April is a great month to shoot skiing in Colorado. Warm temps, blue sky days, and midweek very few skiers on the slopes….no lift lines.
I wanted to shoot a classic sunstar jump image, which meant two things. First, I needed a skier that can fly high out of pipes and off jumps. Enter Dave, a ski coach and incredible skier. Second, I needed a flash to fill in the light. I love the Elinchrom Ranger, this pack just takes a beating and keeps shooting. With 1100 watts, it has plenty of power to underexpose the background on a sunny day. How to carry the gear?
My lighting set up fits perfectly in my LowePro Vertex 300. I can put a Ranger RX (smaller version to the Ranger Speed RX), one head, camera and lenses all into the same pack. The Ranger weighs about 13 pounds, the head around 4 pounds, so you have 17 pounds of lighting gear. Add in a Nikon D3 and lenses, one Manfrotto 366B stand attached to the outside and you have a pack that weighs around 30 pounds. The Vertex suspension system does a fine job carrying this load while skiing. Remember, carrying around 75 percent of the weight on your hips and the rest on your shoulders is the way to go. After years of carrying 80+ pound packs as a guide, you live and breath carrying weight efficiently.
The other issue with this image is freezing the action. Since the Ranger and Freelite A head produce a very fast flash duration, as long as I minimize the effect of daylight on my exposure, the action will be frozen in time. To accomplish this I set my daylight for 2 stops underexposed, ensuring that the flash, not daylight, would be the main light illuminating Dave. The flash froze Dave in the air with no ghosting at all.
Underexposing the background and creating a sunstar work together perfectly. You need a small aperture opening to achieve a sunstar, so I set my aperture at F22. This tiny opening also helps underexpose the daylight. I set my ISO to 100 (L1 on Nikon), shutter speed to 1/200 and was ready to go. The pack was set to full power at 1100 watts. I use these exact settings everytime I shoot sunstars and flash, it always works as long as my subject is around 10 feet away.
Tech: Nikon D3, 14-24mm 2.8, F22 at 1/200, ISO 100. Elinchrom Ranger RX, Freelite A head, Skyport wireless system to trigger flash.