24 May, 2010

Ski Mountaineering Photography

Near the end of every winter season, I find it hard to let go.  Not enough time to get out after the bucket list, attempt that cool line, or anything that stokes a winters fire.  Photographer Vince Shuley and I, decided to head out for a photo shoot on Joffre's Australian Couloir, or Matier's North Face.  It was another chance of getting some great eye candy shots to keep us going through those hot summer months. 

Knowing that the trail into Cerise Creek wasn't exactly all that snowy, we stacked the odds in our favor, by heading out at midnight to catch a 4-5 hour weather window in an otherwise poor forecast.  After slogging through muddy trails we reached enough snow to skin on, and continued quickly, finding ourselves lucky enough to reach the "Motel 66" area just as the sun came up.  (Photo Above Left:  Photographer Vince Shuley capturing a fantastic alpine sunrise at 4:30am)  

And here is where the challenges of ski mountaineering photography lie.  After we were lucky enough to see this beautiful sunrise, we were now on a race against time and light.  For a good photo, you need:  an aesthetic line to ski on the right aspect, a position to shoot it from, the right light, the right snow consistency to make the photo pop, and the right position of the skier actually skiing the photo.  Easy enough?  It gets harder.  As the skier, to ski said line for a photo you need:  the right snow conditions (the snow's stability may not last the amount of time your photographer may need to wait for good light), not too much wind, and if there are any other hazards which threaten an area you may be in waiting to ski this line.  Now combine these together, and you can see the difficulties, of making it all come together (which also doesn't factor in lugging in the right gear, dealing with un-foreseen weather, or technical problems).  (Photo Right:  Joffre's Australian Couloir, which we waited for, but got shut down due to weather.)

So what is the key?  Persistence, plan everything to your favor, and keep coming back to get the right shot.  Also know that you can come back if the shot is too dangerous.   This exact trip while climbing Mt Matier, we heard the loudest *whump* I've ever heard, with some stability tests that added to this warning, we were off the route right away.  However, we did not leave empty handed.  We were lucky enough to ski the surprisingly winter like dry snow conditions down to the Joffre/Matier col, and continued down the entire Anniversary Glacier in prime corn conditions.  We'll be back for the photo, it's worth trying time after time, especially with rewards like these and so late in the season.


  1. Hey Al,

    I'd be stoked if you did another blog post on basic photography stuff that you've learned.... the gear you use, basic exposure stuff, editing and some tips on composition.

    Keep on rockin those wicked pics.

  2. I can definitely do that, great idea!

  3. I'd definitely like to see a post like that too, you've got a great eye and some awesome photo content on this blog

  4. Thanks Mike, I've already started working on that post. Should be up in the next week or so.