Big Sky Ski Resort is the largest ski area in the United States. I wanted to cover as much as possible across the resort so I decided to take advantage of its expert guides. My mountain guide was Ben Brosseau, who brought along Dave Stergar, a schoolteacher and expert skier from Helena, Montana.
We hit the slopes an hour before other skiers so I could use the early light in my photographs. As we rode the first lift up the mountain, I asked them about places that would provide an exciting foreground and show Lone Mountain in the background. Lone Mountain is the visual behemoth of the area standing 11,166 feet tall, providing the backbone of the ski area.
Ben and Dave took me to a place that fit my requirements. We found the sun lighting a spot where we would capture the action with the mountain in the background. I wanted the scene to be front lit as much as possible.
We found an untouched snowdrift with a spot of early morning sunlight grazing its top. I considered the shadow on the side of the drift a photographic bonus because the dark area would make a skier really stand out in the picture.
Photo tip: I used the 35mm setting on my lens, chose an aperture that would give me a fast 1/3,200 second shutter speed, and focused on the sunlit spot.
After I got the photo (see above), we set out to find a spot with the sun in the background. I love backlit photos because they can be very dramatic.
Photo tip: I looked straight into the sun and spent time taking pictures of the untouched snow powder, trying to establish the proper exposure with my camera’s meter set to manual. If the sun is going to appear in the picture, it’s best to set your lens at F22, turning the white-hot blob into a sun star.
In many ways the photo of Dave (in green) best captures a Big Sky experience. The light is great, the action is intense, and Lone Mountain provides a beautiful backdrop. The backlit photo of Ben (in red) is slightly flawed. The bright sun shining straight into my camera caused multicolored flares across the frame of the picture. The sun could be viewed as being a little distracting. But the dramatic tension is undeniable.
Photo editing is ultimately about opinion and I’m going to say that the imperfect picture is the best one. It captures the feeling I felt when Dave went flying by, and for me that’s what really matters.