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.
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.
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.