Photographer Dale Tidy recently shot Red Bull Kite Farm, a ski and snowboard kiting endurance race, and the first of it’s kind to be held in North America.
Red Bull illume caught up with Dale to find out how it was to shoot the event in super harsh conditions.
How was it?
On the first day we had 70km/h winds and minus 39 degree temperatures including the wind-chill. Great conditions for the riders but not so joyful for the photographers! At those temps your camera starts to do funny things, auto-focus motors freeze in your lens, the mirror can seize up, my ISO was randomly switching from 200 to 1600 and back again without any notification, and accidentally breathing on the LCD screen would ice it over.
Having a second body stuffed down your jacket allows you to alternate between a frozen camera and slightly less frozen camera.Batteries at those temperatures drain rapidly too, I would keep one battery in my camera body and two in my pants pockets that had hand warmers stuffed in them. Once the body battery cooled down and died I would switch it out with a warm one that would be back up at full power.
A blizzard came through and started dumping snow creating “white-out” conditions that forced the event to be postponed until the next day. This made my frozen fingertips very happy! The second day was a relatively balmy minus 6 degrees and the winds had dropped significantly, making it an absolute pleasure to work in.
How did you shoot your aerial shots?
When I decided that my key shots would need the advantage of height I looked around at various options. Helicopters, cranes, boom lifts, planes and of course, drones. I didn’t go with a drone for 3 reasons. 1) Drones, much like cameras, don’t like extremely cold conditions and they can freeze up. 2) There would be a good chance that it would be impossible to fly a drone in the high speed wind conditions required for the sport of Snowkiting. And 3) I am not a drone expert and the last thing you want to be doing when working in extreme conditions is using gear that you are not completely 100% comfortable with!
The two options I chose instead was one safe option, and one riskier option. The risky option was to rent a 4 seater Cessna airplane typically used for aerial photography, this would allow me to get the exact images I had conceptualized and proposed to the client. The rental price was reasonable but once again the cost of this option was putting yourself at the mercy of the weather. If the clouds were too low there would be no possibility of the plane being allowed to leave the tarmac let alone capture any usable photos, but the chance of this was smaller than that of relying on a drone. The safe option incase that failed was to get creative and strap a GoPro to one of the competitors kites, I used a specific mount which I had purchased online before the event. No matter what the conditions were this option would not fail.
What’s the hardest part about shooting an event like this?
Basically being prepared for anything. When you are out in the field you cannot ask for help, because there is no help available. You are the expert, it’s what you have been paid to do. Like our green friend Yoda says “Do… or do not. There is no try”. Pressing the shutter and “nailing the shot” is the easy part. The hard part is everything before and after that, all the planning that goes into it, and all the work you have to do after to make sure the image makes it out on time for the press release later that day.