Painting With Light At Mont Ripley…


The other night I was shooting at the hill with Craig, Mark and Kurt and at one point we stopped to have a quick discussion about what types of tricks looked best in the photos. We were shooting with a couple of sets of lights and and the images were just grabbing a very small slice of the whole picture. The consensus was that the simple, easily identifiable tricks were the ones best suited for this type of photography… things like straight airs, grabs, back or front flips, and simple spins. The problem is created when combing spins, flips and grabs… there’s just no way to capture everything that’s happening and a 360 could also be a 720 or a 1440… who knows.

Typically, from what I’ve seen, these types of tricks are shot as sequences. The sequence shot is a very popular way to shoot complex tricks so that the viewer can fully appreciate everything that going on. My issue is that shooting sequences is typical… who wants to shoot typical?  Not me! So, we set out to capture something a little different.

The idea was to trace the skier’s path through the air with some sort of light that was attached to the skis or poles or both.  That night I had the idea of using sparklers and put a request out on Twitter and Facebook for some. Incredibly, a few people were cool enough to have them on hand, on top of being willing to go out of their way to deliver them to me. Thank you to Connie, John, and Dan for their efforts. I used my foursquare bracket with four sb-26’s and a single sb-800 to light up the skiers and give some shape to the jump. I used a PocketWizard Multimax unit to trigger PocketWizard Plus II’s attached to the strobes. I used the Multimax’s to sync the strobes at the end of the shutter actuation so that everything looked the way it should. The trick was getting the timing down so that the skier was in the right place when the strobes went off. I found that a shutter speed/delay of 2 seconds to be just about the right amount time.

Unfortunately, sparklers were probably not the best idea. They just couldn’t handle all the snow and the wind on the run in. Below you can see one of the first images where all of the sparklers had been snuffed out.


Not to be discouraged… we moved on to Dan’s sparklers which were some big MF’ers. They fared a little better, but were again barely burning by the time the skier hit the jump.


At this point our hopes were pretty low. The sparklers weren’t cutting it, but all was not lost. We had sent Kurt to the top with some headlamps which he put on his helmet and around his boots. Below is the first headlamp shot… now we’re talking.


While all of that was going on Phil had run down to the garage at the hill and grabbed some of the road flares. He figured that they wouldn’t have any problem staying lit. My worry was that he was right and that we would be putting the skiers at risk. Craig was up for the challenge and we strapped four flares on him… ski tails and both poles. The result was the image that lead off this post. As well as they worked, one still went out on the run in, and the rest were snuffed out after landing/crashing.

Below you can see Kurt with headlamps on his ankles and head. We had him place the lights so that they faced the camera and had him do a flip so that his body never obscured the lights. I can’t not think of laser beams when I look at this image.


At this point we had decided that headlamps were the way to go. Unfortunately, Kurt ended up breaking the tail on one of his skis so inverts were out. So, we dressed Craig up in lights and gave Kurt some poles with flares on the end to see if we could make some of the spinning tricks look good. Take a look at the gallery below to see some of the other images from the session.

Overall, I think we did pretty well. No one got hurt or burned, and only one pair of skies were destroyed. There are a couple of cool pics, and now we have a pretty good idea of what works. We’re headed back there tonight. Check back soon to see how things shape up.


3 thoughts on “Painting With Light At Mont Ripley…

  1. Shazoo Rizvi

    Great post! When I participated in the Mt. Ripley winter carnival parade with flares the organizers warned to keep flares at a distance because the liquid that drips from them are “lava”

  2. Pingback: Light Painting + Skis: Behind the Scenes Video |

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