Snow, Skis and Lyle’s Lookout

Essential Ski Photography Gear

Essential ski photography gear: Lowepro Photo Sling Pack, sturdy water-resistant camera body with weatherproof kit lens, goggles to keep your vision clear, and some super comfy Dalbello Voodo0 alpine boots.

The snow is coming down fast in the Sierra Nevada range this winter. I grabbed my OMD with the 12-50mm zoom lens, and headed out on for some skiing this weekend. The photo below is of the view from Lyle’s lookout overlooking what would be a view of either Donner peak or one of the other mountains nearby, if we were not in the middle of a week-long snow storm!

I learned several photography lessons on this early winter trip into the high Sierras.

  • Bring weather-resistant photo equipment
  • +eV exposure settings are key for snowy pictures
  • Sling packs are awesome for skiing with your camera

I put the “drip-proof” OMD camera body and what I hoped was at least a -10°C functional spec. for the Olympus 12-50mm kit lens to the test. Everything worked beautifully! Well, it started to work after I figured out how to carry everything while skiing, and how to set the exposure for near white-out snow conditions.

I do wish that at least one of the awesome prime lenses from Olympus were weather sealed. I would have loved to use the 45mm/f1.8 or maybe the 12mm/f2.0 on this outing, but didn’t want to risk it once I saw how much snow was coming down. The kit lens is very versatile and even after getting dumped nose first in a snow bank, it worked great. I was worried about internal condensation when going in and out of a warming hut, but saw none.

The critical new piece of equipment for me during both alpine and nordic skiing days, turned out to be the Lowepro sling pack that I bought the week before. This is the 100AW Photo Sport Sling model. It has a single shoulder strap plus a cross strap that can be released to swing the bag from back to front, to quickly access the compression strung camera compartment. It fits the micro 4/3 body and zoom lens easily, and can fit several additional lenses, mini iPad, and other small supplies. I also added a tripod strapped outside of the pack to complete the kit. I got this pack after reading this review and trying it out at an awesome local photo shop.

It was very comfortable to release the pack and swing it forward before getting on chairlifts when alpine resort skiing at Sugar Bowl. I lightened the load by leaving out the extra lenses and tripod for nordic skinny ski striding at Royal Gorge.

After a few hours of practice, it only took me a couple of seconds to reposition the sling and get the camera out and focused on target. In the pack, the padded compartment kept the camera snug and safe even during a pretty spectacular wipe out when trying a Telemark turn on a steep grade in the powder. All good.

I was disappointed with my first few shots when I saw gray looking snow covering most of the frame. A couple clicks of the exposure compensation dial fixed this (+0.7 eV seemed to do the trick for the most part). This generation of Olympus customized 16MP sensor managed to produce the magic color tones that I love to see out of this camera – even with snowflakes streaking across the view, the sun behind a thick cover of clouds most of the time, and fast-moving skiers making spot focusing tough to get right.

Here are some of my favorite images from a winter wonderland in the Sierra Nevada mountains.


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