Dan Carr, Halfpipe Skier
I shot this with a Canon 1D Mark IV and Canon’s versatile 8-15mm f/4 fisheye zoom. What’s great about that zoom is that it’s the only lens out there that can deliver a full 180-degree field of view on both full-frame cameras and also cropped sensors. Since I shoot with both, I only need to have this one lens to cover all my fisheye needs. On the 1.3x crop of the older 1D Mark IV, you need a 12mm setting to get that full field of view with no vignetting. As you can see, I also used a flash to illuminate the skier because the sun was off to camera left, but I needed it front lit, as well as the tops of his skis. I used a Paul C. Buff Enistein and Pocketwizards to trigger the flash, one Pocketwizard TT5 in the hotshoe of the camera, and the bespoke accessory Pocketwizard in the slot of the Einstein.
Vision & Plan
The skier in the photo is Simon D’Artois, from the Canadian National Team, and this photo shoot was for one of his sponsors, Faction Skis. The key thing in this series of shots was to develop a plan that would allow me to see the design of the top of the ski because this is what distinguishes this ski from the various others in the lineup, visually, at least. When I’m working with extreme athletes I’ll often get them to show me videos from their latest competitions, and this is what we did with Simon that morning. I watched several of his recent contest runs from halfpipe competitions and imagined myself photographing each of the tricks he did in the run. Almost immediately it was clear which trick would work well and how I could get underneath him as he was rotating upside down over my head, giving me a perfect view of the ski’s graphic.
I wanted to maintain detail in the sky behind the skier and, with the clouds so much brighter than the foreground, the only way to do this was to use flash. With a flash I can expose the sky correctly and then use that flash to illuminate the skier separately at an exposure that balances the sky. Had I not done this, the skier would either have been heavily underexposed, or we would have had to blow out all the detail in the sky. Flash allows me to balance the whole scene and control the look of the sky.
Using the Hypersync function of Pocketwizards, I was able to dial-in a shutter speed that’s much faster than the typical allowable X-Sync speed of my camera. This particular camera, a Canon 1D Mark IV, has a native X-Sync of 1/250 second. While it is possible to shoot images like this with that low speed, it usually requires a brighter lighting setup, and one with a much faster flash duration. The Einstein flash works nicely at full power with the Hypersync function though, and allows me to still use flash at 1/1000 second.
Using a fisheye lens, and crouching down on the side of the halfpipe, I was able to accentuate the skier’s trajectory over my head and really add to the drama of the image.
I typically do very little post production on my images. I try to get everything right in camera (as long as my client isn’t looking for a heavily stylized look). This image required almost no work on it at all, apart from basic contrast adjustment and a tiny amount of sharpening and chromatic aberration suppression from the fisheye. The only really notable exception is that, in Lightroom, I selected the blue channel in the color luminance panel and reduced this a little bit to darken the blue of the sky. This has an effect similar to reducing the exposure, but it’s obviously confined to only the blue sky areas. Total post-production time: approximately one minute!
- Aperture f/10
- Shutter 1/1000
- ISO 320
- Shot in RAW
- Manual exposure
About Dan Carr: I started Shutter Muse in 2013, after looking for a way to expand the photographic-education side of my work. Over the previous few years, I began to discover more and more how much I enjoyed teaching people about all the things that I have learned during my career. Photography is not the kind of subject where you can go to school, complete a course, and leave confidently saying “I’ve got this, I know photography.” It simply doesn’t work like that.
Follow Dan Carr on Instagram.