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If you limit your digital photography to the warm days of summer, then you will be missing the great action on the skiing and snowboarding slopes and the sparkling beauty of the cross-country ski trails. Before you head to the ski resort, read the PhotographyTalk.com article, Digital Photography—Protecting Your Camera Equipment in the Winter Wonderland. You’ll learn tips to keep your camera dry and safe, so it will operate as you expect in a cold-weather environment.
Skiing and snowboarding shots are the most interesting when you can take photos with the subject both sharply focused and in motion. You could stand to the side of a ski run and randomly try to capture those kinds of images, as skiers and snowboarders flash by your position. You’re unlikely to photograph even one exciting, sharply focused image, however, unless you first do some planning.
If you see a skier or snowboarder that appears to have the skills to leap from the top of a mogul or create a spray of snow with an edge, then ask him or her to coordinate the next run with where you’ll position yourself and your digital camera. A skier moves so fast that you must be in position before he or she even begins a run. Ask the skier to wait until you’ve selected a position and have your camera ready. Most importantly, use a vigorous hand signal to indicate when you’re ready. Your shout probably won’t be heard. You could even communicate by cell phone.
Remind your subject skier or snowboarder that you will need time not just to pick a position, but also to plant your poles, remove your gloves, pull your camera from a pocket or pack and set your framing. Consider purchasing a set of gloves that exposes the ends of your fingers. You simply can’t shoot good digital photography wearing bulky ski gloves.
An Image As Sharp As an Edge
When you arrange your shot with your subject skier or snowboarder, make sure to determine the exact spot you want them to ski over or through. Then, when you’re in position, pre-focus your camera on that spot and wait for the subject to enter the focused space, or depth-of-field. Depending on the type of digital camera you have, its auto-focus feature may be sophisticated enough to focus on the speedy skier without the need for pre-focusing. In that case, a specific spot isn’t quite as important because all you must do is follow the skier in your viewfinder and shoot whenever you think the action is right.
Be aware, however, that many auto-focus functions don’t work well unless your subject is in the center of the frame. Auto-focus will still work, but the skier won’t be in focus, some object in the background will be, instead. The solution is to use focus lock. When it’s activated, a subject that is not in the center of the frame will appear in focus. Setting focus lock when you’ve framed the open spot that the skier will enter will also stop auto-focus from making a mistake.
Another caveat is that auto-focus is a bit slow on some compact cameras. After you release the shutter, these cameras will pause before exposing an image. This slight delay can result in a digital photo with no skier because he or she sped by your position so fast. If the auto-focus on your point-and-shoot camera has this delay, then you must press the shutter release a beat sooner. They may take some practice before your subject will be nicely framed in the center of your viewfinder.
Read Part 2 of this PhotographyTalk.com article for tips on how to create the illusion of motion or speed and how to expose these action photos correctly.