This week’s “How I got the shot” takes us to Whistler, British Columbia, where breakneck speeds test photographer Robin O’Neill’s camera skills.

Eric Hjorleifson

Skier Eric Hjorleifson chases Hugo Harrison; photo courtesy of Robin O’Neill

Name: Robin O'Neill
Age: 40
Hometown: Whistler, British Columbia
Bio: Robin O’Neill is an outdoor lifestyle and action photographer based in Whistler, British Columbia. Her editorial and social documentary backgrounds have helped her develop a unique view of the wild landscapes and wilder personalities that surround her. By translating her passion for outdoor adventures into exciting visual stories and dramatic imagery, she has found much success, including in winning both the Whistler Deep Winter and Deep Summer photo showdowns, and in working with many reputable outdoor brands.

Who: Eric Hjorleifson chasing down Hugo Harrison
Where: Blackcomb Mountain, Whistler
Why: It was in the final hours of Deep Winter 2012, a three-day photography competition, and I wanted to evoke the feeling we have as skiers when we are chasing down our friends at high speeds through the terrain. I wanted to capture this from a skier's perspective, while keeping that skier in the frame as a subject. This meant strapping a camera to Eric Hjorleifson's chest, and triggering it remotely using radio slaves.

I knew that I wanted to get my angle as wide as possible for this shot. At that time my sport camera was the Canon 1D Mk IV, which has a cropped sensor, so the first step was to select the 5D mark III to ensure no information would be lost to cropping. In an effort to get even wider than the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II lens that I would normally use [would allow], I experimented with the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye, which shoots a perfectly circular image when zoomed out. It was up to my editor to later warp and stretch the circle into a rectangle using Photoshop.

Selecting the correct shutter speed to represent Hoji's movement was critical to the success of this shot. Insufficient blur would create an overly static feeling, while too much blur would dilute its meaning into abstraction as the subjects would be lost. Anticipating that my athletes would be traveling at breakneck speeds, a shutter of 1/160th was the right range to show their velocity while still preserving the details.

In this case my main subject was Hugo (in red) as much as it was Hoji in the foreground; given that they would be matching each other's pace, I knew that a slow shutter would keep Hugo sharp so long as he was moving at the same rate as Hoji. But being unable to anticipate their exact distance from each other, I selected an f-stop of 22 to ensure that Hoji and Hugo would both be sharp no matter what. I simply left the lens on manual and focused on infinity for the whole trip down. As usual, my ISO decision was left until last, to ensure a proper exposure once the creative considerations had been satisfied—in this case it was 160.

What the image was shot with: 1/160s, f/22, ISO 160, 10mm on Canon 5D MarkII
Magazine affiliation: Bike Magazine, Powder Magazine
Sponsors: Arc'Teryx
Instagram: Robinoneill

For more “How I Got the Shot”

How I Got the Shot: Rainbows and giant barrels in Teahupoo
How I Got the Shot: Whistler's Mount Fee takes center stage
How I Got the Shot: Justine Dupont's rear gets covered
How I Got the Shot: Skier flies above winter wonderland Strandafjellet

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