8 Tricks to Composing Better Photos

©istockphoto/triocean

©istockphoto/triocean

Photos are only as good as the person taking them. Whether you’re using a fancy pro SLR or a simple smartphone. Here are 8 tricks to composing good photo that you can use for making giant landscapes to mount on your wall or images to post on social media.

Understand Where the Eye Goes
The human eye is far more sophisticated than the camera, and it sees in slightly different ways. We see moving images with binocular vision, so it’s no surprise when still two-dimensional still images fail to inspire us. And when we look at images, our reactions occur nearly instantaneously, hard-wired in our primitive midbrain through millions of year of evolution.

The eye will look at a photograph in a particular order:

  • The area of greatest contrast, then the highlights, then the midtones, and then the shadows
  • Warm colors before cool colors
  • Sharp objects before blurry objects
  • Isolated elements before clumped elements
  • Things that appear to be moving, before things that appear still
  • Things that appear closer before things that appear far away
  • Humans before non-human elements

So if you have an area of high contrast that ‘s not the main subject, it will be a distraction. Watch out for that guy in the background wearing a red jacket, and make sure the areas of sharpest focus is the critical part of your image.

Don’t Use the Center…Unless You Really Want To
You’ve probably heard of the “rule of thirds”: dividing the frame like a tic-tac-toe board and putting major elements on the corners. This framing gives elements i room to move side to side and up and own, either in or out of the frame. When we place an item in the center, there’s only one way it can move: directly toward or away from the viewer. For that reason, center placement works well with close-up portraits with direct eye contact, but not for landscapes, action shots, or any image where there are interactions between elements within the photo.

Simplify
When in doubt, keep it simple. Your eye can make sense of the cluttered background, colors, and movement—but remember, your eye is a far superior tool. Decide what’s important to the story you’re telling, and eliminate everything else you can.

Get Closer
War photographer Robert Capa said “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” (Remember that Capa died capturing images of the Vietnam War.) This is still true, even in the age of giant lenses.. Get as close as you can to the main subject. It will yield a better result than zooming in.

Digital SLR camera on a tripod shooting a sunset in a snowy landscape

©istockphoto/Sjo

Learn Your Lines
In photos, lines have meaning. Horizontal lines convey stability, rest, and being grounded. Vertical lines signify strength, power, and dominance. Diagonal lines are about motion from A to B, and converging diagonals draw the eye powerfully to where they converge. Curves also move, but far more fluidly and sensually, flow through the frame rather than directly from point to point.

Create Motion
If you want to make seem have a sensation of moving in a still image, you’ll want to use diagonals or curves. But you’ll want to do more than that. Give the subject room to move: empty space in the frame where it’s heading. The tighter you box it, the less of a sense of motion it will have. In some cases you won’t want to do this: see Tip# 8.

Add Depth
You’ll want to make the two-dimensional image resemble the three- dimensional world you saw. There are a couple of ways to create depth. One is with a strong foreground-background relationship, usually by getting close to a large element, and zooming out to wide-angle. Another is by managing depth of field if your camera allows. You can also use color. Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow will come forward, while cool colors like blues and greens will recede to the background. A fourth is to have the foreground more strongly lit than the background.

Break the Rules When It Suits You
The “Rules of Composition” aren’t really rules at all: nobody’s been arrested for breaking them. But they are hard wired deep in our consciousness: when we follow the “rules,” our brain instinctively relaxes. That works if you’re trying to convey peace, comfort, or beauty. It doesn’t work if you want to convey stress, tension, drama, or fear. When I’m photographing outdoor sports, where intensity and fear are key emotions, I often break the rules by tilting horizons, boxing subjects tight against the frame edges, and using darkness and high contrast to convey that tension.

Most of all, get out and shoot—and then asked an unbiased person what they think. Then go out and shoot again.

by Neil Schulman

We love you, just remember that.

Outdoor Tech® Tapped as Audio and Power Partner to Level 1’s Annual Feature

Level1 Superunknown

DENVER, CO (January 28, 2015) — Level 1 and Outdoor Tech® are proud to announce their exclusive audio and power partnership for the 16th annual Level 1 feature film and SuperUnknown XII.

