such an endeavor as well. Lonely. Bleak. Cold. And thus was born this image, which has moderate resemblance to the original (below). I can tell you exactly how I did this, but I’d rather you simply study the image and answer that for yourself. It’s about externalizing the internal thought process at the time of capture, and relies more on cognitive decision-making when shooting the image than reactive experimentation on the computer after the fact.
What’s the point of all this babble? The point is this: if you have no personal investment or direction in the final result of what you hope to create when you click the shutter, there really is very little substantive story-telling to be showcased. Without a story, you have no audience.
It’s likely that I will embrace the in-camera version of this image at some point. After all, I am a sucker for colored up clouds, and it is a beautiful and serene scene. However, on this morning, this was my vision. Vision has value. It’s value is far greater than the latest and greatest doohickey that just hit the interwebz. Vision, or the lack thereof, is ultimately a very large factor in whether you will succeed or fail in your quest to produce exceptional imagery.
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!
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!
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!
Banger morning. Middle Provo River. Cascade Peak.
The quick and dirty:
Perfect comp for a long lens shot with engaging elements from front to back of the frame. Think of your photographic frame in three-dimensional terms as a loaf of bread. Long lenses squish that loaf of bread, putting the back slice right up against the front slice. Additionally, this was shot at exactly 90 degrees to the sun, allowing me to utilize the Singh-Ray Filters LB warming polarizing filter to the fullest, deepening the sky, and giving the snowy peaks extra pop.
How well do you know your surroundings? Your local stomping grounds, so to speak. Do you know what weather is most likely to produce good atmospheric conditions for scenic photography? Do you have locations picked out for just such a morning or evening? If the answer isn’t “yes” to all of the above, consider doing a little bit of homework as you drive to/from work, when you’re out on a hike, or even just walking the dog.
Just after helping my wife put the kids to bed last night, I looked outside to see…not much. However, there was a faint atmospheric glow, and I just had that feeling that something inspiring may come to pass. I had seen it before, and most importantly, I knew there was an approaching cold front. Pre-frontal days here in Salt Lake City seem to produce impressive sunsets more often than not.
So I grabbed my Clikelite Escape (already packed mind you!) and headed to a location on the foothills that I had scouted several weeks earlier. I was wearing flip flops. Worth pointing out, as the easier it is, the more likely we are to go get after it. This location was a mere 50 yards from a certain dead end road. Drive. Park. Hike for 30 seconds. Set up tripod. Click shutter. Enjoy nature’s light show. Pack up. Head home.
Pretty cut and dry. Lesson? The better acquainted you are with both your local shooting locations and the local weather nuances, the more likely you are to make a go of capturing some memorable imagery. Keep a mental list. Even better–write stuff down. Carry a little book and keep a list of places that would be good to shoot at sunset, sunrise, in storm light, in spring, in fall, in winter, etc. You’ll not regret it!