Today, we're going to get started on an important topic to make your holiday a success: unmissable souvenir photos! Whether it's a picture of your fearless other half descending their first red run, a superb panoramic photo from the Cime Caron summit or even a night-time photo with the mountains as the backdrop to immortalise the resort's atmosphere, discover our advice and tricks in this article!
Preparing your equipment (protecting it against snow, cold...)
First of all, a word about your equipment: whatever your camera type (compact, bridge, reflex...), if you're going to take it with you on the ski slopes, you have to start by properly protecting it.
A number of solutions exist to protect camera equipment when you fall over on the slopes. From small protective slip covers for compact cameras to backpacks with specially designed padded areas for reflex cameras with multiple lenses. Waterproof models are also very handy on days when it snows!
Choose a case that has some space for accessories such as memory cards, leads or spare batteries.
Batteries are something else that you need to think about in the mountains in winter. They have a tendency to lose their charge more quickly (much more quickly!) in cold weather, so it's a good idea to plan ahead and pack spare batteries.
I'll give you a tip to give you a few precious minutes more of battery life: take the battery out of the camera when you are not taking photographs and put it in your inside jacket pocket. That way, your body heat stops it from losing charge in the cold weather.
As large ski gloves aren't very practical when handling a camera, another tip is to consider taking a pair of fine gloves with anti-slip coating on the palm and fingers. Ski touring or running gloves, for example, often work very well.
Finally, pay attention to changes in temperature between indoors and outdoors. Taking your camera out when you're on the gondola lift or during a visit to a slopeside restaurant will almost certainly cause condensation on the lens and you won't be able to take pictures for several minutes! You can, however, wipe your lens with a microfiber lens cloth.
Now your equipment is ready, head to the slopes!
To take a great photo, first of all you have to choose the composition, framing, and point of view.
Framing: horizontal or vertical?
In the majority of cases, and notably in landscape photography, it's common to use horizontal framing that best corresponds to human vision.
We save vertical framing for portrait-style photographs and for if you want to emphasise the sense of your subject's height.
Point of view: Shooting Val Thorens from above!?
The point of view means the position of the photographer (you) in relation to your subject.
You can choose to be close to your subject to bring out a detail and create a sense of intimacy, or you can choose to distance yourself and give your subject some space, usually so that we can have an overview of the entire scene.
Similarly, you can choose an eye-level point of view, a high-angle taken from above, or a low-angle taken from underneath. High angles are practically obligatory on the summits and will reinforce the sense of overlooking the surrounding landscape. Taking photos from a low angle will have the inverse effect and will let you evoke a sense of the mountains' height.
Composition: Unleash your creativity!
There's a simple rule for "guaranteeing" a good photo: the rule of thirds.
It involves placing the important parts of the image on the horizontal and vertical lines that separate the picture into thirds. A photograph composed according to the rule of thirds makes for a more dynamic image that is easier to "read".
However, you don't have to keep to this rule. Don't hesitate to emphasise background elements (ski lifts, rocks...), play with guiding the eye along lines created by the landscape or even make use of empty space with large stretches of virgin snow or blue sky.
Finally, when photographing a moving subject such as a skier, you should try to leave some space in the foreground of the image. If you don't, you'll create the unpleasant sense that the subject is going to come right up against the edge of the image. Note that this is also the case when taking a portrait.
Trick: over-expose your photos!
As snow is a highly reflective surface, your camera's light metre might become inaccurate. To combat this, we recommend that you over-expose your photos. For those who know a bit about photography, I recommend a shift of +1/3 or +2/3 EV (exposure value).
This will give you really white snow and better-lit/more detailed subjects.
To find out more about exposure:
Wikipedia - Exposure
Wikipedia- Exposure Value (EV)
You now have the key elements to take great photos in the mountains this winter.
Don't hesitate to share your own tricks and tips with us, or to ask questions in the comments.
And here is a second article if you want to go further.