Helpful Tips for Winter Action Sports Photography

Shooting winter action sports can be tricky because of the extreme weather conditions and the fast-paced activity, so it really helps to be ready for anything. Watch action and adventure sports photographer Brett Wilhelm on location at the 2014 Burton US Open Snowboard Pipe Finals, as he offers a few tips to help get better winter sports photos:

Wilhelm has spent the last 10 years working for huge clients like ESPN’s X Games, Red Bull, Sports Illustrated, and the NCAA, so he’s had plenty of experience with action sports photography. He’s also spent a lot of time on snowy mountainsides, where the weather can change drastically—quickly. Because of this, he’s come up with a few standard tricks to stay prepared for anything.

In Vail, Colorado, where he’s shooting the US Open snowboarding pipe, he shares with us his standard pipe set-up:

  • 2 Nikon D4 cameras – one with a long lens (70-200mm) and one with a wide-angle lens
  • An easy access pack carrying extra lenses and flash

Wilhelm keeps the cameras around his neck, ready to go at all times. He uses the long lens when shooting up the pipe, across the pipe and below the pipe and the wide-angle for up-close and overhead shots.

winter action sports photo

A 16mm fisheye lens is great for keeping both the perspective of the pipe and the athlete going overhead. Sometimes, a 17-35mm lens is the better option, as it will give you a little more of a zoom range if the shot won’t be as spot on or the athletes won’t be going as high in the air.

snowboarding photography tips

Make sure everything is secured to your body, making it safe to carry it around the pipe or mountain. You don’t want to drop anything, especially in the path of the athletes.

Helpful Equipment and Accessories for Snowy Conditions

  • Lens cloth to wipe water off lens
  • Car shammy to wipe water off camera because it’s very absorbent
  • Nylon brush to brush snow off camera because it’s non-absorbent
  • Crampons so you don’t slip on the ice
  • Knee pads to protect your knees as you’re constantly kneeling
  • Snow pants with extra pockets to carry everything

What advice do you have for people new to winter sports photography?

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