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
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
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.