Winter Sports Photography


Winter Sports Photography

Photographing winter events is slightly different from normal sports photography. Firstly, the temperatures are close to freezing, if not beyond it. This takes its toll on both the photographer and his equipment. For the photographer, the cold weather may make it more difficult to concentrate or may make things more difficult since he has to carry more stuff to protect himself and his gear. Low temperatures cause batteries to deplete faster and may also damage some equipment. Secondly, lighting conditions are somewhat different in winter, especially in snow clad landscapes. Nevertheless, winter sports present some of the most spectacular scenes in the sports arena. Sports like snowboarding, skiing, and mountain biking offer breathtaking shots for the expert photographer. Here are a few tips at how to obtain the best results.

1. Lighting

The mild winter sunlight makes for good shots even at the height of noon. Early morning shots or late afternoon shots can also be very spectacular.

2. White Balancing

Since most pictures will have a lot of snow (i.e. white) in them, pictures need to be correctly exposed. In general, because of the whiteness of the snow, the camera will automatically tend to underexpose the shot. The photographer may wish to overexpose the shots (e.g. by EV+2) and use custom white balance to obtain the best results (thereby avoiding too much blue or yellow colour in the end photograph).

3. Use the snow

The snow is a wonderful ally for your shots. It looks especially striking when the athlete lifts it with his snowboard or ski. If short exposure (e.g. 1/2000) is used, marvelous images can be produced.

4. The right equipment for the weather and the sport

As mentioned above, winter weather can be harmful to your equipment. For example, melting snow can damage the electronics inside a camera. It is therefore best to invest in a rain/snow cover that will protect the camera from adverse winter conditions. A water resistant camera may be a better idea (e.g. the Pentax K-7 which is fully sealed against rain and snow). Wide angle lenses and telezoom lenses will be useful. Tripods are usually not necessary and may even be a hindrance. Also, ensure that you have spare batteries and memory cards so that you do not need to look for either in the middle of the cold weather.

5. Get close to the action

For photographing skiers and snowboarders, it is good to get close to the action without getting in their way. Pre-focus the wide-angle lens in the area you expect the skier to become airborne. Get into a low position and shoot upwards (this produces an image with the skier against a blue background).

6. Shoot the ground

Do not forget to include the ground in your photographs that depict an airborne skier or snowboarder. Without the ground, the viewer has no idea of the action that is going on or the acrobatic prowess of the athlete. The ground helps the viewer put things in context and produces more dramatic pictures.

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