“Outdoor Tech is leading the charge with progressive audio and power products, and as a brand they couldn’t be a more perfect fit for our approach to marketing, image and design. It’s very clear that they’re doing amazing things and growing in the right direction and I’m excited to have Level 1 on board to help them get where they’re going!” says Level 1 Director Josh Berman.

Outdoor Tech® is no stranger to Level 1. They have been partners in the last two SuperUnknowns: the biggest, best and most long-standing video talent search in skiing, and their products can be found in the Denver flagship store.

Outdoor Tech® CEO Caro Krissman adds, “I have had the pleasure of getting to know Josh over the past few years and have grown to have tremendous respect for how he and his crew continue to push the limits and reinvent the wheel both from the production and distribution sides of the business. To strengthen our partnership with the best and smartest in the industry keeps us close to our core and helps us continue to strengthen Outdoor Tech in snow. We are all insanely stoked on it.”

About Level 1:

Level 1 is a group of the most talented filmmakers, photographers, editors, designers, and athletes in the snowsports industry, trekking the globe to capture compelling images of the best skiing action, and cutting them up to deliver premium content and stories to a big screen, TV, computer, or magazine near you! We’re all passionate about what we do, guarded about what we put the Level 1 stamp on, and determined to stay true to our vision, no matter what. www.level1productions.com

About Outdoor Tech:

Founded in 2010, Outdoor Tech® is an outdoor designer brand creating accessories for an action-filled lifestyle, or Stuff You Probably Want®. As the creator of the industry leading, fully wireless CHIPS® for ski and snowboard helmets, they have proven there is a way to stay connected but not tethered on mountain. For more on Outdoor Tech® and the rest of its line including rugged portable power and the potentially iconic Yowie® Logo apparel collection go to OutdoorTechnology.com.

We love you, just remember that.

6 Ways to Ruin a Season in the Mountains

OT_ruinseason

You spent months—or years?—saving enough money to spend a season in the mountains. You secured the elusive ski resort job and the even more elusive ski resort accommodations. You’ve got your gear. You’ve got your crew. You’re ready for the best season ever.

Now don’t screw it up.

The vast majority of seasonnaires leave in the springtime, a smile pasted on their face and a snowball-shaped hole in their heart. But without fail, every season there are a few who mess it up for themselves. They’re easy to identify—they’re the ones muttering “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve” under their breaths as they board the plane back home. Here’s how you can join that party.

Break a Bone
The cardinal ski resort sin, breaking a bone is a sure way to ruin the season. The earlier you break the bone, the worse you’ve ruined the season—a broken femur on opening day is as bad as it gets. On the plus side, you probably broke it in a really cool way, making for an awesome story. On the down side, you get to sit at home playing Xbox while your buddies are out shredding day after day.

Party Too Hard
Partying too hard in a ski resort town—is there such thing? In short, yes. If you’re partying so hard that you sleep through first chair on a powder day, you’ve crossed the line. If you wake up with a bear in your bed, you’ve crossed the line. If you head home in a body bag, you’ve definitely crossed the line (yep, this happens).

Run Out of Money
Being the guy who buys everyone rounds of shots seemed like such a good idea back in November. So did dropping your cash assembling the perfect quiver—a pow board, a rock board, a park board… but now you’re broke, and as you’ll soon find out, you can’t pay rent in snowboards. Congratulations, you’ve ruined your season—hope you saved enough for the flight home!

Get Booted
If you’ve ever been fired or evicted in a ski resort town mid-season, you know you’re pretty well screwed. Ideally, you’ve made enough friends to have your choice of couches to crash on—otherwise, it’s going to be a long, cold season. Getting booted from your home or job is bad, but there’s one kind of booting that is worse than the others…

Get Banned From the Mountain
Getting booted from the mountain is pretty much the biggest way to ruin your season. Having your pass revoked is akin to getting a lobotomy. Hopefully, you’re well-versed in backcountry, otherwise you’ll be spending a lot of time playing Xbox with the guy who broke his femur on opening day.

Destroy Your Friendships
You came here with your best buddy on earth, only now he’s not talking to you because you stole his girlfriend/ate all the cereal/borrowed his ski poles and lost them. Whatever it is you did, patch it up. A ski season only lasts a few months—don’t ruin friendships that last a lifetime. And don’t forget to call your mom every so often.

