How to take photos on snow

How to take photos on snow

How to take the best photos for your upcoming snowboard trip.

You’ve been patiently waiting all year for the annual snowboard trip and it is just around the corner. You missed the best bails the year before or maybe your photos are too bright or not bright enough, the snow looks grey and everything is generally not right. If this sounds familiar then read on to discover our tips and tricks for taking photos on snow (snowboard & snowkite)

The right gear for the job.

Think carefully when choosing your camera equipment for your upcoming snowboard trip. You are always going to get better and more controlled shots from your DSLR over a point and shoot or action camera but the practicality is you need both to make the most of all situations.

Snowboarding with a GoPro

Advantages of action camera (such as GoPro)

  • Point and shoot – easy to pass around the group without the need to learn any of the modes or settings.

  • Wide angle – a big field of view means you can get closer to the action and step back to guarantee your subject will be in the frame.

  • Compact – small cameras are great for taking in and out of your pocket on the ski lifts without needing to worry about extra bags or gear.

  • Loads of mounting options – mount cameras on collapsible poles, helmet mount them or stick them on your board. You can stick a GoPro on anything and forget about it.

  • Crash proof – cameras such as the GoPro are basically destroy proof under normal use. Super tough external housing makes them both waterproof and protects the camera inside.

Disadvantages of action camera (such as GoPro)

  • Point and shoot – limited selection of settings and the ability to frame shots.

  • Wide angle – Although the wide angle lens is sometimes beneficial you don’t always want the warped images that a 270 degree lens gives you.

  • Framing your shot – Without optional accessories most small action cameras do not have screens for allowing you to check your field of view and see what you are actually filming / photographing.

GoPro Pole Mount Snowboarding

Advantages of a DSLR

  • Full manual control – with a reasonable understanding of your cameras settings and photography there is not a single situation your camera will be unable to handle.

  • Quality – most DSLR cameras feature much larger sensors than most point and shoot cameras. Combine the bigger sensor and large pixel count for brighter and sharper images.

  • Choice of lens – Want to shoot wide? put on and wide lens, want to shoot close ups? swap it out again.

Disadvantages of a DSLR

  • Durability – although higher end DSLR cameras feature weatherproofing on the lens and body you are never going to be in an ideal situation for carrying it around the mountain, on the lifts, riding with it and using it in cold/wet conditions.

  • Price – not everyone owns a DSLR and not everyone wants, or needs to either. They are more for the budding photographers among us and the cost of setting up a reasonable rig is easily 2.5 X the price of an action camera setup.

  • Size – The body and lens of a DSLR is quite large regardless of what lens you are going to be shooting with. You may also want to carry spare batteries, lens cloths, more lens’, tripod… before you know it you’re carrying around 15kg of equipment on your back.

Snowboarding in Powder

Top 5 tips for snowboarding camera equipment.

  1. Allow any of your electronic equipment to reach indoor / room temperature slowly before turning them on and checking your days footage. This will heavily combat the chances of condensation and something getting broken.

  2. Choose your lens for that particular day and stick with it. This will reduce the amount of gear you need to carry. Every time you are on the mountain swapping lens’ back and forth you are also putting your camera at risk (you will probably need to take your gloves off to which sucks!)

  3. Buy a telescopic pole for your GoPro. These poles come in loads of different sizes and models. Some come with a tripod adapter built in and some need one adding so make sure its all together and working before your holiday.

  4. Take your charger. Batteries do not like the cold, it is advisable to get an idea of how long your camera batteries work when you are at home as then you can adjust this time after your first day on the slopes and work out a rough percentage difference.

  5. Take a tripod. The mountains house some of the most scenic views you are going to see for the next year so make the most of it. Expect great sky’s littered with stars. Whether you are shooting on an action camera or DSLR you can capture time lapse scenes and star trails.

Tips for photographing snowboarding & landscapes

Landscape photos:

To make the most of your landscape and scenic shots whilst you are away I would suggest using a tripod or similar piece of equipment. If you do not have anything to hold your camera in place then improvise with your surroundings, a car roof, wall or bench will make a good start.

Things to remember:

Keep your horizons straight. Use something in your photo as a point of reference to frame your photo correctly before you press the shutter. If you find it difficult to frame the photo with the horizon accurate then shoot the photo slightly wider (zoomed out) to allow a margin to crop and rotate the photo later digitally.

