Behind the Shot: Ski’s Eye View of Monument Valley

This photo appears in the December 2015 issue of Powder Magazine, made with the Sigma 12-24mm lens atop my car! Photo © Liam Doran / Powder Magazine
This photo appears in the December 2015 issue of Powder Magazine, made with the Sigma 12-24mm lens atop my car! Photo © Liam Doran / Powder Magazine

I was about to leave on assignment shooting ski areas in New Mexico and Arizona for Powder Magazine and I was worried.  It had not snowed for weeks and conditions were far from ideal.  The editor and I had talked about it and we decided to go through with the shoot regardless . While I would still have to come back with solid ski action photography we would also lean heavily on the travel and story telling imagery to round out the package. Looking at the maps I realized that on my way to Arizona Snowbowl from Summit County, Colorado, I would have to pass through Monument Valley.  I wanted to improve upon the ultra cliché shot (standard view down the road to Monument Valley) with a fresh perspective.  I knew exactly the shot I would create to make it my own. To put my own stamp as a skier and ski photographer on this scene.

Here is the shot of the approach to Monument Valley that has been made thousands upon thousands of times.

Once I got to the top of the Monument Valley Road I pulled over and got set up.  I mounted my Canon 5DMKII and Sigma 12-24 4.5-5.6 lens on top of my car.  I used a Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod and 055 Magnesium ball head to keep my gear safe and steady.  I composed the frame so that I would see the skis on top of my car and also the surrounding landscape.  Finally I attached my wireless remote trigger to the camera and began driving through the desert landscape.

Canon 5D Mark II and Sigma 12-24mm lens mounted atop my Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod and secured to the rack.

I wanted the roadside to be blurred to show movement into the scene but I also wanted the background landscape and ski tips to be sharp.  Using the ultrawide 12-24 lens focused at the ski tips and a shutterspeed of 1/30 sec allowed me to do this.  ISO was at 100 and aperture at f/14 to maximize depth of field and total image sharpness.

The view from behind the camera.
Testing the wireless remote and depth of field with me in the frame.

Then it was time to make the shot. Rolling down the road at about 50 MPH, I triggered the camera with the remote several times and nailed the shot I was hoping for.

It’s a bit risky for the world’s top ski magazine to run a shot of skis travelling through the desert as the opener, but I’m glad they did…and it’s great to see a previsualized shot come to life just as you imagined it!

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Liam Doran

SIGMA Ambassador Liam Doran is an outdoor sports and adventure travel photographer based in Colorado. Liam's work covers all aspects of outdoor mountain life including skiing, biking, trail running, fly fishing as well as travel and lifestyle. His images appear regularly in commercial advertising and in today’s top outdoor magazines including Powder, Outside, Ski, Skiing, Trail Runner, Mountain Magazine and more.

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