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How to shoot and film winter sports

Make the most of your GoPro or DSLR when you hit the slopes

Shooting sport at any time of the year presents challenges but never more so than during the winter months. Rotten weather, limited daylight hours, extreme temperatures and the increased risk of injury all contrive to make filming winter sports particularly tough. Nevertheless, with the right gear and a few technical tips you can produce some stunning results. 

Undoubtedly one of the most important considerations when shooting winter sports is the light, or more precisely lack of it. Unlike the summer months when you can shoot for most of the day, during the winter there are only a few hours available before the light fades completely. This means, generally speaking, it’s important to get up and out as early as possible in order to maximise filming time. 

Even then, filming opportunities may be limited due to adverse weather conditions, such as a ‘white out’ where you can’t see more than a few metres in front of your face. Bright white snow can play havoc with your camera’s built-in metering system too, exposing the background correctly but causing the subject you are filming (ie. the skier/snowboarder) to appear underexposed. 

Nor is it just the light that can affect filming winter sports. Weather conditions play a big part too

Before you start shooting, it’s a good idea to use your camera’s manual controls to adjust the exposure between +1 stop and +3 stops. Also because there is an increased amount of UV light in winter weather conditions, images and video can have a slightly blue tinge, so we’d advise putting a UV filter on the lens to ensure they are a little more neutral in tone. 

Nor is it just the light that can affect filming winter sports. Weather conditions play a big part too. Batteries, which are always a bugbear of any videographer, can – just like a car battery – die much more quickly in cold weather. A good idea is to put them inside a hand-warmer or failing that a warm inside jacket pocket and make sure you take plenty with you. 

Prepare for the conditions

Camera gear should also be placed inside large, sealable plastic bags on winter shoots to prevent moisture forming inside your camera’s lenses when you move from a cold environment back into the warmth. It also goes without saying you should wrap yourself up warm (yes Mum) and make sure you have some snacks and hot drinks in a flask with you in case conditions worsen!

Are you shooting another person, perhaps someone performing tricks or jumps on the snow? Or do you just want to film yourself using an action camera, such as GoPro? Whatever, it’s important you considering exactly what equipment you will need. For example, if shooting someone else from a distance then a decent telephoto lens is important if shooting stills to put the camera in shutter priority mode (marked as Tv on Canon DSLRs) and select a fast shutter speed such as 1/1000 sec to freeze the action. 

It’s also a good idea, if possible, to use a second angle, perhaps a wide angle lens right next to or even below the sportsperson in order to make the footage a little more exciting to view.

Finally, if you are filming with an action cam you need to consider how it can be mounted securely, perhaps on top of a helmet, across your chest or on your shoulder. There’s nothing worse than going out for a whole day’s filming only to find that half the footage is unusable or, worse still, you’ve damaged the gear because it hasn’t been strapped on properly!

5 accessories to help improve your video footage

1. Feiyu 3-Axis handheld gimbal

For professional, shake-free video

Reasons to buy
+Splashproof+8 hours running time
Reasons to avoid
-Limited compatibility-Motor is a little noisy

When you’re shooting fast moving action like winter sports it’s a good idea to invest in a stabiliser, or gimbal, to make images appear less shaky. Made from an aluminium alloy, this lightweight model from Feiyu is designed specifically for GoPro devices as well as similar action cams, such as the Kodak PixPro. The motorised arm is easy to grip thanks to a rubberised sleeve and features a four-way joystick for controlling camera movement in various directions and a self timer button for selfies. 

2. Manfrotto Lumimuse Series 8 LED light

A slim light to brighten video footage

Reasons to buy
+Compact design+Snap-fit filters
Reasons to avoid
-Easily switched on inadvertently -Expensive compared to rivals

When shooting in winter there may be times when you need more light to brighten up your video. Using Manfrotto's super-bright surface-mount LED technology, it means it can use fewer, bigger and brighter LEDs than other models. It also comes complete with two snap-on filters to adjust the warmth of the light and a diffuser, while it can either be mounted on top of a camera or alternatively onto a light pole or tripod using the adaptor provided. 

3. GoPro Chest Mount Harness

Get a completely immersive experience

Reasons to buy
+Fully adjustable+Immersive experience
Reasons to avoid
-Need to turn whole body-Can pick-up unwanted wind noise

If you're going to be skiing, GoPro's chest mount is a great piece of kit to capture the action. Fully adjustable to fit a wide range of adult sizes, the placement's great for getting some unique angled shots, though you will have to move your whole body to change the framing.

4. GoPro Shorty

A mini extension pole and tripod in one

Reasons to buy
+Very compact+Decent working height
Reasons to avoid
-Some flex when extended-Limited range of positions

There's some great mini tripods out there like Manfrotto's PIXI Xtreme, but don't overlook the Shorty from GoPro as it also doubles as a mini extension pole. This means it can be really useful for hand-holding, whether you're shooting someone else or yourself. Then it can be collapsed down and used as a tripod. It doesn't have quite the same range of angles as some rivals and lacks a ball head, but it's a very compact piece of kit. 

5. Manfrotto Off Road Stunt backpack

Medium-sized nylon bag with an unconventional design

Reasons to buy
+Decent capacitiy+Adjustable GoPro mount
Reasons to avoid
-Slow access to kit-Top-heavy when fully loaded

To keep all your kit safe, you'll want to pack it away in a bag and this one from Manfrotto is a great place to start. The rather unconventional design means the internal compartments are actually removable pouches - one can accommodate up to three action cameras, while there's space for a stills camera as well. A nice touch is the inclusion of a GoPro mount on one of the straps. 

Chris Price

Over 25 years experience as a staff and freelance journalist. Currently working freelance for The Daily Telegraph, writing technology content for the newspaper as well as working with their clients (Vodafone Microsoft, Nokia, SAP, DXC, BAE Systems) on branded content.