Depending on your light conditions you will want to select the right settings on your camera. For landscape we tend to want to grab as much depth and detail as possible from the foreground all the way back to the horizon. To do this select a smaller aperture of F5.6 or less. You may be able to go up or down a few stops depending on the situation. The lower the aperture the more detail you will get into your final shot. Next up is to set your ISO and shutter speed. It is always best to use as low an ISO as possible. Most cameras start at 100 ISO and go over 1000. Depending on the quality of the body and lens you are using photographs shot over 400 ISO tend to generate a lot of noise on the image. If you are in bright light then shoot with a high shutter speed to reduce the amount of light which can enter the lens. If your photos are too dark then reduce the shutter speed. If your photo is blurry because you cannot keep the camera still enough for the selected shutter speed, increase the shutter speed and also increase the ISO to compensate.

Photograph stars snowboarding

Action Photos:

Time for the fun stuff. Due to the fact this is what most riders want to achieve I will keep this section as easy to follow as possible. If you are struggling to capture the action then try shooting on burst mode or interval mode. For a GoPro shoot a photo every 0.5 seconds for the best chance to capture something interesting, the joys of digital allow us to delete excess photos easily. Most DSLR cameras have options of 3+ photos a second when holding down the shutter button in the correct mode.

How to use a GoPro

Sunny conditions:

– high shutter speeds (1000+) The faster the shutter speed, the crisper the photo.

– mid range aperture (F3-5.6)
– low ISO – lower the better, should be 100 in bright light.

– generally it is best to shoot with the sun on your back with a well lit subject but by using the right mix of exposure, aperture and iso you can get some great results.

Flat light:

– mid / high shutter speed (800+)

– shoot at a higher aperture, the subject should remain in full focus but the background detail will be less. Due to flat light the background is probably not very exciting anyway. F3.3 >.

– If your subject is blurry then the shutter speed is to low. Make it higher and compensate using the ISO.

– fill flash, use your flash on a low setting to bring your subject to the front of the image and separate them from the dull background behind.

Dark:

Shooting in falling light with action shots is never going to be a great situation to be in without a flash.

– use a flash to light your subject or the area around them. using a flash to capture an exact moment will also allow you to shoot at a lower shutter speed (more light) to capture more of the surrounding.

– maximise the use of artificial light coming from lights or buildings in the area to give your photos an extra glow.

Snowboarding in the dark

Top 5 tips for photographing snowboard conditions.

  1. Wear thin gloves. If you are going to be spending a lot of time behind the camera you will be in a much better situation leaving on a pair of thin gloves all day and being able to navigate menus and buttons rather than taking on and off a thicker pair which in turn will just end up as soaking wet dead weights.

  2. Shoot in RAW. If you are lucky enough to be shooting a DSLR or prosumer camera you should be able to shoot in RAW instead of Jpg. This will allow you much more control on losslessly altering your photos meaning you won’t loose any quality when you export your image. ie. correcting your white balance from blue/orange tint to white.

  3. Set exposure on neutral objects. Use the sky or something other than the snow to set your correct exposure.

  4. Test and charge all your kit before you leave. This is very important for cameras such as the GoPro. The more you understand the focal length and what is is in your frame the better. This will allow you to effectively shoot your GoPro blind. Point it in the right direction and at the right distance without seeing anything through an LCD screen or viewfinder.

  5. Shoot video. If after reading this guide you are still not getting the photos then maybe just video the action instead. It is not ideal but you can always grab still frames on your computer later.

Snowkiting in France

The Loose ends.

Composition – When taking your photos try to diversify the shots from just being super white. Shoot low to close to see more of the board or skis to brighten up your image. Shooting across from your subject and capturing mountains or trees off the piste is another good example.

Freezer bags – If you want to keep your equipment dry and don’t have the budget for specialist bags wrap your camera and spares inside re-sealable sandwich or freezer bags.

The natural reflector – Remember that snow reflects a super amount of light. This allows for some photos which would otherwise require extra hardware or a flash to make.

If you have anything you want to add or have some more specific questions then drop us a line on the contact form or post a comment below.

Happy shooting.

Massive thanks to Never Summer snowboards and Flysurfer kites.

Snowboarding Boots

An Interview with Jack Johnston – Board Sport Filmer and Editor

An Interview with Jack Johnston – Board Sport Filmer and Editor

Jack Johnston has been making board sport videos since he was a young teenager. Starting out filming mountainboard videos in his mate’s field, Jack went on to film, edit, direct and produce the two largest mountainboard DVDs ever made. Nowadays, you’ll find him filming some of the top snowboarders in the world at various events when he’s not working for a professional production company.

