One Chilly, Little Porcupine

|| Although it rained lower in the desert in Moab, at elevation it snowed. Early one morning we ventured down a long dirt road that wound into the mountains. Almost everything was covered by eight to ten inches of snow, and I spotted this little guy sticking out beside the road. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to research the type of vegetation, it stood out to me in a funny way … like a tiny green porcupine caught sleeping while it snowed. Fun times in the desert. ||

Return to the White Room

Last season I became somewhat obsessed with shooting POV (point of view) shots with my Canon 5D MkII SLR camera and a chest harness. For about 10 or 11 days throughout the season I skiied with this rig, slowly dialing the look that I wanted. Almost all my time was spent at Solitude Ski Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon here in Utah, and on many of the days I skiied alone.

Snow-capped mountains beside the road in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

Snow swirls around me as I ski deep powder at Solitude Mountain Resort

A POV angle of skis breaking through fresh powder at Solitude Mountain Resort

The Effect

Achieving an effective image from this particular angle was harder than I imagined, and to do it differently takes some serious experimentation. The easy solution would have been to strap a GoPro camera to my chest and simply run video the whole time, leaving plenty of opportunity for a frame grab or two later … but GoPros don’t have the resolution of a full-frame DSLR. Resolution is important for print, and it’s always nice to create images that could potentially live on the pages of a magazine somewhere. Small projects like this are important to personal growth in my opinion. Most of the fun came from actually being able to ski powder when I was shooting, often dragging a camera bag limits your mobility and opportunity, but in this case there was no bag, only a camera. Lastly, I found that this technique offered something that most digital photography doesn’t, uncertainty.

Chunks of snow fly in the air as I ski through deep powder in Utah

Skiing through the trees in deep powder at Solitude Resort

Tree skiing at Solitude Resort on a powder day

Sitting on the lift and giving a thumbs up on a deep powder day at Solitude

Experimentation Was Key

Vast experimentation with shutter speed, aperture, length of camera strap, timing on the trigger, trigger position on the finger, filters, types of light, and angle of terrain left plenty of room for error and happy accidents. Even the orientation of the camera on your chest leaves you without a clear view of the LCD until you unstrap the rig on the lift and quickly review countless frames. Many a photo is shot to perfection from a single angle, with many controlled variables. For once it was nice to leave plenty of the image to chance, and sometimes chance delivers the sweetest  greatest rewards.


In the Future

I may write more in the future about my specific setup, some settings, and thoughts on this particular style of shooting. A mountain bike photographer by the name of Justin Olsen has been utilizing a similar setup in some of his images. Justin’s style seems to be more focused on freezing the moment, which is where I started my project. After capturing a number of photos I discovered that it was the motion, the blur, which added a unique look to the angle; at which point I began to intentionally introduce more and more into my photos. Like Justin said in his interview, this angle is really nothing new (Scott Markewitz and others have been using it for years). Still, I see plenty of room for experimentation.

Note: This post did live on my site last Winter for a short bit while I was working on the images. I took the post down in order to protect my ability to submit some of the images for potential publication. Now that one of the photos (from a different set, but similar look) has run, I’ve revived this post with additional comments.


Desert Senior Citizen

|| An old tree hanging out by our campsite in Moab. A morning of freezing, endless rain kept us from riding the trails we wanted to, so exploration was necessary. I had spotted this old guy the day before. After a quick cup of coffee to warm up I grabbed my Mamiya 645 medium format camera and snagged a couple film shots from a different angle. This digital shot from my 5d Mkii stands out a little more because the V-shape of the hills in the background cause the eye to move towards the hard, dark lines of the branches. Trees are few and far between in the desert. ||

Textures from Utah

|| Above you’ll find photographs of textures that I’ve accumulated in my recent travels. The first image shows snow on the trees in Big Cottonwood canyon after a recent, early season storm and the next photo shows the red sand of Moab, washed out after a rain storm. Rain drops sit on the fly of my tent in image three, after said rainstorm. This last image was shot with a 100mm 2.8 macro lens, the first with a 70-200mm telephoto and the middle image with a 24-70mm 2.8. Three lenses, three textures and three distinct, but contrasting looks that display the environment here in Utah. ||

Late Season Moab

|| Rain fell from 10pm Friday night until 12pm Saturday afternoon. We waited, drank coffee, talked and shot photos around the campsite. As the clouds lifted and the rock began to dry we made our way out to the Amasa Back trail in Moab and began our climb. Small streams had turned to creeks and red sand into crimson-colored mud thanks to the weather. By the time we reached this view the sun had just broken through the clouds and had begun to warm the rock at higher altitudes. Dusk fell soon after, and we made our way down, with fire, dinner, and the celebration of drier weather on our minds. ||

I shot this photo of my Santa Cruz Heckler on a Panasonic DMC-LX5 point-and-shoot camera.

The End

|| Hitching a ride home in the back of a truck happens year round. Rarely comfortable and often cramped, this ritual of riders or skiers making their way home en-masse is one for the ages. Out in Brian Head, where this shot was taken, you have to worry less about the police taking interest, and more about freezing your face off before you hit the campfire. During the winter in Big Cottonwood, you discover the fine art of duck-and-cover in order to avoid highway patrol, but that’s for lust of snow, not dirt. In this particular shot we were three deep in the bed and countless deep in the cab, with six filthy, muddy bikes across the back after riding Dark Hollow in Brian Head. You can see my foot in the lower right of the frame, jammed between the wheels in a desperate attempt to stretch out as we made our way home. Hardly the most technically impressive, this photo captured for me what that trip was all about: community and dirt. ||

Truck to Truckee

|| Snow-covered peaks as seen from the highway crossing through Nevada. I was returning from shooting photos for the High Fives Foundation at their Trains even in Lake Tahoe, California when I shot this using my point-and-shoot digital camera. Solo road trips offer lots of time for thought, music, and taking in the scenery. Although there isn’t usually much to see once you hit the desert, sometime you’re afforded a view that you can’t ignore … in front of your or behind you. ||

Nights in Brian Head

|| Flip it over, spin the wheel, listen for the noise; the grind, click or clink that leads to the demon in your bike. From muddy ride to hot campfire, the day progress until you’re leaning over the fork, headlamp burning to light up the dark and reveal your ride. The midnight mechanic doesn’t sleep until the work is done, and even then it’s hard to sleep without a ride. ||

Art and Steve prep their kit for the morning’s festivities. Shot with a Canon 5D Mkii and a steady hand.