Let's face it, a big part of getting outdoors is capturing the moment on camera. Between the stunning snowcapped mountains and the picturesque town, Park City and its surroundings offer the perfect backdrop for any budding photographer. No one knows this better than Salt Lake City-based outdoor lifestyle and adventure sport photographer Louis Arevalo. In addition to commercial projects, he's spent years wandering the local backcountry with camera in hand, shooting mountain bikers, climbers, runners, skiers, snowboarders, and everyone in between for work and pleasure.
We chatted with Arevalo to find out more about his passion for adventure photography and what advice he has for budding action photographers who want to immortalize their outdoor escapades.
Can you tell us a little bit about the above image of Kaylin Richardson?
On this day our group of four—two skiers and one friend who played safety observer and peanut gallery member—met pre-dawn and made our way up to a line I had been wanting to shoot for some time," says Arevalo. "We were treated with blue bird conditions and nice consolidated snow on top of a beautiful peak. We yo-yoed our way down. I shot each skier one at a time, then regrouped, lined up another shot, slid into position, shot and repeated. Near the bottom of the run when I told Kaylin I was good for the day she suggested one more set up and pointed to this beauty of a glade.
What’s your favorite thing about shooting action shots?
What I really enjoy about shooting snow sports is watching. While it's incredible to participate in these sports, there's something more special about watching your friends, colleagues, athletes, etc., interact in these magical places. Everyone has their own approach and style and if they are really enjoying the moment, it can be seen and more importantly shared with all that are witness to it.
Do you have a local place you just love to shoot in?
Every season I make my rounds in the Central Wasatch, returning to the same places time and time again. During the winter—when the sun is so far south in the sky—it's amazing how every day can look completely different. I revel in those subtle differences. That being said, exploring new zones always keeps me inspired.
What do you consider the key elements of capturing a good action shot or someone in motion?
Regardless of what you are shooting understanding the lighting is key. Try to ignore the old advice of shooting with the sun at your back. Experiment with shooting with the sun at different angles, to your right and left, and have a blast shooting toward the sun to see how things look backlit, with flare, and capturing the sun star.
What are a few things amateur photographers can try to get a better shot?
Shoot early and late to take advantage of the "golden hour." In the dead of winter there are days where the shadows stay long and provide opportunities all day to shoot and come home with beautiful images. Just because it's snowing doesn't mean you shouldn't shoot. With the current state of digital cameras you can even shoot during storms and come back with the contrast needed to make strong images. Go to the trees to gain separation of the skier/snowboarder from the background. If trees are not an option, try filling the frame with the skier/snowboarder. You can use the burst mode on your camera and begin shooting before the subject hits the mark and continue after they have moved through the frame.
Finally, set up your skier/snowboarder for success by playing to their strengths. You don't want to have your subject do something they are not comfortable with or have never done before. Do they have a race background? Try shooting them arcing down a freshly groomed run at sunrise. Are they more of a park rider? Head over to the terrain park or find a natural feature for them to play off of. If they don't have any on-slope strengths, head to the bar and snap those après activities!
What is your no.1 tip for someone who wants to take a good action shot using a smartphone?
Please avoid zooming on your phone before taking the shot. You are making a very small sensor even smaller and killing the quality of the image. Move closer to the subject. If you can't be any closer shoot the image as is then crop after the fact.
Now it's your turn! Grab your camera, your friends, and get after it! If you need an extra dose of inspiration, feel free to check out Arevalo's extensive portfolio here.