Jack has recently been travelling to various snowboarding events in Europe and has filmed with the likes of international pro riders such as Hampus Moesson, Tyler Chorlton, Tobi Straus and Peter Konig. He’s also filmed some of the best UK riders like Jamie Nicholls, Billy Morgan, Nelson Pratt and Angus Leith. Rumour also has it that his footage of up and coming rail destroyer Denis Leontyev might find its way onto the next Forum video. Board-Mag.com caught up with him to find out what it takes for filmmakers to kick start a career in the world of board sport filmmaking!

Hey Jack, how’s tricks?
Hang on, Let me get a hob-nob.

What flavour?
Chocolate obviously! Anyway, I’m not bad thanks, apart from my front door key snapping off in the lock this morning….fun day!

Nightmare! Did you make it to work on time?
Nope! I had to call in late and fork out my last £70 on getting it half fixed.

That sucks. At least you can afford it now you have a sweet job! But before we get into that, let’s talk about how you got into film making. How old were you when you made your first film?
Lets see, I must have been around 13 or 14 when I was first getting into mountainboarding, I was lucky to have a good group of friends and we all started riding together. I had a really old camera that was my Grandads and I started to film us building ramps out of old doors and stacking all over the place!

Ah cool, so when did you start to take it seriously and think about making a career out of it?
I suppose it was when I was applying for University that I realised that the only thing I really enjoyed doing was filming and editing things. The media industry seemed like the best way for me to do that, and I thought you might as well do something you love! But I guess it was when I started doing the BFC films I really started to realise how much I enjoyed doing it.

Yeah, so the BFC (mountainboard media and events crew) came about in 2006. What were your goals with that?
My goal was to try and show people, mostly people getting into the sport how fun mountainboarding can be. Mountainboarding is often seen as a hardcore sport that’s far too dangerous for most people. I don’t agree with this and it annoys me how some people portray the sport and it’s probably put off a lot of people over the years. I hoped that with the BFC DVDs people would be able to see how much fun you can have with the sport. When you first buy a board it takes a bit of getting used to, but if that board comes with a DVD showing a higher level of riding it might spur that person on to stick at the sport.

All three DVDs seemed to go down well, but with the rise of the internet and cheaper, better video cameras, board sport movie making has become more accessible and there seems to be fewer DVDs and more youtube videos. Do you think that the future of board sport films is with feature length projects like DVDs or is it all about 3 minute go-pro edits online?
I honestly don’t know. If you look at snowboard films this year, more proper length films are being released on Itunes as well as DVDs. A lot of sites like Mpora, youtube, vimeo etc offer a fast easy way for people to access vast quantities of action sports films. And with the DSLR revolution we are seeing more and more amateur videos with really good quality images. However, I really like having a collection of DVDs, I have a pretty nice collection of snowboard DVDs, it’s nice to have something solid.

Yeah it’s good to hold something proper in your hands and get excited about putting a DVD on and watching it with friends.
For sure, and while we are seeing more small edits from lots of different people who might not have been able to make videos before, there are a couple of bad points to it. More people have a voice but maybe it’s getting harder to find the good stuff?

Yeah, I guess that’s one of the points of Board-Mag.com, to get all the good stuff together in one place. Speaking of web edits, you recently did some work for Method Mag, what exactly did you get up to?
I spent 2 weeks in Austria with the Method guys going to a variety of events to film content for their web videos. I was based in Innsbruck but headed off to Garmisch in Germany after day 1 to film the Ride Shakedown which was pretty awesome. It was my first proper snowboard event to film so it was exciting. I then followed Flo Achrainer and  Denis Leontyev up to Serfhaus just outside Innsbruck to film at the awesome park there. Denis has exploded onto the scene this year and his rail skills makes most people want to hang up their boots and just quit, it’s not worth trying to compete when it comes to tech tricks. I then went with Denis to the Sane! Rail jam in the small village of Rinn outside Innsbruck. I went to Wangl Tangl after the Sane! rail jam and it was an amazing week filming some of the best know snowboarders on the planet.

Sounds awesome, how did you get the gig filming some of the biggest snowboard events in Europe?
I started speaking to the guys at method after an advert on the website looking for interns. After speaking to them for a bit and showing them some of my work they offered me the chance to join them out at Wangl Tangl in Mayrhoffen and then the trip grew from there.

