Photographers' Blog

Shooting birdmen

January 18, 2011

Downhill from the height of a 30-story-building and soaring through the air: this is the definition of ski jumping. The skiers reminded me of birdmen, or extreme skydivers.

Austria's Stefan Thurnbichler soars through the air during the practice session of  the FIS World Cup Ski Jumping in Sapporo, northern Japan, January 15, 2011.  REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

While I was covering the “birdmen” at the Sapporo Ski Jumping World Cup, I noticed a similarity between shooting ski jumping and the job of Siberian hunters, which I had watched in a TV documentary. Instead of the hunters’ trap, I set up a remote-controlled camera at the bottom of the slope to capture the leap.

Austria's Andreas Kofler soars through the air to take first place in the FIS World Cup Ski Jumping in Sapporo, northern Japan, January 16, 2011.   REUTERS/Kim Kyung-HoonInstead of their hunting rifle and telescope sight to pursue deer across the snow-covered Siberian plains, I had a 400mm lens with a converter in my hands and my viewfinder was aimed at the flying birdmen at a snow-covered ski resort. My camera fired like a gun whenever the birdmen appeared in my sights.

Like the hunters who chase game across snowy fields and endure long hours waiting to spring an ambush, I waded across a snowy field to the designated photo position to find a better position.

The cutting wind and large snowflakes were bearable as long as I had my camera in my hands as I knew a good image would be compensation for the enduring the conditions.

Austria's Thomas Morgenstern soars through the air in the FIS World Cup Ski Jumping in Sapporo, northern Japan, January 15, 2011.  REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Don’t get me wrong, I was not as serious as the Siberian hunters and I enjoyed shooting the ski jumping. I enjoyed producing artistic pictures by playing with various photographic techniques such as panning and blurring. One of the attractions of covering ski jumping is that it provides a chance to produce creative pictures. The first night’s session was an ideal opportunity to play with a slow shutter speed.

Like a gambler, I put all my bets on my camera as I moved my camera to follow the flying men with a 0.3 second shutter speed.

Germany's Felix Schoft soars through air at the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup in Sapporo, northern Japan, January 15, 2011.  REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

After several failed attempts, one of my tries finally hit the bull’s eye, giving me a boost of adrenaline. Suddenly, the cold wind which froze my fingers and toes was not a problem anymore.

I might call it the hunter’s high.

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/