Backcountry Skiing Photography Tips – Michael Kennedy

Post by blogger | August 21, 2014      

Michael Kennedy

Mark Zitelli, McClure Pass backcountry, April 2014. Panasonic Lumix LX7.

Mark Zitelli, McClure Pass backcountry, April 2014. Panasonic Lumix LX7. Here at we enjoy the more subtle toned “storm shots” along with the hyper-real style of photography. Both types of images are represented here, thanks to Michael. Click all images for higher quality or larger versions.

Editor’s note. One of my favorite people in the “old guard” crowd is Michael Kennedy: former owner and publisher of Climbing Magazine, prolific alpinist and backcountry skier. Michael is also an accomplished photographer who’s been published thousands of times. We’ve kept this post running over the years, updated every so often to keep pace with the rapidly changing world of photography. I recently asked Michael for an update on what he’s using for cameras:

I’ve used the Canon G series cameras quite a bit since I went digital, and now use the Panasonic Lumix LX7 for my smaller camera. I really like the accessory Panasonic electronic viewfinder; expensive and bulky but it’s easier to compose and frame the shot and allows me to use the camera in bright sunlight. The Lumix LX7 isn’t the smallest or lightest pocket camera but it has very good image quality and provides all the control you need for backcountry skiing photos. I carry my smaller cameras in a belt pack so they’re easy to get to, always a key thing.

For a digital SLR, I use the Canon Rebel T1i. The image quality is very good, reasonably fast motor drive, cleaner and bigger image files than the pocket cameras.

For most backcountry skiing use I carry a single lens, the Canon 17-85 zoom (28-135 equivalent); I’ve also got the Canon 10-22 zoom (16-35 equivalent) and will carry that when I’m feeling ambitious, photography-wise. I’ve got a couple other lenses that I use closer to home (fast primes) but the zooms are the way to go most of the time.

Julie Kennedy, McClure Pass backcountry. Panasonic Lumix LX7.

Julie Kennedy, McClure Pass backcountry. Panasonic Lumix LX7.

I use a Lowe topload-type of case with a chest harness for the Rebel. Super accessible so you can whip the camera out when you need to. I’ve experimented with using the case on a pack belt, but for skiing I find it interferes with my leg movement too much. This is a real individual thing so you need to figure out what works for you.

The most important thing is to have the camera instantly accessible when backcountry skiing—when it’s in the pack on your back you lose too many shots.

The downside of digital is the learning curve and time for post-processing—to really get the most out of your files you have to dive deep into Photoshop. I shoot everything in RAW—that’s a whole other topic.

My one most important tip: Shoot no matter what – good light, bad light, stormy days and clear days. I’m amazed sometimes when I get something really good in bad weather or terrible conditions. (More photography information and tips.)

See Ya, MK

Lee Bowers, Marble Peak. Canon G5, about 80mm (35mm equivalent). Click image to enlarge.

Lee Bowers, Colorado. Canon G5, about 80mm (35mm equivalent). Click image to enlarge.

Jeff Maus, West Elk Mountains backcountry skiing. Click image to enlarge.

Jeff Maus, West Elk Mountains backcountry skiing. Click image to enlarge.

Kim Spence, West Elk Mountains.

Kim Spence, West Elk Mountains.

Jeff Hollenbaugh, McClure Pass backcountry.

Jeff Hollenbaugh, McClure Pass backcountry. Click to enlarge.


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5 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing Photography Tips – Michael Kennedy”

  1. Scott Nelson August 21st, 2014 2:31 pm

    Beautiful photos as always. What do you use as far as CPU and storage for photo processing, especially with RAW images?

  2. Michael Kennedy August 22nd, 2014 8:10 am

    I run Mac desktop with a couple largish monitors. Nothing fancy. Three internal hard drives—one main drive, a second to store old scans and digital image files, the third backs up the other two (hourly via Time Machine). I also use a couple of external drives for additional backup.

    When I head out of town for an extended period, I’ll make sure the external drives are current, shut everything down, then store the external drives in a separate locations for security against theft, fire, etc. If I think I’ll need to access old files when traveling I’ll bring one of the external drives with me and use that to backup my laptop as well.

    Basically I end up with of all my digital photo files, programs, data, documents, etc. on four or five different drives. If one drive fails, I should be able to recover from one of the other drives.

    Hard drives are basically pretty inexpensive and the system described above simple to set up (on the Mac). An improvement would be to add yet another external drive, back up periodically (say once a month), and store that drive in a safe deposit box. A little cumbersome but very secure, especially for archival files.

    Cloud storage for additional backups may be worthwhile but I haven’t explored that subject in depth.

  3. J.L August 22nd, 2014 4:28 pm


    Great Photos! What software or program do you recommend for copyright protection or watermarks for photos?

    Thank you,


  4. Lou Dawson 2 August 22nd, 2014 5:00 pm

    J.L, the way we do it here at WildSnow is we use Photoshop, with an automated “action” we created that does it in seconds. Placing the watermark is just part of a set of about a half dozen things we do to each photo with the automated “action.” Picassa also has a functional watermarking option I’ve used, as does most other photo software, if by no other mains than simply placing text of your choice on the photo. I know Michael uses Pshop so I’m pretty sure he does his watermark with same. Lou

  5. Lou Dawson 2 August 22nd, 2014 5:13 pm

    For what it’s worth, we just went lowbrow and ordered a Chromebook, am hoping we can laugh at both Microsoft and Apple, but I think the chances are 50/50 we’ll be able to do all we need to do. Might be good for traveling though, cheap with long battery life. In my case, I run a pretty complex computing environment, with everything from website production software to video editing, along with a ton of odds and ends. I’ll be surprised if Chromebook will do it for me, but Lisa has a simpler setup and it might work for her. Should be interesting.

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