If you asked me what my most vivid impression of paragliding was, I would tell you “The air and the wind lashing and cutting your face.” We can’t help but imagine a beautiful winter landscape without a blanket of snow, or a breathtaking lake or mountain, but it is the air, the wind, that will always be there to shape that view – gnawing at the rock, moving the water and molding the snowpack. I think air is an element that, no matter how much it fades into the background, is always present in my photos. Sometimes I’ve set up entire shoots just to avoid it and other times I just dove into the storm to be with it.
Certainly, one issue that has always been clear to me is that there is no good outdoor photo without some “air” below. Photographers, whether they were landscape or sports photographers, have always tried to capture that moment, that gesture that goes far beyond simple static motion. And I, little by little, push myself to go beyond the limits I set for myself. Whether it is with a runner in the Dolomites, or a tourist looking for the best view of the valley, I look to capture those moments where a sense of movement in time is not missed.
In my continuous search for capturing these moments and finding a sense of being airborne in the subjects portrayed, I inevitably went to look for more and more extreme sports – from mountain climbing, to trail running on rocky ridges to paragliding. It is in this last endeavor that I found the highest expression of being airborne.
Paragliding, I came across a mountain with steep, vertical slopes that ended in a pristine lake. The winds that buffeted the mountain side created currents that lifted us all up effortlessly, carrying us through the air. Climbing to the place where we launched from seemed complicated at times, with many safety precautions that needed to be followed. With its many ropes and knots, paragliding proved to be more complicated than I had initially expected. But the moment your feet lift from the ground and you let go into the wind, everything seems to have found its rightful place in the world.
Shooting while paragliding is not simple. Besides having to coordinate with the pilot, you also have to coordinate with your accompanying paraglider. Via radio I would tell him to, ”pass over, not under,” while taking as many panoramic shots as I could – some with the subject in the center, others that focused more on the depth of the surrounding landscape and others that were sublime – the images you always wanted to capture with a drone because the view below is so spectacular.
Of course, launching yourself into the void with another paraglider is not something you do every day. So, for all the other times when your feet remain on the ground, I suggest you look for some exciting perspectives, even if it means walking a few hours. Often, getting to the top of a mountain, you can find some interesting lines, and with a good model or athlete, create some shots of your subject running, jumping or moving in some way that help you build a richer and more interesting image.
For example, for a classic shot like that of a subject with a beautiful landscape in the background, think about adding interest with overhead lighting, or clouds colored by the sunset or some form of athletic movement like skiing or ski jumping. The possibilities are endless, and if you need some inspiration, check out the work of Chris Burkard, Alex Strohl, Rachael Talibart or Autumn Schrock to see how you can approach shooting the outdoors with a different and creative perspective.
Some techniques I like to use include fast camera shutter release and an open aperture focused on the subject for heightened emphasis. If you’d prefer to have your focus on a panoramic view instead, look for an aperture around F8 so you still have the background in focus. Editing remains a detail that should not be overlooked, so be sure your images look consistent across all platforms such as pcs, MacBooks and smartphones.
Even if a photograph is beautiful without a lot of color correction, it’s still important to attend to details such as slightly increasing the brightness in the center of the image with a radial filter or increasing the contrast for more sharpness. As far as saturation goes, I don’t feel you need to amplify this – this aspect is really a matter of photographic style and how vivid the existing colors already are. What is important, however, is the calibration of your screen for color accuracy. It would be a pity if a beautiful photo was poorly evaluated in a contest because it was too saturated, or you were disappointed to find a print of your image had a strange yellow cast. This is where Datacolor’s SpyderX helps. We used it to calibrate all our screens with the same certified color profile, so our images wouldn’t look different when displayed on our phones or when shared, avoiding having your mother call and ask, “Why is the sky a weird purple?”
All you have to do is look for your own version of “air” and throw yourself into the wonderful world of the outdoors in search of a new shot, a new adventure or simply a new discovery.