We love you, just remember that.

7 Hilarious Classic Ski Movies

More storylines. Fancier cameras. Steeper lines. Cooler effects.

The world of ski movies is changing a little more every year, and while we applaud innovation and can appreciate a good cutting edge ski film, sometimes you just want the classics.

You know the ones: they’re part dumb, part cheesy, but entirely funny. There’s no better anecdote to a rainy day/coming-down-with-the-flu feeling/hangover recovery session than to watch a few of these oldies but goodies back-to-back.

Aspen Extreme
The trailer pretty much tells you everything you need to know. Puffy 80’s jackets, Euro style skiing, turtlenecks, retro tunes—and is that the world’s first snowboard? Aspen Extreme tells the timeless story of a guy and his buddy who set out to live the ski bum dream in Aspen. Local babes, rich city babes, baller parties, and drama ensue, with some totally tubular skiing in between, of course.

G.N.A.R.
The world of skiing changed in a major way when we lost Shane McConkey, but as G.N.A.R. shows, his spirit lives on. This documentary—if you can call it that—follows a group of hand selected snow sporters as they battle for a $25,000 purse prize by completing various bizarre challenges (like BNs – if you don’t know what that is, just watch the film).

G.N.A.R. is the source of too many ski one-liners to count—but seriously, I’m the best skier on the mountain.

Out Cold
A snowboarding movie featuring Zach Galifianakis? They just don’t make ski movies like they used to. You probably don’t think 2001 was that long ago, but just five minutes into Out Cold, you’ll realize how long ago it really was (14 years! What?!)

Part snowboarding, part getting-the-girl, the plot to Out Cold doesn’t really matter—it’s a movie best watched when you don’t want to use a single brain cell.

Hot Tub Time Machine
This 2010 film is one of the most modern on this list, but it doesn’t really count since it’s set in 1986. Truth be told, there’s not a ton of actual skiing in this movie, but it does a perfect job of capturing that ski resort vibe that we can’t get enough of. The cast is perfection: Darryl from the Office + John Cusack + that guy with glasses = A+++.

Claim
Claim is probably more in tune with the pure ski film genre than some of the other movies on this list. The premise is simple: step back from the battle of huge egos that has overcome the world of skiing. This segment with Colby James West pretty much sums up how seriously Claim takes itself.

Ski School
Synchronized aerials? You betcha! That’s all it should take to convince you to watch this legendary ski film.

Girls, neon, evil corporate suits trying to suck the soul out of skiing—hey, maybe not much has changed since this film was made in 1991 after all. The best part: once you’ve finished watching Ski School, you can move on to Ski School 2. Yes, they made a sequel out of this gem. You’re welcome.

Hot Dog
Hot Dog is so bad that it’s really, really good. It was made back in 1983, so you’ll have to excuse the un-PC-ness of it all. The best scene of the film is the classic Chinese Downhill race. If your local hill doesn’t host its own iteration of the race, you’ll probably want to start a new tradition after seeing it for yourself.

We love you, just remember that.

Want to Ski Better? Watch a Pro

We all know the first step to getting better at something is watching lots of videos on YouTube. Duh. How else are you going to land those lift ramp jumps or ski in and out of a cave with enough speed to do a backflip?

Three time X Games gold medalist Candide Thovex filmed “One of those days 2,” at his home resort in Val Blanc, France. While he probably pissed off the liftie at 4:17, as well as a line of folks waiting to ride the gondola, he did make a lot of internet watchers, including us, pretty stoked.

We love you, just remember that.

Smith and Outdoor Tech® Announce Audio System Partnership

Los Angeles, CA (January 21, 2015) – Blending innovation and performance, Outdoor Tech® and Smith announced this week its new partnership for co-branded drop-in audio systems for all Smith adult snowsports helmets. Sold separately, the rugged and minimal design of the audio kits quickly and easily install into the earpad liners for Hi-Fi sound and easy phone access while on the hill.

