March 5, 2013

Snow Blind
"Capturing the Coolness of Kids"'s an alternate tagline of mine for my pursuit in photography to help teen's share the amazing fire of personality, style, and grace with which they light up this world of ours...and the latest Teen Fire project, Snow Blind, brings to the forefront a fabulous high school youth's talent as a freeride skier.

In both the Titanium project, and this new project, Snow Blind, my goal is to capture teens doing what they love in a way that is exciting and timeless....where their coolness is the center of attention....

The Snow Blind project was not originally a scheduled project.  It came about by way of a high school teenager, Steven.  He is the younger brother of a young man for whom I shot his senior portraits in October 2011.

He and his mom called me up one day and asked if I'd be willing to capture Steven doing what he so dearly loves and is passionate about....freeride skiing.  My heart jumped and my palms got sweaty with excitement.  I love to ski and be outdoors on the slopes, so to have both passions of photography and skiing come together in perfect harmony was fabulous!

Sharon, Steven's mom, describes Steven's love for his sport this way:
"Steven has always been an adventurous child! We swore he wouldn't make it until 2 without a trip to the ER. So it's no surprise that he is now doing flips on skis and loving the freeride skiing. Over the years he has played soccer, rugby, cross country, track, and lacrosse, but skiing remains his passion. Steven is very artistic, and he can combine his athleticism with his creative flair doing freeride. When he's not practicing on the slopes he can be found working at the Pajarito terrain parks or doing activities with Boy Scouts. It's been a big year for him, earning the rank of Eagle Scout and recently qualifying for Nationals for freeskiing."

During the creative planning session, we planned out two photo shoots...a lifestyle shoot, and then following weekend, a photo shoot of him competing at the USASA Red River Rampage Slopestyle competition.

We chose to shoot the lifestyle shoot at Red River Ski Area as it had more snow than our local ski area, and as such their terrain park was open, our was not....and furthermore, the background vistas of the terrain park at Red River Ski Area would allow for the all important aerial shots I was planning....(explained later).  Plus, I would then be able to scout out the location for the competition shoot.
For this shoot, it was going to be imperative that the equipment be very portable as we would be shooting on our skis or in our ski boots, on the slopes, and moving from trick to trick....but also we would need enough flash power to control the ambient sun light, of which a speed light wasn't going to do for the shots I had planned.  For this shoot, I used an Alien Bee B800 strobe with reflector, the Alien Bee Lithium Ion portable battery pack, and a Manfrotto monopod modified to hold the B800.  This was all stored in Backpack #1.  In backpack #2, was the D700, a Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 lens, a Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 lens and laptop (to backup the images after the shoot).

Between myself, Steven, Steven's mom, and Steven's aunt (who lives in Red River), we hit the slops and setup at several of the terrain park stations.  IMPORTANT NOTE:  Do not wear the backpacks getting on the lift!  The pack will push your butt so far forward, that had it not been for the cheater bar, I felt like I was going to nose dive off the front of the seat!  Subsequent rides up the lift, I held the backpack in front of me...

Once we dismounted the lift and got to our first site, it was very important to have one of us spotting so as to alert other skiers of our location (so we would get creamed or hurt), and another to hold the flash unit in place (lovingly called VALs..Voice Activated Lightstands).  This shot was taken on what is called the Rainbow Box...shot f/16, 1/250th, ISO 200.

This next action shot was natural light. It is the shot I knew would look pretty dang cool for the vistas behind it.  In order to maximize the effect of height and vertigo, you need a jump that has a steep drop off, and compressed background canyon walls...I remember seeing years ago some very cool shots in a Warren Miller film that took advantage of this get this shot I had to lay on the ground up-slope from the jump, and track Steven as he approached the jump...once he peaked the trick, I clicked the shutter. By shooting at 200mm and f/2.8, I got the compression of the background I wanted and the bokeh of the background to make him pop out of the scene.

The next weekend, I used the same technique to capture is aerial front flip trick during the competition (which he won Gold, btw)....

And as ALWAYS, keep the camera ready for the unexpected...I got this PRECIOUS shot after the competition as the kids were playing around, and I was Steven approaching a jump with a long-time friend of his and they were holding hands...and I thought...."Are they really going to go off the jump holding hands?"  And yup...they did!  Though as High School kids, I'm sure the word PRECIOUS isn't quite what they had in mind!

Another "Be Ready!" shot during warmups...

Until next time: Love Yourself, Love Your Neighbor, and Stay Unique!
Michael P. Young

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