Five hot tips for shooting extreme sports, plus our photo competition!

Photo by Neil Cullum

Photographing extreme sports can prove to be a rather tricky business; you don’t know where to stand, how to prepare, how to make your shots stand out or perhaps aren’t brave enough to get up close and personal. Our five hot tips for shooting the extreme will sort you out. Oh and there’s a little prize to win too…


1. Anticipate the action
Perhaps one of the most important elements of extreme sports photography to learn is anticipating when the right moment for capture will be. It’s good to set up somewhere that will capture the subject and enough of the setting to make the composition really exciting; try getting below the ramp if it’s skateboarding you’re after or just underneath the top of a jump for snowboarding to get that extreme moment of action. Watch your subject for a while, learn their timings and their moves to see what works best for you then take a couple of practice shots.

2. Get close
The next important tip, once you’ve mastered your timing and positioning, is to get that little bit closer. Sidle up to the action and give it one big smack in the face, this is extreme sports so you need to suck it up and get close to the action if you want that wow shot. Don’t be afraid to get your camera close to the subject, though you’ll obviously want to ensure it doesn’t get caught in the cross-fire. If you don’t have powder on your nose when the snowboarder jumps over you, you’re not close enough. Alternatively you could use a fast, powerful zoom lens, but where’s the fun in that? Get in close and be part of the action.

3. Get arty with angles
So you’ve powdered your nose and the wind from the passing mountain biker is whipping through your hair. You’ve timed your shots to perfection and you’re feeling confident. Now it’s time to practice some originality; try out different angles to make your images really stand out. Try getting down low or lying on your back and get a good worm’s eye view shot of the passing biker, skateboarder or skier. Slanted angles also add to the overall effect when capturing a jump sequence, especially for skateboarders as you can follow the line of the railing they’re grinding on.

4. Better with burst mode
It can be difficult to capture the action when it’s happening so fast, regardless of how quick your shutter button reflexes are. Try shooting on burst mode to get a series of images, allowing you to select the best frame from the bunch. Begin the burst just before the action to give you enough frames to select from. Set the lens to AF and select continuous focusing (AI Servo AF Canon/AF-C Nikon) mode so that the lens can constantly maintain its focus on the moving subject. When photographing white backgrounds, like snow, you’ll need to overexpose it by at least 1 stop. This way the snow will appear white in the photo.

5. Show movement with blur
Alternatively to the continual focus, you can mix it up and add some blur to your shots, creating a sense of movement. You can do this by panning with the subject as they move. Turn the mode dial to M (Manual mode) and set the shutter speed to between 1/30s-1/120s. You’ll want the aperture as wide as you can get it as this will increase the effects of the blurred background without compromising the ability to keep the subject in focus. Keep your camera on the subject and your finger half way down on the shutter to lock the focus. When ready, snap your shot, remembering to follow your subject as they ski or ride past you. Continue to follow the line of motion after the shutter has been released to ensure as sharp an image as possible. The final result should have a sharp subject with a blurred background, showing off the sense of movement. It takes a little practice to get this effect right, but once you do you’ll elevate your action photos all the more; which is exactly what you want with photos of extreme sporting events.

In celebration of getting out there and taking extreme shots, like our featured image by Neil Cullum, we are running a little competition. You could win yourself one of three funky camera straps from Imo that will stand out in any snowy condition or at the side of the ramps or dirt track.

All you need to do is send us your best extreme sports shot by uploading it to our online gallery under the ‘Friday Giveaway’ category and title your image 'extreme'. We will choose the three best images from three photographers and each will win a wicked camera strap. Remember, only one image per photographer and the three winning images will get the prize. Competition will close Friday 12 October at 5pm and the winners will be announced Monday 15 October.

Good luck!




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