Extreme Sports Photography from Daredevils Themselves - Enlight Leak
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Extreme Sports Photography from Daredevils Themselves

September 17, 2015

For many of us, our Instagram feed is a collage of selfies, sunrises, and cappuccino foam art. But for a select few ultra-athletes and extreme photographers, their surreal Instagram feeds are breathtaking reflections of their everyday activities: they run through forests, scramble up cliff faces, and ski down mountains. These extreme endeavors and incredible surroundings provide the perfect opportunity to capture stunning images of both people and nature. We went in depth with a few accomplished adventurers to learn how they frame and shoot their most impressive pictures.

Even Pros Use Their iPhones

Your iPhone provides an easy way to capture stunning images quickly and unobtrusively. Julian Carr, a professional skier and climber from Salt Lake City, observes that when “the moment must be shot immediately…my iPhone is right there.” Extreme Sports Photography | Julian Carr

And Anton Krupicka, an ultra-runner, cyclist, and climber from Colorado Springs, notes that “all of my photos on Instagram are taken with my iPhone 5. It has a LifeProof case. I’ve actually dropped it (accidentally) over 100 feet down a climb and the phone itself was completely untouched.”Extreme Sports Photography | Alex Manelis

Go for the Action Shot, But Repeat If Necessary

For San Francisco-based climber and photographer Alex Manelis, the key to the perfect picture is a synthesis of spontaneity and planning. He says, “If I’m shooting an athlete for a company or magazine, I try to get them in action (in the zone) and then depending on the safeness of the situation I ask them to go back and do a slow repeat of a climbing route and maybe we’ll stage a few poses. You can never have too many photos… because, at the end of the day, you will walk away with two really good shots.” Extreme Sports Photography | Julian Carr

A good way to follow Alex’s advice is to shoot in burst-mode on the iPhone – by holding down the shutter button – and then picking and choosing which shots you use. With Enlight, use the “Mixer” tool and “Mask” feature to combine the best aspects of two distinct shots.

Shoot in Landscape

Julian Carr, who’s skied down some of the steepest slopes in the US, offers “I find myself shooting landscape more often than portrait, the eye instinctively gravitates towards landscape.” Even though iPhones are most easily used in portrait mode, landscape mode is generally best for action shots in extreme sports photography, since it provides broader context for the action within the frame.Extreme Sport Photography | Julian Carr

Alex Manelis, who shoots and climbs professionally, is similarly unequivocal, saying that the best way to photograph is “almost always landscape. I’ve always liked the wide feel to a photo, even in portraits.”Extreme Sports Photography | Alex Manelis

The Scenery May be Beautiful, But Focus on People

A picture of a mountain, valley, or forest is beautiful, but it’s not an action shot unless there’s a person in it.  As Alex Manelis points out, “I see so many climbing shots of butts and the back of heads, it’s not something anyone will remember as a good image.” Tilt shift (also called selective focus) is an effect that blurs scenery around the subject, while keeping the principal action in sharp relief. Extreme Sports Photography | Anton Krupicka

To use this feature in Enlight, go to Tools > Tilt Shift, where you can apply this effect, as well as adjust its position and intensity. Alex also notes that it’s critical to keep the fun and experience as the focus. “If you’re not having fun, no one will smile when the camera is pointed at them.”

The Early Bird Gets the Shot

Alex Manelis observes: “Morning is unbeatable. Takes a devoted person to get up pre-6 am, but when you do, it’s just a thousand times more worth it. Morning light just doesn’t compare to anything else.” In hotter environments, it also pays to shoot in the early morning or late-evening.Extreme Sports Photography | Alex Manelis

For Alex, Anton, and Julian, there is always a balance between the serenity of the outdoors experience and the record of the thrill. As such, each strives to take great photos, but to also appreciate the moment in and of itself. Julian Carr strives to appreciate the trip up the mountain, “Once on top,” he says, “take a few moments to breathe it in and enjoy the moment with friends or the solitude if you’re by yourself…on the way down is when I like to take pictures and have a photographer’s frame of mind.” Extreme Sports Photography | Anton Krupicka

For Anton Krupicka, “my goal is simply to share a small slice of what I’m doing most days with my followers.” Alex Manelis articulates, “I just try to go with the flow and let things happen naturally and also try to not put the focus on photography itself…I want to be able to look back and see all the cool things I did with close family and friends. We all are capable of going to cool places and doing awesome things.”

IMG_4251Extreme Sports Photography | Alex Manelis


Written by: David Leshaw.

Contributing Photographers: 

Julian Carr is a skier, mountain runner, and founder of Discrete Clothing. He calls Salt Lake City home, but loves traveling around the country and around the world, in search of the perfect peak. He is passionate about mobile photography, and often uses his iPhone or GoPro to record his incredible climbs and descents. 

Anton Krupicka is an ultra-runner, cyclist and climber who hails from Colorado. He’s committed to a life in tune with nature, and which respects the land and mountains on which he races. He uses mobile photography to easily document his incredible travels and experiences.

Alex Manelis is a photographer, climber, and software developer who lives in San Francisco, CA. He shoots everything from portraits to climbing photos off the side of El Capitan. He’s passionate about mobile tech and the potential it has for photography.



David LeShaw
David LeShaw

David is a freelance writer, and is often found at www.siliconspatula.com, where he writes about tech, business, and food, and the delicious times they coincide. In his spare time, he enjoys running marathons and traveling.

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