You probably haven’t seen this side of Alberta before. Stevin Tuchiwsky takes us on a journey into Ice Caves, behind frozen waterfalls, and on frozen lakes.
What it takes, how to do it, and elements of a great photo. Philipp Reiter knows his stuff.
Philipp Reiter has a way of photographing ultra races and its’ participants in a way that transports you to the location as if you took the photo yourself. I think the only thing Reiter can’t convey in his photography is smell. Watching Philipp Reiter getting the shot looks almost as exhausting as participating in the races themselves.
Reiter started his career with photography as an athlete before he ever picked up a camera. After racing for a number of years, he succumbed to injury and instead of leaving the sport to turn over a new rock, he started running again, a little bit more casually than prior to his injury, but now he was running with a little point and shoot camera in-hand. Not long after he started taking photos of his friends, Salomon offered him a position on their photography team, where he is seemingly constantly photographing epic ultra races all over Europe and even the USA this year.
Find out how Philipp Reiter is getting the shot.
How Do You Approach Photographing Ultra Races?
I’m still a runner. I keep up with the runners and take photos of them from close proximity. I do my best to be there when the moment happens. A lot of photographers set up in a spots where the runners will see them, and then the runners put on their “tough face”. They’re consciously posing for the photographers. It makes for good photos but not the ones I’m looking for. I’ll run alongside the runners so that I’m there to capture spontaneous moments.
Because I run with the runners, I’m kind of considered an “insider”. The participants don’t really have to worry about having their photo taken by a stranger or someone they might not trust. I also understand when a moment might be too much, not every photo you capture of an athlete should be shared. Because the runners are my friends, I know when enough is enough, and that’s where the trust is built.
What are some tips you Might Share with Someone just Getting into Photographing Ultra Races?
Don’t bring too much gear. Focus on basic things, if you’re just getting into photographing Ultra events, it’s important to experiment. Once you’ve experimented a bit though, don’t take 5 cameras and 5 different lenses in your backpack. I use one camera and one lens for photographing races. Sometimes I also bring a drone and a cellphone because I do video and social media management as well. Gear can get in the way of getting the shot, instead of helping you.
You need to understand your camera and get experience shooting in difficult lighting situations in fast pace environments. Try shooting in aperture priority mode so you can still have control over your camera. AP mode will also give you the ability to quickly shoot a runner that’s back lit, then quickly transition to a low light front lit situation.
What are some Elements of a Great Photograph?
I love close up shots, the face showing the raw emotion of how the athlete feels and what he’s been through. I enjoy incorporating black and white into my work as well.
Another element I enjoy is having a huge sweeping landscape with very small runners in them. Now a days we think human beings are superheroes that can manage anything, and thats not true. We’re small people in a huge world and I want to convey that through my images. When I’m able to shoot like that at sunrise or sunset to also show the true beauty of a place, that’s my favourite.
If you enjoyed reading about Philipp Reiter getting the Shot, checkout Life Outside for tons of great articles.
The arctic is the most extreme environment on the planet, and shooting there isn’t easy. Photographer Jon Golden shares his arctic experiences, talks gear, cameras, and close calls.
Warm weather is rare in Nunavut, Canada; the land is fiercely hostile, and desolately remote. Nestled among this icy wilderness lies the fifth largest island in the world: Baffin Island. The island is one of the coldest and the most remote destinations on Earth.
Baffin Island is located between the mainland of Canada, and Greenland. It has a population of ~11,000. The islands’ topography is riddled with an exceptional backbone of jagged peaks measuring up to 2,147 meters (~7044 feet) in height. Many of the mountains are snow-capped all year round with ancient glaciers, while the rest of the landscape is home to deep valleys, massive fjords, and arctic wildlife of all kinds. With 75% of Canadians living within 200 kilometers (124 miles) of the US border, it’s no surprise that the general population in Canada doesn’t know much about its own northern regions: After all, it is the second largest country on Earth.
Jon Golden has great respect for these remote environments, especially during the winter season. When in an isolated and brutal environment nearly 100 kilometers (61 miles) away from any form of civilization, it is critical to be as prepared and respectful as possible. Jon has already taken three trips to the Arctic in Canada, visiting places like Baffin Island, Nunavik, and Northwest Territories. On one return trip, after hearing he had been on six jet flights to get to Toronto, an airport employee asked Jon where he was traveling from. When he responded, “Norman Wells,” she promptly replied, “where is that”?
“If you’re not fully prepared for the Arctic, you’re a liability… and not just to yourself but to your team, to the locals, and the Canadian Parks Services, too. There’s not a lot of margin for error up there”
Golden has created an extremely dynamic lifestyle for himself in the 25 years he has been a professional photographer. While living in Norway, he managed to barter his way onto a Norwegian military winter survival course (in exchange for photos). The course was to become an integral piece to the puzzle for his preparedness in the Arctic.
