Ski Jumping – The Original Extreme Sport

The 2013 Harris Hill Ski Jump in Brattleboro Vermont was definitely one of the highlights of my photographic month. If ski jumping has ever looked tame to you in the Olympics I would encourage you to hike the 185 stairs to the top of the spectator area in Brattleboro and watch the jumpers up close.

Harris Hill Ski Jump 2013 - Brattleboro, Vermont

Not only is it a big deal for the town of Brattleboro, but it’s a big deal in the world of ski jumping.  This year’s event is the only stop on the F.I.S. tour in the US.

Harris Hill Ski Jump 2013 - Brattleboro, Vermont
I had an assignment to shoot a video for the Burlington Free Press on Saturday showcasing the event for their online readers.  Sunday would be all mine to freely shoot stills.

As far as video goes, it is totally new territory for me and definitely got me out of my comfort zone.  It’s a skill that I’m looking forward to honing as it is certainly a great service to be able to offer. Here’s what I came away with for my first ever try at video production. Go ahead and switch it to 1080p and full screen when it starts playing.

What struck me about the event is just how much noise the jumpers make as they take off. It really was as it sounds in the video, like a fighter jet doing a close fly by.

Harris Hill Ski Jump 2013 - Brattleboro, Vermont

Since this weekend was a F.I.S. sanctioned event, there were tight restrictions on where media could be during the event. Lucky for me I was able to sneak down to the hill on the Friday before the event for their practice session. During this time I put on my best “I am supposed to be here look” and made my way up all 300 or so steps to the very top of the jump.

Harris Hill Ski Jump 2013 - Brattleboro, VermontHarris Hill Ski Jump 2013 - Brattleboro, Vermont

Ski Jumping really lends itself well to being shot using a panning technique. You’ve seen it, it’s when the subject is in sharp focus and the background is a blur that conveys movement.  It’s a skill that takes a good mix of practice and luck. It’s also highly addictive and very satisfying when you nail it. Here’s the skinny on how to try it:

  • Find a moving subject where their path is predictable.  It helps to have repetition like you would find in a competition (auto racing, ski racing, bowling?) so you can try and try again.
  • Set your camera to shutter priority – TV on your dial – and choose a shutter speed around 1/60th/sec.  It gets harder, but the results can be even more striking at slower speeds.
  • Try to track your subject consistently through the viewfinder as your fire away.  You want them to remain in the same place in your viewfinder.  If you nail it, your background will be blurred and the subject will be sharp.  You will also be ecstatic.

Harris Hill Ski Jump 2013 - Brattleboro, Vermont


Harris Hill Ski Jump 2013 - Brattleboro, Vermont


Even if you don’t quite nail what you’re going for, you can find some pretty neat effects depending on how the camera was moving relative to the subject.

Harris Hill Ski Jump 2013 - Brattleboro, Vermont 

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