A Successful Shoot: 70% planning, 20% camera operation, 10% spontaneous creative thinking.

All season long I’ve visualized a series of action images of a small child having fun, skiing down the mountain under the watchful eye of a parent. It took me two attempts to get something I’m satisfied with. I think success is directly connected to action and planning. The more you learn about your location, your subject, and your camera gear the more successful your images will be.


Family skiing at Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico. 7-year old boy skis in front of his father on a groomed intermediate run.

70% planning. Scouting the slopes and figuring out which runs were best in morning light for shooting uphill with the least amount of clutter was my first concern. Fortunately, I ski at Taos frequently enough to have learned most of the runs and lighting correlations. Casting the right family where everyone skis, has all the gear, looks good and coordinating their schedule with yours and optimal weather (kids get cold easily) took two months.

20% camera mechanics. Knowing your camera equipment intimately makes all the difference in the world when working with small children with a limited attention span. Fumble too much with your gear and you miss candid opportunities and run out of time. You have an hour or two at the most before they lose interest. Out of the gate I knew my lens, my focus point and exposure settings. On earlier shoots I tried positioning my talent uphill and having them ski a line toward me to get candid action shots. That works OK with older kids and adults who are precision skiers. Doesn’t work well with smaller kids.

To get the most spontaneous shot possible I had to get a rhythm going with the skiers and ski with them while shooting. So at the end of a 4’ boom with a Really Right Stuff BH30 head was my Mark IV and Sigma 15mm fisheye triggered remotely with my top hand. The camera ensemble is upside down and inches from the snow as we are all flying down the slope. It is situations like this I’m thankful for rugged pro gear. It took several trial and error shoots with this technique to estimate the framing more accurately.


Family skiing at Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico. Mom and 5 year old girl and 7 year old boy on chairlift.

The 10% spontaneous creativity came from the game of chasing “Mr. Fish” down the mountain. Earlier on the chairlift I told Sofia I was using a “fisheye” lens and to say hello to it. So I asked her to look at and say hello to “Mr. Fish” while skiing. I think that helped her take her mind off the 200lb guy skiing 6 feet in front of her. Shot about 500 frames of this scenario with mother-daughter and father-son combinations. Got about a dozen frames that really worked. A good take.


Family skiing at Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico. 5-year old girl skis in front of her mother on a groomed intermediate run.

Sometimes The Fun Shots Turn Out The Best

Mature woman (baby boomer generation) skiing through powder at Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

Stevie floating on fresh powder in the fog at Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

With almost a foot of new snow, no wind or crowds on a Sunday morning at Taos Ski Valley it was real hard to resist pounding powder action for as long as it lasts.  I had a trio of age 60+ ladies who were all good skiers.  Although they would not be doing any extreme stuff, I knew I would get good ski action shots from them.  What was better though was the energy and enthusiasm between these three long time friends.  This dynamic, along with flattering light, was a perfect recipe for some “fun” lifestyle shots. I know this is not as exciting as skiers crashing through trees and powder or jumping off something that could put you in a body cast for three months.  These are stunt shots and for me less challenging than getting really fun non-ski action lifestyle shots.  I did get in a few rounds of powder pounding but I’m jazzed with the “fun” shot results.


Lifestyle portrait of two mature women (baby boomer generation) walking and laughing with skis at Taos Ski Valley, NM

Happy skiers after a morning of fresh powder skiing at Taos Ski Valley New Mexico

Initially, they thought I’d be bummed out with fog on the lower slopes.  Little did they know I could hardly contain my excitement.  I LOVE FOG!   It is great at a ski resort when you can ride the lift above the fog then ski to the edge and shoot.  It simplifies the background and is very flattering for facial detail as you can see from the chairlift shot.  Literally 30 seconds after this shot we broke out into the harsh sun.  Shot over.


Ski lifestyle portrait of three mature women (baby boomer generation) skiers on chairlift at Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

3 veteran mature skiers share a jovial ride on chair 4 through the fog at Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

A monopod does not make a good ski pole but it sure came in handy for the fun chairlift shot.  With my 1D, Mark IV and a 20mm lens I’m holding my monopod out and up as far as I can reach.  I’m guessing at the framing.  I have a Microsync Digital receiver on the camera gaffer taped to the camera strap.  Carol, the skier on the right, has the transmitter in her glove and she’s just firing away at my command.

 Photographer with three mature female (baby boomer) skiers on chairlift

Photographer Michael DeYoung photographing talent on chair 4 (Kachina Lift)at Taos Ski Valley with camera mounted on a monopod and fired with a remote release. Carol, the skier in brown coat is triggering the shots with a Microsync Digital. The framing is just guess work. The resultant shot above was done while still in the fog. Notice how the lighting above the fog in the harsh sun is not as flattering on the women’s faces. As for me, I’m a lost cause..