What are some tips or advice you might have for someone looking to get into photographing subjects in extreme cold temperatures like the Arctic?
For me, as someone that grew up in Virginia, USA, much more southern than Canada, I had zero experience with the kinds of cold that you experience in the Arctic. I would also venture to say that most Canadians also do not have experience with the kind of conditions you get in the Arctic. When I was living in Norway, I was fortunate enough to take a Norwegian Military winter survival course, and learn the basics of extreme cold weather survival… things that most Canadians might learn growing up, if they go north at all. The most important advice I would have would be to get some experience in extreme conditions: Arctic cold is NOT the same as normal winter cold. Go out and car/truck camp in conditions that are -35°C and windy. Test yourself, test your gear and have the car or a cabin nearby. Read up on or take a course on Arctic survival. Like Scuba Diving, you have to be 100% comfortable in your environment to be able to work at a high level. Preparation is everything when visiting sub-zero temperatures.
How did you end up photographing in these extreme environments?
I started getting involved with extreme environments when I met Ray Zahab (a Fellow of The Royal Geographical Society and the Founder of Impossible2Possible). All things extreme in my world, more less come back to Ray.
What are some of your biggest challenges when trying to “get the shot” in these Arctic environments?
Cold is the obvious one, it makes everything more difficult or more time consuming… anything metal must be handled in gloves… you cannot just sit around. If you do stop moving you need to be in a sleeping bag, you need to plot and plan your bathroom routine, you need to make your meal preparation is as easy as possible. The cold determines everything that you do and how you do it, so it’s critical that you pay attention to every detail, and address every problem before it becomes a problem. Everything that I do, I do intentionally to combat the elements. I pack my camera batteries in the chest pockets of my first layer. I pack my snacks for the day in my parka pockets, accessible even on the back of a snowmobile. To keep everything warm while sleeping, I put my batteries in a pouch that I keep with me in the sleeping bag. My sleeping bag provides insulation for me and my batteries, while my parka protects the cameras. Every single consideration is taken, and if it’s not, you risk missing your few opportunities to create an image. There aren’t many opportunities to capture the expedition athletes in action, as I have limited access to them. When I do have access to them, the conditions don’t always cooperate, so you have to make those rare opportunities count.
You’ve spent a lot of time in some of the harshest places on Earth, and you can only be so prepared, there are often factors completely outside of you control and elements you can’t totally prepare for, have you ever had a “close call”?
I have had the snowmobile roll on its side, a couple times, while I rode it, fortunately into snow. This is one reason you have to pack your cameras for riding: so that when something like this happens, they don’t get broken or beat you up.
On the second expedition, my Inuk guide, Billy, and I, plus one more Inuk (they always travel with 2 snowmobiles) left the team on Day 3 to go back to Pangnirtung. We rode all day in increasingly worse weather, and when we left the Auyuittuq National Park (~5pm) we drove straight into whiteout conditions. We bounced around (sort of lost) for 4 hours in wind that Billy said was gusting up to 100mph/160kph. At least one gust moved me and the snowmobile ½ m (2 ft) sideways with me while sitting on it!
When we stopped at one point and I told him since it was 9pm, I felt we should either make a snow shelter, or I could press the OK button on my Spot device, call his wife on the SAT Phone and ask her to tell us where we were. She would be able to look up our location on my website, which has a the GPS location from the Spot.
I was hungry (we had not had much lunch or any dinner, snacking on macadamia nuts [high in calories/won’t freeze]), and tired from sitting on a snowmobile for 12 hours, at this point, BUT I was warm, and generally not uncomfortable, and I was with Billy. Billy was born in an igloo, and naturally, he has forgotten more about these conditions than I could ever learn…
Billy had left his GPS at home, as he felt it was unnecessary to drive to “Pang” (I would agree with him 100% of the time, except for whiteout conditions).
Anyway, he used his experience and knowledge of the fjord and of the Parks rescue hut system and we eventually got into a hut. (We went to “Pang” the next morning.)
Close calls are always a possibility in the Arctic, and you can never take anything for granted. You just have plan and be prepared as much as possible for the contingencies and then react to the situations as they happen… But being prepared means most importantly not panicking.
The Gear Jon Uses on Expedition
What camera gear do you use and why?
Cameras are tools, I try to use the best tools for the job. I currently use Canon 5D4, but have dabbled with Sony. They loaned me a camera (R7II & 24-70 2.8) for the last expedition, and when it was working it was great, but it had huge issues with batteries (which was a known issue for this camera in normal conditions).
The biggest problem was when the batteries died, the camera did a factory reset. Considering what you must do to get it back up to speed, I neither had the time nor the ability in gloves to fool with it during the day. When the batteries died, it got packed away, out of service, until I could deal with it. The Canon just wants new batteries and is back in business. A couple times, I have noticed my 16-35mm would not autofocus when it got super cold… I think the grease got cold. I think Nikons are even better in the cold based on observation of Billy’s camera – I think their batteries handle cold better.
