Friday, 1 March 2013

Shoot Ski Races


With an action shot on snow, my one tip would be that you always need to overexpose from the meter reading. This will obviously vary depending on whether the subject has the sun in front or behind or from the side and is a bit of a guess.  Check your histogram after a couple of test shots on the forerunners before the action starts.

Camera settings:

Manual Mode.   I use a matrix metering (as the subject isn’t usually in view beforehand), low as I can ISO (which depends upon the weather), and a minimum shutter speed of 1/640 or higher depending on the speed of the subject.  Fairly wide aperture for shallow depth of field (as the backgrounds can often be unavoidably distracting) and pre-focus on the point at which your subject will enter the frame.  Not too wide for the aperture, or you may miss the focus – give yourself a chance, and as you improve catching the focus, you can widen the aperture.

And finally, shoot in jpeg fine/medium.  Raw would be best, but the time taken for the camera to process these files may mean that you miss the next racer, depending on how many continuous shots you took and the speed of the processor in your camera.

Focus:
I set the camera to continuous spot focus and high speed continuous shooting (11 frames per second), but this is definitely no guarantee of capturing the perfect moment particularly when the subject is moving this fast.  Timing is everything and even with practice, it's easy to miss the moment. The camera can also only focus as fast as your lens can too, and therefore a great big zoom that’s slow to focus will never keep up with the number of frames per second.  Pre-focus on the gate to save you camera hunting time on the first shot and be ready - they come along pretty fast.  I generally use a Nikon D4 and Nikon 70 - 200mm 2.8 VR II for this – very fast and very quiet compared to my other standard lens of 28 – 300mm 3.5 which would never manage it for focus speed and is much noisier too (which doesn’t really matter for this particular sport but would make a difference for something quiet like tennis or golf).


If you have a camera that does only 4 or 5 frames per second, it is just as possible to get great shots, but the first one or two images will be the best possibilities and it just takes a little practice to get the timing right.  My Nikon D90 does just as good a job (with the same lens).

With ski racing, it’s often with the sun (if there is any) directly behind, which is the worst of all worlds.  This requires at least 3 or even 4 stops of overexposure from the metering.  There are some benefits, though, the main one being that any snow spray will also catch the sunlight for a great effect.  
The above image is a standard example of the unavoidable cluttered background over which I have little control since the race piste is mostly fenced off and spectators are likely to come along and stand in the way from time to time.  These can sometimes add something to the image, but not in this case.

Tips for Ski Race Shooting:
  • Position yourself on the piste for a race gate that is likely to produce some good angles from the skier.
  • Position yourself with safety in mind too.  If the skier makes an error, are they going to take you out?
  • Background considerations – nearly always, the best gates have tricky backgrounds – that’s just the way it often is but choose as best you can. Also, too far down the slope and some racers won’t get as far as you.
  • It’s likely to be a COLD job!  Unless the weather is unusually warm, wear all the gear you’ve got plus hand and toe warmers and if room in your rucksack take a flask of something hot.
 





 
 

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