By Wolfgang Amri, Shutterstock Footage Submitter
Wolfgang has studied sports science at Vienna University, worked as a web and graphic designer, and now works as a freelance photographer full-time. He has been shooting professionally for the past two years. His first camera was a simple point & shoot Nikon that he purchased when he was eight years old with some pocket money. As a professional shooter, he now owns a Sony PMW-EX1 videocamera as well as two Canon EOS 5DMKII cameras and one Canon EOS 7D with a wide variety of L-series lenses. Of all the lenses he owns, his favorite to shoot HD ski footage with is the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0L USM, coupled with the full frame sensor of the Canon EOS 5DMKII camera.
When my wife and I first ventured into freelance photography, we were trying to decide what to do with our content, and how to market it and earn a living at the same time. Another (bigger) agency either did not want to work with us or did not see our potential – our work was never accepted – so we decided to try submitting to Shutterstock in early 2007. Since then, we have not looked back. In fact, we earn a consistent monthly income from content that would have otherwise just stayed on our hard drives earning absolutely nothing.
As freelancers, we can afford to be pretty spontaneous ““ especially in winter. Living in Austria, with close access to the Alps, it seemed only natural that we would travel there to film skiers ““ ourselves included.
Shooting ski footage and photography does not simply entail going out on a nice day, skiing leisurely, and taking a few shots. It involves hard work for the videographer and skiers alike.
As both an avid skier and a videographer, here are some practical tips on shooting such footage.
1. Wait for the weather to cooperate.
Our approach is simple. We wait for a perfect snowfall, then some good general weather that can provide us some days of sunshine. We then seek out a hotel that´s near a ski area, and as close to the trail as possible – this makes transporting and changing equipment much easier.
2. Know how to ski well.
This may be obvious, but it is extremely important to know how to ski yourself, and to work with skiers who really know how to ski. Your skiing ability will come in handy when filming moving scenes, and it also allows you to anticipate your subject’s movements.
(This clip was created with the Sony PMW-EX1)
3. Wear the right clothes.
Use good, quality clothing. You will be spending a lot of time standing, sitting, laying and working in the snow, so get something that is really water resistant and warm. Same goes for your models ““ even the best scenes will look ugly if the clothing makes it look like the skier is wearing a loose plastic bag.
As is always the case in shooting stock, you’ll also want to make sure no logos are visible ““ most ski gear prominently features such trademarks, so you’ll either need to do some editing in post-production or alter the gear’s appearance before shooting.
(This clip was created with the HD capable Canon EOS 5DMKII)
4. Keep the picture steady.
When following a skier for a shoot, I use a Steadicam Pilot. You can probably imagine the stares you get as you ski down a slope with something around your body that looks more like a weapon than a camera, so I do recommend choosing off-season days or remote locations to shoot, if possible. This is also safer and saves you the time lost answering questions from onlookers. I shoot still scenes with a tripod, of course.
5. Try filming yourself.
No volunteer skiers? Forget to bring enough model releases? Film yourself! Simply frame the perfect scenery, press record, walk up the hill, ski down, press stop. (Plus, you can fill out your own release later, when uploading.) Pretty easy, right?
Modern cameras generally allow you to edit the video right in camera (split it, for example, and delete any unneeded material), so you can get rid of the walking scenes and save precious memory.
If you choose to shoot off-trail skiing, set up your equipment a few meters away from the action ““ if you’ve ever tried to walk up a powder hill, you’ll know what I´m talking about.
6. Be safe.
My brother is a professional skiing instructor at St. Anton am Arlberg. Not only is he a marvelous skier, he also knows the region quite well and is aware of the conditions. This helps immensley, because you always have to consider: you´re in the mountains.
Even during perfect snow conditions, avalanches are possible, so stay within safe areas. Skiing with a Steadicam is dangerous enough, so you don´t want to expose yourself to extra risks. No scene is worth risking your life.