(Above: Pro Snowboarder Eddie Spang getting some air. Click on it for a larger view)
My buddy Matt Kloskowski put a really cool trip together for me this past weekend. He knows I’ve been wanting to do a snowboarding shoot for some time now, but it’s kind of hard pulling that off in Florida. Luckily, we had a camera crew heading to Colorado to film a Kelby Training Online class with incredible Action Sports Photographer and instructor Tom Bol (link), so he arranged for us to fly out the day before the class taping and shoot some snowboarding with Tom and pro snowboarding insano man, the awesome Eddie Spang.
(Above: Here’s Eddie shredding the gnar gnar in 3 feet of virgin powder. OK, that’s the total extent of the snowboarding lingo I picked up during the shoot, right there in that one sentence. Click on it for a larger view. These shots all look better in the bigger views).
(Above: Here’s Eddie just after he shot down that mountain side and literally nailed his landing on the road right in front us. I just stood there with my jaw wide open. I did pull myself together enough to catch this shot— you can see us reflected in his goggles).
Here’s our host for Friday and Saturday, the very cool Tom Bol. I’ve met Tom numerous times, but this was the first time I really got to spend any time with Tom, and I have to say—what a terrific guy. One of the nicest, most thoughtful, and fun guys you’d ever want to meet.
I’ve never been in snow like this
Tom arranged to have Eddie available for us to shoot all day, and Tom had two really great guys assisting him (and us), Steve and Randy, who spent a decent amount of their day helping me through, and pulling me out of, post holes in 3+ feet of snow. I spent a fair amount of time with at least one leg buried so far down in the snow that I could barely get back out.
In the production shot above (photo by Adam Rohrmann), you can see me kneeling to get a shot just in the front of the small jump Eddie just launched off from.
(Above: Here’s the shot I was working on. You can see a little blue in the sky trying to peek though. Tom thought to swap jackets with Eddie, who had been wearing a dark jacket, so the images didn’t look so flat against the gray sky, and it really helped a lot. I took this shot with a 14-24mm Nikon lens on a Nikon D3s camera at 200 ISO, f/2.8).
Above: Here’s a screen cap of a text I sent to my wife.
(Above: A very cold version of me. Photo by Matt Kloskowski).
The weather…well…it kinda sucked
Unfortunately, the blue skies that are the norm in Colorado were nowhere to be found this day, as a large snow storm moved into the area, and it snowed steadily the entire time, against flat gray yucky skies. The 14°F cold weather (-10C) wasn’t really an issue—Matt and I both dressed really warm with layers of clothes, and thankfully it wasn’t windy at all. Plus, we were all laughing so much the whole day, I’m not sure we would have noticed the cold (especially when I would get stuck down in a post hole in the snow, which was fairly often).
Above: Here’s an iPhone photo of me in our rented 4-wheel drive Chevy Tahoe, taken by Matt, while we’re stuck in snow so deep it was up to our car hood. Matt did a masterful job of actually backtracking the SUV through the snow and getting us un-stuck and back out on the road.
We were at 12,000 feet high (3,657 meters) at this point, and it was so bright white outside you couldn’t see anything. It looked like those scenes from base camp at Everest with winds blowing snow everywhere. At this point, we just drove back down the mountain looking for a place for Eddie to snowboard.
Above: Here’s Steve (with the red back pack) and Tom in front of him climbing up the hill where we were going to shoot (Photo by Matt). They paved the way for Matt and I because we were sinking down in the snow like it was Quicksand.
Above: Here’s another production shot (photo by Adam Rorhmann), and you’re getting an over-the-shoulder view of me shooting with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens (at f.2/8) and that’s Matt lying near the jump with a 14-24mm f/2.8 lens.
You can’t tell in the previous photo, but it was a struggle to get from where I’m shooting over to where Matt is shooting, just a few feet away (we swapped locations a few minutes after this shot was taken). You take a step or two, then you’d hit a hole and your leg would sink down three feet into the snow.
Above: Here’s the shot I got from that angle. Dealing with a solid gray sky, makes you get creative with your post processing, as I did here. The sun did try and make a brief cameo appearance late in the day, and we saw a glimpse of some patches of blue sky for a few minutes, but it just wasn’t going to give us that wonderful solid blue that Colorado is known for. By the way, we were in the great little town of Frisco, Colorado for this shoot.
Above: Here’s the shot Matt was getting with that 14-24mm. He took this one from the same position you saw him in earlier, but right after Tom switched jackets with Eddie. I really like this one Matt got a lot.
Bring out the strobes
Tom and his crew had brought two Elinchrom Ranger battery packs and heads out on the shoot, and so Tom asked if I wanted to shoot a little with the strobes, and of course, I was all over it. I had been shooting all the natural light stuff in Aperture Priority mode at f/2.8, but for the strobes, I switched to Manual Mode and set my shutter speed at 1/200 of a second, and then I wanted to darken the ambient light, so I racked my Aperture out to f/22. That only made it about 1-stop darker, so I lowered the ISO from 200 to L1 (kind of the equivalent of ISO 100), and that got me the two-stop darker background you see here.
Above: We positioned one head with a deep throw reflector literally two feet behind where I had been shooting from (that hole in the ground you see in front of Randy is where I was shooting from), and then he put a second strobe behind the jump to catch the snow kicking up, which worked wonderfully well. Tom is fantastic at lighting stuff like this (I can’t wait to see his class).
Above: We had to aim the front light so it hit Eddie when he was in midair, and Tom knew the trick to figure out exactly where that spot was. He had Steve toss his jacket into the air about where Eddie would wind up (seen above) and I would take the shot to fire the strobe at just the right moment, then direct the crew where to position the light. It only took a flying coat or two to nail it down.
For the shot you see above, I swapped places, and lenses with Matt, but I actually shot from just in front of the ramp, rather than beside it where Matt was, to get this angle. You only get get to take one shot because you’re shooting flash, so I panned with Eddie as I saw him coming down the mountain, and then pressed the shutter just after he hit the ramp—still panning with him as the flash fired.
Above: After we shot some strobe stuff, the sun started to peak out so I switched back to shooting natural light. Two friends of Eddie’s showed up, and I got this shot of Eddie’s friend Erin from that same vantage point, shot at 14mm, at f/2.8 and cropped using my Cinematic Cropping technique (link). This is really one you have to click on to see the larger view.
A Real Learning Experience
This was my first time shooting anything like this, and I really learned a lot. Like anything else in photography, it takes a lot of practice to get good at it, and a willingness to do what it takes to get the shot (Tom SO has that part down. He’s a mad man, and will go to unbelievable lengths to get the shot). I can’t wait to try it again. Ya know, when it’s a bit warmer.
Above: Here’s one last shot of Eddie, from my position by the ramp. I have to tell you, I was really amazed at not only what Eddie could do, but his physical endurance. Every time he shot down the mountain, he had to climb all the way back up to do it all over again. It was really tough in that deep of snow, but he was able to do it again and again and again, non-stop for hours on end.
More photos from the shoot on my Facebook Page
I’m posting a few more images from the shoot on my Facebook page. Here’s the link.
I love this stuff!
I really want to thank Matt for making this whole thing happen. Matt is a tremendously fun guy to do just about anything with, but sharing a trip like this with him is really special. Also, my thanks to Tom Bol for making sure it all came together, and to his assistants Steve and Randy who were great guys, loads of laughs, and incredibly helpful.
Despite the lack of blue sky, it was a really memorable trip, shooting in the show with an old friend, and some new ones. I know I’m very blessed to get to do stuff like this, and I’m very thankful, too!