How to Capture Steepness?

Tony S

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Hiking, cycling, skiing ... How do experienced outdoor photographers capture pitch? Where should I stand with respect to the athlete and the hill? What should I make sure to include in the frame? What should I crop out? How should I leverage portrait vs. landscape orientation?
 

Philpug

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Hiking, cycling, skiing ... How do experienced outdoor photographers capture pitch? Where should I stand with respect to the athlete and the hill? What should I make sure to include in the frame? What should I crop out? How should I leverage portrait vs. landscape orientation?
From the side, perspective helps, horizon and/or trees.

Original
IMG_5565.jpeg


Adjusted with horizon level and the lift tower straight.
IMG_5565.jpeg


Front views is really tough to get a good perspective.

@DoryBreaux to the SkiTalk Courtesy Phone
 

James

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Vertical references help, but keep the horizon horizontal. Also, seems a low camera viewpoint can help.

B6F12595-73BC-4B4D-9A96-A263C5AFD9BB.jpeg


Here’s 3 from the same spot I think. Very close if not.
DF411BD8-D9EA-4BC3-A969-F33038938E61.jpeg


BF255EB5-7249-47E2-933A-4404A7B9CE46.jpeg


5EADA246-85EA-4A86-BB0F-CF7030EBE7E8.jpeg


The line of the chairlift really helps. The last low from down near the ski helps but prob could’ve used more chairlift. The rocks on the right help also.
 

Jim Kenney

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Good topic. I struggle with this too. What Phil says is accurate and you'll see the skier, slope, and horizon in a lot of my shots. Also, for me it sometimes just comes down to luck and volume, take a lot of shots and a few will capture steep.

On Larkspur beside the Zuma lift on backside of Arapahoe Basin:
This is a fairly steep blue square run, @Ken_R
pug cell ken zuma.jpg

but I made it look flat on the same day in May 2019 with @Tony S
TonyS A-Basin Zuma.jpg


One of my favorites of my "home" hill, Blue Knob, PA, Vernette skiing in 2010 on Extrovert trail. This was lucky. I just snapped the shot quickly looking back over my shoulder.
hot chocolate verna extrover blue knob 2010.jpg


Of course, shooting people in real steep terrain can help too :ogbiggrin:
Corbets at Jackson Hole 2015, older anonymous skier:
older guy dropping into corbets couloir 2015.jpeg


Delirium Dive at Sunshine Banff, 2018
sunshine delirium entrance.png


I post more later that maybe will offer further explanation.
 
Last edited:

James

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No, that’s bubble, but does look like the same setup. Is that the Attelas bubble?
Yellow circled.

The other was Lac des Vaux 2, 2019 Verbier. Blue circle.

It’s not super steep, and not exposed, but while I was taking that photo, a young kid from the chairlift said, “Bonne chance monsieur!”

52BD3F34-68A0-4BDA-96ED-B13C2108E908.jpeg
 

jseeski

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From the side, perspective helps, horizon and/or trees.

I always have trouble conveying steepness, even when I do as Phil says.

Looking up the slope doesn't help, and it often does weird things to perspective. Looking up at a group of trees will make them lean in toward the middle. In the shot below, the trees on the right lean to the left and the trees on left lean to the right. There are some in the middle that are pretty straight, but the perspective is still confusing. To me, the shot doesn't make it look particularly steep, although most would find the terrain shown pretty intimidating in real life.

210325 P1110584 Sleeper.jpg


This does a little better. It's from the side and the trees are more or less straight up and down. Still, it doesn't look all that steep in the photo.

210325 P1110575 Sleeper.jpg


Verdict: Failure to adequately convey steepness!
 

Rod9301

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When somebody's skiing, photograph from above, this will show the steepness best.
If someone's climbing a steep couloir, from below.
 

geepers

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When somebody's skiing, photograph from above, this will show the steepness best.

Not so sure about that.

Issue is that in steep terrain it's hard to capture both the skier, the run and the horizon in the same frame. If the camera starts out level to show the horizon then the skier and the run and way below the photographer's feet and not in frame. Pan down to show the skier and there's no horizon to act as a reference. The terrain looks mild and sometimes can even provide the illusion of being uphill!

The side shot as per @Philpug seems to show it the best but in a narrow chute there may not be space or a good vertical reference.
 