Smith and Outdoor Tech

The new Smith x Outdoor Tech® Wireless Audio CHIPS® (MSRP $130) are loaded with the latest Bluetooth 4.0 chipset providing voice prompts that replace tones for incoming calls and volume controls, as well as a new battery gauge so users won’t have to worry about losing power unexpectedly. They boast the patented glove and mitten-friendly button controls directly on the earpiece for adjusting volume levels, answering calls, controlling track selections and even activating Siri or voice commands. Wireless CHIPS® have a rechargeable battery that lasts for 10 hours of continuous playtime or about three days of real world on-mountain use while providing endless freedom from wires and the fear of dropping your phone off a lift.

Wired Audio CHIPS® (MSRP $40) are also loaded with a glove-friendly on device button and an in-line volume control with a built-in microphone.

Both CHIPS® are equipped with full range 40mm drivers set solidly in the disk shaped casing. This housing allows for better in-helmet acoustics creating the best Hi-Fi experience in the business. Tested to work perfect at -20°C/-4°F, CHIPS® are also IPX-4 sweat and water-resistant.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for the legacy that Smith has built over 50 years. We are excited, honored and humbled to be the official audio partner for the brand and look forward to working hard together to deliver the ultimate customer experience.” said Outdoor Tech® CEO, Caro Krissman.

“As leaders in technology innovation, we could not be more stoked to be working with Outdoor Tech® as our helmet audio partner. They are constantly pushing new ideas in the market, and we look forward to a long-term collaboration in helmet audio solutions.” commented Graham Sours, Helmet Category Manager at Smith.

The Smith x Outdoor Tech® CHIPS® will be available at select retailers and online at smithoptics.com in Fall 2015.

We love you, just remember that.

10 Tunes for Your Road Trip to Trailhead Playlist

Tent: ✔   Sleeping bag: ✔   Food: ✔   Extra Water: ✔   Boots: ✔   GPS: ✔   Headphones: ✔

Now, all you need is some road music to keep you grooving on your way out to the trailhead.

As you’re putting together your playlist, the best approach is a mix of happy music (think Pharrell) and restorative music (OK, not quite George Winston but something contemplative for those long, lonesome stretches), something old and new, and, of course, something to sing-along with (and no, no not Ride the Pony) when you’ve got the windows down and need to release all that pent up energy, but not quite give it away.

Here’s 10 road-tripping songs, to add to your play list and get you closer to your destination:

Around the World—Daft Punk
This fun zone-out tune with its addictive punchy syntho beat will get you out of the driveway and onto the freeway at the crack of dawn.

Born to be Wild—Steppenwolf
Getcha moto running…head out on the highway. Often described as the first heavy metal song, or as AllMusic’s Hal Horowitz described as “a roaring anthem of turbo-charged riff rock.” Yep, it’s the unparalleled tribute to road tripping.

Seasons (Waiting on You)—Future Islands
This song’s synthetic pop band beat will carry you far down any road.

Long Days Hot Nights—Sirens of Lesbos
Deep, transitive vocals with a soulful undertone, on top disco-ish piano chords, emotional strings, and a haunting bassline from a band with a sound well steeped in the deep house / electronic music scene. This song will carry you well down on long lonely roads to your trailhead.

Royals—Lourde
Put aside the crazy tripping lyrics and you get an easy grooving drive song with an aspirational hip hop beat.

I and Love and You—The Avett Brothers
This band defies labels but if you require a distillation, their sound is somewhere in the spectrum of country, folk, folk-rock, alternative-country, American roots, roots-rock or indie. The simply perfect roadworthy lyrics will not only have you singing along but feeling along. To whit: “Load the car and write the note; Grab your bags and grab your coat; Tell the ones that need to know; We are headed north.”

Sun Medallion—King Tuff
This kaleidoscopic stoner tune is best described by music critic Eric Goldberg as “a lost 60s garage pop gem based around an acoustic guitar,” extremely catchy and melodic.

Your Love Will Blow Me Away When My Heart Aches—Son Little
This soulful anthem to unrequited love and lost direction will “blow you away.” It’ll make you feel like a runaway on the road to redemption.

Back in the Saddle—Aerosmith
An irresistible open road tune that will inspire you to throw down the proverbial hardtop and put the pedal to the tarmac.

We love you, just remember that.

