Living in Whistler, BC, gives me opportunities to shoot a lot of beautiful scenery but I’m best known for my action sports photography and in particular the work that I’ve done with many of the world’s best extreme skiers. I’m a senior photographer at Skier magazine in Canada and I’ve contributed to most of the major ski magazines around the world in the last few years. My snowy adventures have seen me cross the globe in search of powder and big lines and all the while I’ve had an array of Really Right Stuff equipment in my bags. Since most people associate tripods and support gear with landscape photography I thought it would be fun to share some images that I have created using RRS gear.
I travel a fair bit so keeping things as light weight as possible is sometimes a consideration. I use the TQC-14 with a BH-30 head when I’m going somewhere extremely remote but my go-to tripod is the TVC-24L with a BH-40 on it. For me this is the perfect tripod. A balance between capacity and size that will easily handle a pro-body with a 300mm on it and sometimes a 500mm. Since I shoot on mountains I prefer to have the 4-section L version of the tripod. I’m only 5’9” myself so this might seem like a tall tripod for my size but as soon as I’m on a slope I’m glad to have the extra height to use on the downhill leg.
In this image you can see the TVC-24L in use on the side of a halfpipe here in Whistler as I did a shoot with a few members of the Canadian Olympic freeskiing team. I used it to hold up my strobe and once again the longer legs of the 24L were useful in letting me extend a downhill leg on the 30 degree slope, and still maintain the strobe height, getting it close enough to the skier that I could overpower the sun with the flash burst. This image here is what we came away with from this setup:
Days in the backcountry can often begin before sunrise and go on past sunset so weight is always a consideration. I take a conservative lens selection in most cases but it always includes at least a pro sized body like a Canon 1DX, a 300mm f2.8 + extenders, a 70-300 and a wide, lightweight zoom like the 17-40. When you throw in all your avalanche safety equipment as well as extra layers of clothing and food for the day you can be looking at a 30 lbs pack on your back for 9 hours of skiing or snowmobiling. You can see then why carbon tripods are must-have for me, shaving any amount of weight of my kit is worth it.
A few years ago on a heli-skiing trip to Alaska I put together a short video with a GoPro to give a sort of day-in-the-life look at what I was up to. At several points in the video you’ll notice the MH-01 monopod head in use, particularly at around the 1 minute mark. For this kind of shooting I am often positioned quite a long way from the athletes due to avalanche concerns and that also means I’m often a long way below them. The MH-01 allows me to secure my monopod vertically deep in the snow but tilt my camera comfortably upwards towards the skiers. On longer lines I’ll leave the head loose and pan down gradually as they ski. Quick release plates and collars on all my lenses means not a moment wasted once it’s time to get moving again. When there’s a helicopter waiting for you it’s as close as you can get to a perfect definition of “time is money”!
This image below is the actual image that I shot at that point in the video:
Last year I was invited to take part in a photography contest in Austria where a small selection of the world’s best skiers gathered for four photographers to have a shoot out. Three days of photos at optimal times of day (sunrise, sunset) and then awards were handed out for the best images in several categories. RRS gear played a part in two of my images that won the award for Best Creative Angle and also the main award Best Action Image for the week so let’s take a look at these as well.
This shot is a 360 degree panoramic sequence taken of two skiers hitting two different features during this photo shoot. Both the skiers were shot individually and then their two tricks combined into this one long panorama using Photoshop and my favorite pano software PTGui. I wanted to get a single image that captured the whole setup for this competition and I had this in mind long before I arrived in Austria. To accomplish this I took my RRS panorama setup with me which consists of the Panning base from my gimbal, the PG-02 HB, with an FAS clamp mounted onto it. I have an L-Plate on my 5D MKIII so I can easily mount that vertically on the slider with my 8-15mm fisheye lens on it. That combination gives me the least possible number of images to create a full 360 degree panorama.Here you can see the setup right before I shot the pano:
This second image was taken roughly half an hour after the sun had dropped below the horizon. I was dragging the shutter down at 1/50 of a second to get the last little bit of light from the sky in the background to give me this lovely mountain silhouette mirroring the lights on the ground. At 1/50 of a second the camera needed to be on my tripod to get a nice sharp image so whilst many people wouldn’t normally expect a tripod to be a necessity for an action shoot, whenever there is strobes involved I’m often playing around with longer exposures while the flash does all the action stopping work.