Recently Christoph Schöch did a colorful shoot with snowboarder Thomas Feuerstein, jumping through tinted smoke, using the Profoto B1. Naturally we had to ask him a few questions about it.
As for many professional photographers Lichtenstein based Christoph Schöch started in the business due to another interest. Passionate about skiing, mountain biking, and other action sports, he started to photograph his friends. Now he has been working as an outdoor and commercial photographer for 10 year. Equipped with a Profoto B1, smoke grenades, holy dust, and an extinguisher he and Thomas Feuerstein found the perfect slope in Montafon Valley.
Tell us about the shoot with the snowboarders jumping through holy dust. What was the assignment? Who was the client? What was the brief?
The shot I did with Thomas Feuerstein was a free project of mine. We’d had that idea in our minds for a long, long time and we wanted to give it a try. As soon as we finished building the jump we gave the holy dust a try. We had two assistants helping us out throwing the powder in the air. After the first show we realized that we have to wait for a moment without any wind. The particles of the dust were super light and as soon the wind hits them it was nearly impossible to throw them in the direction you wanted them to be. After some more tries we figured out the perfect setup.
What did you as a photographer bring to the table? What did you want to achieve?
I had that idea of a Thomas flying through the snow with a stylish backside air. He’s known for doing this trick in a very perfect way. We met and discussed how we want to realize that show. First we thought about a daylight shooting but then I convinced him to do this at night. I love creating minimalistic shots with a clean background and nothing disturbing around it that distracts the eye from the actual action.
How did you achieve that? Tell us about the planning, the setup, the tools and the actual realization of all things planned!
We were scouting for an easy access spot close to a road to make it easy to move and get the gear where we wanted it to be. We found that spot on, at the very end of Montafon Valley. So we packed 3 cars full of gear and drove to the spot. We setup a lights build the jump and waited for the sun to set. After it was completely dark we started with the shoot.
What flash duration did you shoot at to get as sharp images?
Mostly I shot on low iso with 1/200 shutter speed. I gave it a try to push sync speeds up to 1/800 of a second, using the HSS, and results turned out really great. If you see the pictures in full resolution you can see every particle of the dust. Love this function. It really useful if you’re shooting fast moving objects at sunrise or sunsets.
In terms of lighting and lighting equipment, what do you need to get the shot you want?
I love to shoot with ambient light and flash light. You can get really great results out of it. For me it’s the most important thing that, when I push the button that everything works together perfectly. It can be really frustrating if the gear you use is not reliable.
What’s in your camera bag and lighting bag? Why this?
In my camera bag I always have my Canon 5d Mark III with me and lenses between 10-200mm. In my lightning bag I carry two to four B1 heads with tripods and Light Shaping Tools. It’s never a bad idea to have the gear with you in case you need it. I love that you can take a lot of gear with you in small bags with less weight. It makes it really easily to move from one spot to another.
What are the most common challenges you face in your line of work?
As an outdoor photographer you have to be very flexible. For example you always have to fight against weather and snow conditions. Things change really quick and you have to make sure that you use your chances to get good pictures. For this shoot, the wind was a bit of an issue. But luckily we had some good moments to get the shots done. I think for Thomas it was the most challenging not to inhale the smoke while jumping through it.
See more of Christoph Schöch images and projects on his website.