Whose Bright Idea was This? Christmas Lights on the House

Whoever first decided to mount lights on the house at Christmas time was a true innovator, ahead of their time, and a scourge to all mankind. Read on and you’ll know who to be angry at when you fall off your ladder taking down all those infernal lights.

A Brief History

edisonThomas Edison was, as you would expect, the first to put electric lights up outside when he created a strand of lights and mounted them on the outside of his Menlo Park Laboratory in 1880 so railroad passengers travelling by would get a look at his newest invention. This was a marketing ploy and had nothing to do with Christmas. The Christmas connection came 2 years later in 1882 when his assistant, Edward Johnson, is said to have lit up a tree in New York City in 1882 with eighty small electric light bulbs. Soon after, his wife made him mount them on the roof, the bushes, the trees and the garage, along with a stupid-looking, lit-up reindeer.

Ancient History

yule
The Norsemen used to hold nights of feasting and drinking around the burning of the Yule log. Man I miss those days. Lighting a Yule log had many meanings from summoning the sun’s return to driving away evil spirits. The drinking was just for fun. This in turn became the lighting of candles in windows to welcome weary travelers. Somehow we got from there to me climbing a ladder to mount a display that would make Clark Griswold proud.

Tech Stuff

clightsWhat started as candles later became electric lights and who knows what’s next. Hopefully whatever it is will be wireless so I don’t have to spend half the day untangling them. Just by stopping in your local department or hardware store you will see a wide variety of choices. There’s the mini the C6, C7, C9 and wide or medium lens 5mm. You can go with led or incandescent and don’t forget the G-Series: globe shaped G-12 or G-25 and those are just the bulbs. You have string, spool and rope lights along with, snowflake, net or icicle sets. They have lights that drip, blink, flash and some still that just get lit up and sit there, kind of like me.

Getting Carried Away
We have a neighbor here in the hood who has so many lights on his house; I swear our streetlights dim for a second every time he turns them on. I recently saw a photo from space of the earth at night and this guy projects more light than North Korea. We drive by his place and snicker, but I know the wife is envious. She says it’s tacky and too much but I see her staring longingly at the lit-up reindeer and somehow I feel inadequate.

Really Getting Carried Away
First some clown decided to put music to his display. Now, it’s practically a requirement in my neighborhood, and not just Christmas music like Silent Night or Santa Claus is Coming to Town. No, now you have to have Mannheim Steamroller or the Trans-Siberian Orchestra blasting at 110 decibels through an outdoor surround sound behemoth stereo system, perfectly timed so the lights flash in sync with the composition. Oh, yeah, some you can even set your car radio to pick it up as well. I’m thinking of taking it a step further and having a live band set up between the stupid lit-up reindeer and the blowup Santa Claus she made me put in the front yard.

So Whose Bright Idea Was This?
It wasn’t Thomas Edison, just because he invented the electric light. It’s not his fault the local TV station has a segment every night on the gaudiest display. It’s not his fault the newspaper prints a map the wife uses to make me drive in circles all over town looking at displays. It’s not Edison’s fault I have stupid looking lit-up reindeer and a blow-up Santa in my yard. Just because he was the first to hang lights on the house doesn’t mean it’s his fault because I know whose idea it really was.

I blame his wife.

We love you, just remember that.

6 Videos to Remind You to Play Smart on the Mountain

Mother Nature is a fickle beast.

Hopefully, you’ve got good gear, strong skills, and—perhaps most importantly—a solid head on your shoulders. But when you’re hitting the mountains, always remember that compared to the terrain you’re on, you are very small and powerless.

Whether you’re skiing, snowboarding, hiking, climbing, sledding, or snowshoeing, it’s important to stay humble on the mountain. The following videos aren’t the easiest or prettiest to watch, but they do a good job of reminding you about the powers of the mountain. Have a look at these sobering videos, and play safe, play respectfully, and know when to back off.

Getting Caught in Avalanche

The room went dead silent when my instructor played this video during my avalanche safety course. Unlike many avalanches, this one has a happy ending—but it’s still not an easy video to watch.

Avalanches are no joke—the entire face of a slope can wipe out from under your feet. Check out this snowmobiler avalanche clip (warning: some swearing involved—you’d probably swear, too.)

