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..

Working With Creative and Capable Talent Saves The Shoot

Woman skier jumping in air Utah

Jaqueline in telemark ski gear jumping on a trampoline near sunset.

Several years ago I was doing a winter catalog shoot in April. On the shot list was a skier jumping in a particular jacket. Samples arrived on Friday. The local ski resort closed for the season on Sunday. Saturday brought a blizzard with near hurricane force winds on the ridge tops and we were shooting the other catalog shots at lower elevation in the wet, spring snow. Sunday was bright, clear and warm and I was ready to rock and roll on the ski shots.

Enter an unforeseen problem: My ski model got pinned down and disoriented in Saturday’s snowstorm while backcountry skiing and spent the night in the wilderness, returning too late and exhausted on Sunday to shoot. Understandable.

For the first time I am faced with the horror of calling the client and explaining how they would have to pay an extra 1K to get crew and talent to a ski area 250 miles away that was still open. My model also worked so the client would possibly have to approve of new talent. Really didn’t want to make that call. Time to think outside the ski area box and test your problem solving skills.

We tried to get some jumps in on back-country trails. No luck. Spent half the time climbing uphill. Warm day. Heavy slushy snow made it difficult to get any “air time”. Aha! Our model lived near 9,000 feet on the mountain above town and a neighbor had a trampoline. She had a strong husband with a snow shovel. Viola! Ski jump shot. Just had to crop out the trampoline. Never told the client anything. Just submitted the images. They ran the back-lit shot (they use a lot of rear view shots) but I really liked the front-lit version because of Jaqueline’s great facial expression.

Woman skier in telemark ski gear taking air

Jaqueline in telemark ski gear jumping on a trampoline.

 

  • Photographer: Michael DeYoung
  • Client: Title Nine Sports
  • Location: Cedar City, Utah
  • Lighting: Natural late afternoon light

Fast-forward seven years to this February. Good talent saves the day again on a ski shoot. My assignment is at Taos Ski Valley. I’m shooting action ski shots on Taos’ famous expert terrain off of Highline Ridge. Needed to make it look fun and dynamic but not death defying.

Advanced female skier at Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

Andrea skiing off a cornice on Hildalgo, a double black run off Highline Ridge, Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico.

There was plenty of ski season left but due to scheduling and talent availability this cold morning with a biting north wind was the slated day to make something work. The previous day brought hurricane force winds and wind scoured peaks. The snow was difficult being wind packed and fast and Lauri and I basically resorted to “survival” skiing to negotiate the slope – quite embarrassing in the company of six, young expert skiers and boarders. My background setting is less than ideal, but the light was decent and my expert, well-styled and capable talent carried the shots making the difficult look easy and fun as experts often do. I went with tried and true composition and design techniques (like a strong diagonal line and clean foreground) to get some solid shots. The talent made my day and hopefully the client’s too.

Skiers skiing down Hildalgo run off of Highline Ridge at Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

Andrea and Matt ski Hildalgo off of Highline Ridge, Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico.

 

  • Photographer: Michael DeYoung
  • Client: Taos Ski Valley Chamber of Commerce
  • Location: Taos Ski Valley
  • Lighting: Natural 3/4 backlight with fill light from the snow