How to Capture the Action
Adventure sports photography captures some of the most daring activities imaginable, making intense moments accessible to audiences who otherwise could not experience them. To capture these images, you need a finely honed skill set and a passionate understanding of the subjects that you'll shoot. I hope that the tips offered in this article will help you capture the action and create unforgettable images of your adventures.
Rules... there are no rules
Give yourself total freedom when shooting; sometimes unorthodox methods produce the best results. There probably isn't a single photography guide that will tell you to shoot directly into the sun, but I do it all the time! This technique can produce amazing visual effects in sports like skiing where you have so much reflective light going into the athlete's shadow. Use a wide-angle lens when shooting into the sun, and stop down on the aperture if you want to give it a beautiful star-like quality.
You often won't have the luxury of using strobes or reflectors, especially when shooting in remote locations; instead you have to depend on Mother Nature herself. When using the sun as your primary light source, look for shadows and try to shoot near the sun's shadow lines to produce a more dramatic effect. Obviously sunrise and sunset are ideal because the low sun provides a magical quality of light, but you can also achieve some amazing results during high noon.
When shooting skiing, often the best snow is on a mountain's North face (or South face in South America). This area will only get sun during the middle of the day, creating beautiful light and shadows that offer a prime opportunity for some very dramatic back lit and side lit shots-or as we call it, "skim lit."Skim lit is when the sun just barely kisses the slope or side of the mountain, creating amazing texture on the snow and incredible light on the subject. So there we go again, breaking the rules by shooting during the middle of the day.
The best adventure sports photographers are also active participants themselves, giving them an athlete's perspective of blasting down a snowy mountainside or rappelling a few hundred feet deep into an icy cavern. The insight gained by experiencing these activities firsthand is crucial for recreating them in a compelling way for the audience.
I always try to capture images from the athlete's viewpoint rather than the spectator's. Conventional sports photographers who cover football, baseball or basketball use long 600mm lenses and shoot super-tight action shots from right next to the crowd, but adventure sports photographers need to get close to the action.
Use a wide-angle lens to show where the skier or climber is coming from or where they are going. This will let you showcase the environment while also demonstrating the insanity of the action. Your goal is to create an emotional response in the audience that leaves them awed at the location's beauty and at the same time thinking "I'm so glad that's not me!"