The greatest thing about skiing is that when we’re doing it, we all feel like superstars, and that’s all that really matters. It follows that we’d all like to look as good in photos as it feels to shred a line of deep powder on the world’s best ski mountains, but unfortunately the camera is a brutal critic; while on the inside we’re ripping the raddest line of the season in perfect form - a 1/800th of a second snapshot of the action can reveal quite a different story.
In eight seasons of photographing CMH heli-skiers, I’ve found these following tendencies make photos look less than desirable, even when the skier is generally doing great. The identities of the skiers shown here are hidden (except one where I know the individual would enjoy the notoriety) - and all the skiers in these photos are good skiers that also made some great turns that resulted in great photos. Of course as a photographer I make more photography mistakes than anyone, but these are some of the things that you can do (or not do) as a skier to help anyone, professional or amateur, get a better photo of you having the time of your life.
- Riding rockered skis in the back seat. If you can’t keep those tips down, the photos are going to look like you’re not in control. (You’ll also have a lot more fun and reduce strain on your knees if you can move forward to the driver's seat.)
- Skiing too close to other skiers. If you want a hero shot of you and somebody else, I guess you could risk skiing right next to each other, but if you want a hero shot of you, give each other a few seconds of space. (You’ll also reduce your chances of collision by spreading out more, and it’s more fun to ski powder in your own track rather than someone elses...)
- Skiing too fast. If you can make the speed work for you, by all means let it rip, but what I see through the camera is that most people go too fast, lose penetration in the snow, and end up looking like they are skimming along the surface at the edge of control rather than converting the power and control from one turn into power and control in the next. These two photos were taken on the same slope. The skier on the left is going too fast for his ability and makes the snow look 5cm deep. The skier on the right is digging into each turn and getting the full waist deep powder effect. Fat skis exacerbate this issue.
- Raising your arms when you catch air. While this is the natural reaction to having the ground drop out from under your feet, the key to jumping in control, and looking good in the ensuing photo, is to maintain good position. Tighten your stomach, keep your arms down, and ride it out as if you were just making another turn on the corduroy.
- Skiing the line even when the guide tells you not to. Following the guides instructions is essential. In this case, it wasn’t a matter of safety, but on either side of this alder thicket were spectacular Monashees pillow lines. In the quest for skiing far from any other tracks, this skier opted to ski the alders when the guide was waving for them to ski either left or right. (Even if it is not a matter of safety, the guides are really good at pointing out the best ski lines.)
- Cranking that one extra turn. That’s when we all tend to fall in the tree well, crash into other skiers, or just generally yard sale. Instead, the best photos seem to happen when you’re skiing without showing off, smoothly but powerfully, aggressively yet carefully, with space to spare, and well within your margin for error and control.
- Taking too much time to set up a shot. Sure, if you're on assignment for the next centerfold for K2 Skis, you'll spend half a day setting up the right shot. When you're on a deep powder ski vacation with CMH Heli-Skiing, nobody wants to stand around waiting for you to be a hero. It only takes 1/800 of a second for a good ski photo - rip the line and get on with your holiday.