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.
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.
Instead 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.
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.
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.