When bad weather kept Christoph Jorda and his team from shooting what they had planned, a sightseeing trip provided the inspiration for an extraordinary photograph. Profoto B1 Off-Camera Flashes gave Christoph the flexibility—and reliability—for this once-in-a-lifetime shot.
Earlier this year, Christoph Jorda spent a week shooting with the Salomon Freeski Team in Andermatt, Switzerland. The goal was to shoot some epic big mountain freeride action, but bad weather and avalanche risk kept him and his team off the slopes. Rather than just sit around, they decided to hop on the train that runs from Andermatt to Zermatt to do some sightseeing.
Then the lighthouse appeared out the window.
Built in 2010, it stands more than 2,000 meters up in the Oberalp pass between Andermatt and the Surselva region. It is the highest lighthouse in the world and the only one in the Alps. It was erected as something of a tourist attraction.
A crazy idea is born
“Everybody had the same idea,” Christoph recalls “We got off the train and walked over to it. As soon as we got there, a crazy idea was born to jump onto the rail of the lighthouse and touch it with the tails of the ski.”
To have a great idea is one thing. Making it happen is something else. “Before we could think about anything else, we had to check the approach for the skier to see if he could generate enough speed to get high enough and if the landing would be safe.”
Fortunately, there is a little restaurant right next to the lighthouse and the project captured the imagination of the owner, who let the team set up camp inside, out of the blowing snow.
“She was absolutely amazing,” Christoph says. “She gave as free drinks and food, lights, shovels and, most importantly, the key to the lighthouse, so I could set up my B1’s inside.”
Light and flexible with no cables
Christoph used three Profoto B1 lights with Zoom Reflectors: One on the top of the lighthouse as the main light source, one inside the lighthouse to light up the windows and one outside behind it. The 300-meter range of Air Remote TTL-C simplified set-up. “To shoot in environments like that you have to be as light as possible and as flexible as possible,” he says.
With borrowed shovels, and working in a snowstorm, six members of the team spent five hours building a ramp to get the skier high enough for the shot.
After two successful test runs, the next thing to do was wait until dark. “I wanted to have the picture as dark and dramatic as possible, like a ‘real’ lighthouse in the middle of a storm,” Christoph explains.
An element of risk
And this is where things got risky, because as soon as the light was perfect, the wind picked up and the visibility deteriorated.
“This is not a studio! I cannot do the shoot all over again,” Christoph emphasizes. “The rider and the entire team trust me to get it right and make sure that everything works out. The skier is putting himself in a really dangerous position and everything needs to work. This puts a lot of pressure on my shoulders. I really have to trust my equipment that it works!”
To finally get the shot, the skier, Sebastian Scheck, had to put skins under his skis and had to hike up the mountain for about 20 minutes to get high enough to generate enough speed, height and distance for the jump to be safe.
“It was pretty clear that he would still be too slow because the strong wind had damaged the approach,” Christoph explains. “So all the other riders went up and skied down to pack the snow and make the approach as fast as possible.”
At that point, the challenge became the need for split-second timing. As Christoph puts it, “Super-fast skier, shoot in that millisecond when the skies touch the rail, get out of the landing before the rider lands on my head or hits me with a pole. So another thing I really love on the B1s is the way I could use Freeze mode to freeze the action.”