by Peter Svoboda
One afternoon I noticed a lonely skier returning down into the valley, probably skiing home from work. He inspired me to take a photo, so I returned the next day at the same time to see if I could spot him again.
Canon 5D Mark II . Canon 70-300mm f4-5.6l . 300mmmm . 1/200ss . f/5.6 . ISO400
My favorite photographic genre is minimalism, and winter is the best season for me to realize shots composed this way. The white, clear surfaces and interesting subjects placed inside the frame inspire me every time. Each year we spend our family winter holidays skiing in the Alps, and I always bring my camera. I took this image two years ago. There were many interesting places around the mountain village where we stayed. One of my favorites was the beautiful and photogenic road above the village that was bordered by trees. The trees attracted me, and I took many photographs at different times and in different light and moods, but I still felt there was something missing.
"Due to the horizontal nature of the path he was skiing, I managed to capture him in an athletic pose, preserving his speed. It is a classic ski pose and quite funny, working really well in relation to the minimalistic scenery."
I noticed a lonely skier returning down into the valley. I took a shot of this scene and included him in the composition. I returned the next day at the same time and luckily, he was there again. He had probably finished work on the hill and was returning home after the lifts had closed on the slopes. My patience and effort to return had paid off and this is the reason I named the picture “Return as Always.” Due to the horizontal nature of the path he was skiing, I managed to capture him in an athletic pose, preserving his speed. It is a classic ski pose and quite funny, working really well in relation to the minimalistic scenery.It was late afternoon and cloudy with a little bit of ambient light. I selected the exposure time based on the lighting conditions, but because the skier would be moving and I wanted to avoid motion blur, I raised the ISO to 400 to achieve 1/200 second shutter speed. I took some test shots without the skier and checked the results on the display of my camera. I waited about twenty minutes until the skier appeared. I shot in continuous mode to ensure that I correctly captured the skier without blur.
The photo was shot in RAW format. I used Photoshop to process the image.
1) Because of the flat colors and monochromatic tones, it was natural to convert the image to black and white.
2) I increased the Contrast and adjusted Curves at both ends (the highlights and the shadows). I especially adjusted the right upper part of the curve (the highlights) to make the snow surface a pure white.
3) In the original capture the skier came from the left side but looked like he was skiing against the trees, so I decided to flip the picture horizontally. After this change, my eye then read the image from left to right, and compositionally it looked better and perhaps more surprising.
4) The next step was to enlarge the skier; he was fairly small in silhouette compared to the size of the trees. I selected an area around the skier and using the Free Transform tool, I transformed its size, including the skier inside the selected area, by approximately 10 to 15%. Once I was happy with the result, I erased the transformed area surrounding the skier with a Brush set to 25% Opacity, and that way he blended perfectly into the scene.
5) To ensure a clean and clear composition, I used the Clone Stamp tool to remove a few small bushes and some grass sticking out from the snow cover, especially in areas above the trees.
1) Subjects that are far away need more observation and attention than subjects that are close. Using a long focal length helps to compress the perspective and makes simple compositions without disturbing elements in the frame.
2) Wintertime is the best season to realize and implement minimalistic, clean and white compositions.
3) Don't forget that observation and patience are very important. Don’t be afraid to return to the same place many times. The light and mood will be different every time, so it's always worth the effort.
I was born and live in Slovakia. I work as a dentist. As a child I studied basic art at school and loved to paint with oils on canvas. Since my teens I have taken photographs; I started with transparencies, and then black and white film, and more recently I enjoy digital photography for its ease of use. I consider myself to be a serious amateur and a passionate landscape photographer, searching for those special moments and moods.