You also filmed the British Universities Ski and Snowboard Championship out in Tignes right?
Yeah! That was a cracking two weeks filled with, sun, slush, beers and slashing! It was actually a really heavy schedule. The first week was a bit more laid back but once the events started it was lots of early mornings to get up to the event locations like the X Games slopestyle park and set up. Then we had to film the night events till 2-3am as well, so I was pretty tired!

I bet, I guess all your experience paid off! Got any tips for people wanting to get into the board sports filming industry?
Don’t expect to get paid! I’m still to make a penny out of filming board sports! Do it because you love it not because you want to make money from it. Keep shooting as much stuff as you can and practice different styles of editing to different styles of music. Watch lots of other content and look at how different people film things. Keep at it and you will develop your own style and try and keep your shots steady! Oh, and always make sure you have enough batteries / tape etc!

Tape? What do you film with? Betamax?
I wish! I currently film on the Canon 550d (as with everyone else) and gopro at the moment. I think for shooting board sports, tapes are dead. It’s much easier and practical to get out and film with something like a DSLR.  However, learning how to use them is very important rather than just sticking them on the auto settings. Change it to shooting at 50fps so you can get some decent slow mo and change your settings to best match the light conditions. Also the right lens is important. They cost a small fortune but I was lucky enough to use some really nice ones out in Tignes and it makes such a difference!

Wise words! So what exactly are you doing work wise at the moment?
I just started working at TwoFour Productions down in Plymouth as an Edit Runner. It’s an entry level position but it’s good as I’m learning a lot about the television industry.

Are you still going to be making board sport videos?
Let’s hope so!

Did you mention that the company you work for made deal or no deal? Have you met Noel Edmunds?
Haha…nah we don’t make deal or no deal unfortunately. They made “Are you Smarter than a 10 year old?” which  Noel presented!

oh well, fingers crossed you’ll meet him one day! Anything else you want to add?
If you’re just getting into filming….keep at it!

Cheers jack, looking forward to seeing some more board sport stuff from you!

Interview by Rhys Crilley.

Flashback – the basics

Flashback – the basics

Angles
Try experimenting with flash projection angles to create more dynamic shots. Here are some examples:

Using flash from the side
Using flash from the side
Using flash from the front
Using flash from the front
Using flash from behind
Using flash from behind
Naturally the eye will firstly look at ‘highly exposed’ areas of an image and then follow the direction of light. Because of this, try to project light in the direction you want the viewer to look. Here’s an example of me lighting the subject from the left as there is space for the viewer to look on the right side.
Creating a shadow

Motion Blur
Checkout your camera setting and you’ll find an option to change between ‘Default flash’ and ‘Rear synch flash’. Respectively, these setting will make the flash (on camera or flash unit) go off at the beginning or end of the exposure. So the default setting will emit the flash light then let in ambient (natural) light for the remainder of the exposure, creating a ghost-like effect. As rear synch flash will let in ambient light then freeze the subject, leaving motion blur behind them.

Default flash setting:
Using the default flash
Rear synch flash setting:
Using the rear flash
Flash Modes
I would highly recommend using a flash unit, AKA speed-lights, for sports photography. On your flash unit, there will be different lighting control modes. Here are some Nikon modes (they should be similar for other models):

  • TTL: Automatic setting, flash generally stronger than ambient light. This helps balance the exposure whilst isolating and lighting the subject slightly more. TTL stands for ‘Through-The-Lens’.
  • TTL BL: Balances exposure but also balances flash light with ambient light (so the flash is not stronger than the ambient light and vice-versa). TTL BL stands for ‘Through-The-Lens Balance’.
  • M: Manually set flash strength and emission angle. The emission angle is how ‘focused’ the flash projection is.

You will also have the option to change the emission angle on your speed-light. A diffused option is sometimes available where the light will be spread out very far (here’s the Nikon 14mm example):
Using diffused flash
A more focused option will be toward the longer end of the scale, such as 85mm emission:
Using focused flash

Working with Ambient Light
With the same flash settings throughout:

  • A faster shutter speed will reduce ambient light
  • A greater aperture (smaller f number) and greater ISO will increase exposure for both natural and artificial lighting
  • Having the flash closer the subject will light it better!

Be creative using flash
Be creative, use shadows and experiment!

Words and photos by Jamie Prout.