Tree Well Rescue

There’s no feeling like skiing trees on a powder day, but tree wells are super real and super dangerous. This video takes place in-bounds, proving that you don’t have to be a backcountry skier to be in danger. Always, always abide by the buddy system when skiing trees and never let your friend get out of your sight.

Losing Footing in Cliffs

You might not be skiing stuff as epic as this guy, but it proves an important point: one misstep can have major consequences. Beware of no fall zones, especially when you’re stepping in and out of gear.

Snowboarders, here’s one for you, too:

Falling into Creeks, Rivers, or Crevasses

This guy’s buddy is laughing, but it’s not so funny if that river is flowing, you fall face first, and/or you’re alone out there. Even when the snow is deep, holes are everywhere. (Warning: swearing)

Crevasses are a whole other beast to contend with. This guy survived due to some innovative thinking—but many aren’t as lucky.

We love you, just remember that.

How to Brag About Your Ski Trip on Social Media

brag_skitrip

In this golden age of social media, we all know that no experience is complete unless it achieves X number of likes from your herd of dedicated followers.

Like, what good is a ski trip if you don’t successfully make 25% of your friends jealous along the way? Make sure that you don’t run out of power by grabbing a Kodiak portable power bank.

We know that it’s not easy to navigate the world of tagging, Tweeting, and favoriting – that’s why we’ve created this guide to help you triumphantly brag about your upcoming ski trip on social media in just 7 easy steps!

Step One: Announce Your Presence

OT_socialbrag_01

You’re gracing your favorite ski resort with your presence. The least you can do is give them the head’s up, giving them plenty of time to roll out the red carpet for your arrival. The week before your departure, be sure to tweet “Only 7 days til I’m shredding the gnar at @skiresortname”. Bonus points if they retweet you, and bonus bonus points for also naming the specific hotel you’ll be staying at.

Step Two: Document the Journey

OT_socialbrag_02

Whether your travels consist of trains, planes, or automobiles, you must record every moment of it. Constant Snapchats to your friends are the way to go: it helps build the anticipation.

Step Three: Show Us Your Stuff

OT_socialbrag_03

Before you get ready to dress for the mountain, artfully arrange your ski gear into a deliberate, picture-perfect pile. Add the filter that hones in on the goods and blurs out the edges – you know the one. Don’t forget to tag each product’s brand – they’ll probably see your sweet shots and want to sponsor you.

Step Four: Only Excellence Will Do

OT_socialbrag_04

So conditions are sub-par and you’re finding yourself skiing more ice than snow. Never show weakness: your social media announcements must present the illusion of perfection, otherwise your peers will not feel so bad about missing out. For instance, if you missed a bluebird day, just amp up that saturation level to make the sky the bluest of blues – no one will know otherwise. Use hashtags to emphasize the awesomeness – we suggest #bestdayever, #harddayattheoffice, or the ever endearing #lovemylife.

Step Five: Costume Change

OT_socialbrag_05

Warning: put your phone down for this step; you do NOT want to document the costume change that takes place between skiing and apres. Posting a photo of yourself ruddy-cheeked with sweaty hair stuck to your face? Please – that’s for amateurs. Take a shower, don your favorite Nordic-inspired Christmas sweat (you know, the one that you bought specifically for this trip), and tousle your hair so that it straddles that fine line between supermodel and just-pulled-off-my-beanie.

You’re officially ready for Step Six.

Step Six: Selfie the Shit Out of Apres

OT_socialbrag_06

You look great. That jug of beer looks great. Don’t let that greatness go to waste: selfie, selfie, selfie, and repeat. While the rest of the world is watching cat videos on YouTube, you’re basking in the post-ski glow enjoying the best pint of your life. #winning (just kidding – that’s not cool anymore.)

Step Seven: You Know What to Do on Thursday…

OT_socialbrag_07

Four days after you return home, that magical day will roll around: Thursday. It’s time to reminisce back to your ski trip – enter #tbt, or Throwback Thursday for the uninitiated. No, it’s not too early to get nostalgic about your trip – plus this is a great opportunity to share that B roll you never got around to boasting about.

We love you, just remember that.