Jim Kenney

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TonyS in Harmony Trees, Whistler 2017. Getting someone's face and also capturing steep at the same time is difficult.
tonys whistler harmony trees.JPG

@SpikeDog on North Chute at Snowbird, spring 2017. Love this photo, but it's such a close-up that you can't appreciate how steep this run is.
brian north chute.jpeg


Vince, Blackcomb Glacier 2017, cropping this photo added a little mystery about what's below.
vince blackcomb glacier.JPG

Vince on Lookout Below at Whiteface, 2014
Copy (3) of DSCN3183.JPG


Vince on High Rustler at Alta, January 2011
alta high rustler vince.jpg


Vince, K27 (or nearby) at Hunter Mtn, 2014
vince hunter 2014.JPG

Chute/Liftline at Mad River Glen
c92fe090_MRGextradays056.jpeg


January 2013 Main Chute in the Quail Face section of Homewood. The expression on my face was intended to help convey the steepness of this terrain if the photo didn't do it justice. Lake Tahoe is just to the right.
jim homewood (2).JPG
 

SSSdave

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Beyond what Phil related, a normal lens view will better capture actual lateral slope pitch versus a wide angle lens. That is also why smartphones may be mediocre choices. Also note, a lens will have more distortion if not held level horizontal that shows as bending elements at frame edges. Even if a camera is held horizontal, cheaper lenses may show edge bending though that can be improved in Photoshop.

Additionally having elements like vertical trees in an image helps perception of slope angle. And of course, capturing an image when lighting allows good snow slope detail and shading is important for any image. Thus a shot in flatter light or direct light or with too much shade are negatives.
 

James

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This is Mont Fort,
3092AABF-015F-467E-A351-52F5D8742F98.jpeg

An above shot from the stairs top of Mt Fort on a nice day. That narrow piste can be pretty hairy, when the wind is blowing, the trail is polished snow, and the double fall line, bleh. Just get me to the hard part, this easy part is too much. It amazes me that people who are frankly bad skiers and shouldn’t be up there, regularly go down it then freak at the mogul field. People to left of stairs are going off piste backside.

Those stairs are a palace compared to the old ones top of the Grands Montets in Chamonix. Yikes. I heard they replaced them though.
F88AB918-B9DA-4F6C-B7D0-1FA1DA852699.jpeg

Later down, left of piste.


EDD4900F-26BA-4702-AFC3-42D2C8BA2A7F.jpeg

@SBrown , great shot. I remember that “traverse” or whatever it is behind them when I went to Taos in 2000. Scary with the drop off, I had to question whether I really could do a wedge turn. Best prep for that is skiing the top of a half pipe where the outside falls off too. I get kids who are good skiers that refuse.

I think I agree that shooting from above with skiers can work.
01E7C355-8290-46F5-80F2-5DF884F0CC6E.jpeg

Vallée Blanche Chamonix

1911EBFA-5F4B-4704-B62E-65C43D9B828E.jpeg

This is prob better to show steepness. More space around subjects, taken from slightly higher.
 

DoryBreaux

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The easiest way to show steepness is to shoot within a 90 degree zone of looking straight across the fall line and having either the horizon or a tree or lift tower in frame for reference. Note, don't use towers that aren't vertical.
Looking straight up or straight down is a lot harder to do when showing pitch. Completely doable, obviously, but best to be figured out after you get the feeling for it the way outlined above.
 

James

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but I made it look flat on the same day in May 2019 with @Tony S
C5100698-CD97-42AA-A0CE-547F25ECD567.jpeg

That’s a great shot. It’s pretty accurate for parts of that trail. Wasn’t a snowboarder removed from the background?

More importantly, @Tony S can use it to show those cantankerous bootfitters he has to deal with.
 

Seldomski

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Looking at my own photos and these in the thread, the natural tendency for the photographer seems to be to lean into the hill slightly. This skews the horizon to make it look flatter than it really is. Even in videos, it seems the camera man tends to lean uphill a little bit. Couple this with the fact that most people feel the terrain they ski is steeper than it actually is, you get a lot of ski photos where things look flat.

Even the steep photo @SBrown took of the snowboarder is actually skewed a bit flatter than it really is based on the trees in the background. Wow that's a steep run.
 
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