Throughout her career, sports photojournalist and documentary photographer Elizabeth Kreutz has photographed Lance Armstrong during cycling races, Ryan Hunter-Reay at the Indy 500 and Apolo Anton Ohno at the Hawaii Ironman, as well as numerous boxing matches, the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino and even some underwater scenes. “I am always looking for the next adventure,” the Austin, Texas-born photographer says.
Last April, Kreutz found herself in an entirely new environment when she accepted an assignment to photograph a client off-trail heli-skiing at Thompson Pass, Alaska, known for its powdery snow drifts and pristine white peaks on the Chugach Mountains with Alaska Snowboard Guides.
Though she’s not a ski photography expert, Kreutz approached the assignment as she would any other shoot: like a fly on the wall. “With my athletes, I just let them do their thing without interfering,” she explains. This meant documenting the skiers gearing up with their avalanche beacons, singing karaoke at night and goofing around with the crew while they waited at Thompson Pass for the green light (which in this case was a clear blue sky) to head up to the ridge. In the span of a week, the skiiers only had two days of picture-perfect weather to get their ideal shots.
Knowing she can trust her equipment to perform in the harshest weather conditions, including an icy and desolate mountain, gives Kreutz confidence. “I know the SanDisk Extreme Pro SD UHS-II Card 128 GB memory card works perfectly with my Canon 1DX Mark II mounted with my 200-400mm zoom lens. It’s top of the line for action sports photography,” she explains.
On the day of the shoot, she and a guide were dropped by helicopter on one powdery mountaintop while two skiers and their guide were dropped on another ridge across the way. With only walkie-talkies for communication, the success of the shoot relied on her ability to capture the moment. “The skiers only have a few epic runs each day, with the pristine powder making for beautiful photos. It’s not like I can ask them to go back up and repeat it,” she says with a laugh. “I can’t be waiting for a card to buffer because I’ll miss the shot. And I can’t be changing cards in the middle of it.” With a shot speed of up to 260MB/s and the ability to shoot thousands of RAW images on one card, the SanDisk memory card is a sure thing.
Knowing her gear was at the ready whenever she needed, Kreutz says something happened on the mountaintop that’s every photographer’s dream: working with complete creative freedom. Without worry of malfunctioning equipment, she shot the poetry of squiggly lines forming behind the skiers in the snow. “It really was epic,” she says. “I trust my safety to the pilot and the guide. I trust my equipment. And from there, I’m able to shoot as it comes. That’s the thrill of being a documentary photographer.”
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