You also need to visit all the settings and turn off LCD screens (they will turn black anyway from cold) and set the power settings to be as minimal as possible to save energy. You also need to figure out how to carry the gear on a snowmobile so to be quickly accessible, but not loose.
If you could only manage to bring one camera and one lens, or were recommending photography in harsh conditions to someone is just starting out, what would you use/recommend?
I would recommend going with a solid camera body like the Canon 5D4 and then picking a dynamic lens like the 24/70mm or 24/105mm. I normally carry two lenses, on 2 bodies: a 16-35mm and a 70-200mm and then I would leave the 24/70mm or 24/105mm at home. This is because you can typically use your other lenses to cover that focal range by “zooming” with your feet and working a little harder. If you can only mange one lens, you don’t have that option, and it’s an important and dynamic focal coverage to have.
How might you pack differently for an arctic shoot versus a typical shoot elsewhere?
You need to plan your battery situation. Since we typically have no recharge capability, you need to have enough batteries to cover your time in the field. You also need to plan for fully charged batteries to only be at 50% because of degradation of cold.
What are some items you’ve found to be invaluable specific to shooting in the arctic?
The clothing you need for Arctic specific protection is invaluable. Gloves are the most critical. I use Heat3 Gloves, which I’ve found after trying 4 different kinds of gloves on previous expeditions. None of those gloves that worked properly like Heat3 Gloves. The conundrum is you need enough insulation to keep your hands warm when handling the cameras, which may have cooled down to -30C, but still being able to have tactile control of the buttons. Heat3 Gloves give you both. But, while the Heat3 Gloves are great for shooting with, in super cold situations they were not warm enough for long runs on the snow mobile. This brand does have a new outer layer I can add that might correct this. I will try this next time. Previously, I swapped my right hand for a thicker mitten. My left hand was already in the thicker mitten as I really do not need it for anything. A few more key pieces of gear included in my arsenal are Rudy Project goggles, and Fenix flashlights, and the Spot device, which is an emergency EPIRB.
All photos by Jon Golden and used with permission.
“I think one of the key elements of my photography works is that I never just stand on the trail and take photographs.” – Corless
Ian Corless Getting the Shot
An Introduction to Ian Corless.
It would be impossible to introduce Ian Corless, and describe his passion for photography and his approach to getting the shot, as well as his involvement with ultra running better than Killian Jornet’s words in Corless’ book Running Beyond…
To quote Jornet:
Ian Has been there to witness the stories. He knows the sport, he practices it and he has been involved involved in many different aspects of it, all of which provides him with a great overview. He has the strength and the character to work many hours, even practicing his own ultra with cameras in order to to capture the emotions and the passion from inside the sport. Ian’s photographs convey the passion of the sport, and the beauty of his images immerse you in the aura of each race. We are able to feel what the runners have felt, and it is the closest you will get without being there yourself. – Killian Jornet
Running Beyond takes you on an epic visual journey.
Corless’ book Running Beyond, is jam packed with stunning mountain scenery and visceral emotions from runners as they experience the highs and the lows of running in these extreme environments. Corless manages to grab the reader and take them along on a journey to some of the most beautiful mountain and desert landscapes on earth. From the high mountains of the Himalayas, to the deserts of Africa. Ian’s book truly gives you a taste of what it might be like to run in these remote destinations.
How do you prepare to get ‘the’ shot?
I think one of the key elements of my photography works is that I never just stand on the trail and take photographs. I research races, I look at maps, decide on the best places to capture an image. Often, it can take me 2, 3, 4 or more hours to reach a location to get the best shots. One must commit to the shots and seek the best. I’m very demanding at a race and hard on myself to get the best I possibly can.
I’d love to learn a little bit more about that process. How you’re not just a bystander, but an active participant.
I come from a racing background so I understand the dynamic of the action. The best and unique shots come when you work for them. Also, you get a shot that nobody else gets. You get out of a race what you put in. Like I said, research on the course. Try understanding the best places for images, and then commit to getting there. That may mean less shots in a race, but I go for quality over quantity.
What are some visual aesthetics you look for when creating an image at a race?
While the runner is important, often, the landscape is equally if not more important. When you combine a great runner with a great landscape, you have a winning combination. I often like to provide perspective, show how small the runner is within the place they are running. You also need blood, sweat and tears. For that, you need to get close.
What advice would you give to a photographer who want’s to photograph these athletes and destinations?
Get out and shoot. Understand the sport, understand the dynamics, and research. You can start by doing any sporting event to initially master the skills required. It so much more than any one thing though.
All images by Ian Corless and used with permission.
To read more in our series of “getting the shot” visit Life Outside.