There’s a lot that goes into creating a good ski photograph: Preventing snow and moisture from building up on the lens, keeping yourself and your crew warm, and being aware of safety risks such as avalanches. One thing that’s rarely necessary, however, is a lighthouse. But for German photographer Christoph Jorda, a lighthouse made the perfect setting on a recent photo shoot for Saloman Freeski Team Germany.
The lighthouse in question is no ordinary one. Standing at the source of the Rhein some 6,700 feet up in the Swiss Alps, it is the highest lighthouse in the world (and the only one in the Alps, which doesn’t exactly have much real need for lighthouses). Even for Jorda, it was an unlikely location for the shoot, which was scheduled to take place elsewhere but had been shut down due to weather. Rather than wait out the storm inside, Jorda and his team decided to hop a train and go exploring. That’s when they found the lighthouse.
“We got off the train and walked over to it,” Jorda said in a Profoto blog post. “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 skis.”
But actually accomplishing this would be no easy task. Plagued by continued bad weather and high winds, and surrounded by deep powder, the main concern was if it would even be possible for the skier to generate enough speed to reach the top of the lighthouse. The crew, six people in total, set about building a jump, a process that took them the entire day. But after careful planning and construction, they were confident it would work.
Jorda set up two Profoto B1 wireless monolights inside the top of the lighthouse, with a third placed behind it. The B1 is battery powered and triggered via a camera-mounted radio transmitter, an ideal light for the situation. With dark skies and low visibility, the B1s would have to make due as the primary source of light.
With everything set up, skier Sebastin Scheck headed up the slope, hiking about 20 minutes to make sure he had enough distance before the jump to generate sufficient speed.
“It was pretty clear that he would still be too slow because the strong wind had damaged the approach,” Jorda said. “So all the other riders went up and skied down to pack the snow and make the approach as fast as possible.”
After that, it all came down to timing. Jorda waited on the ground in front of the lighthouse and fired away as Scheck entered the frame. The B1s lit up the lighthouse like a beacon and made for a dramatic image, one that Jorda wouldn’t even have conceived of had bad weather not forced him out of the original location. As he writes in the description of the behind-the-scenes video, “Sometimes a disadvantage is a benefit.”