Glencoe World Freeride Tour Qualifier

552_160402_7DDay 24 of Scottish season 25/16. More light winds and the promise of bright conditions were just what I wanted as Glencoe had invited me to photograph the action during the Coe Cup part of the Scottish Freedom Series and a qualifier for the World Freeride Tour.

Conditions are superb across the mountain so a got in a few laps of main Basin and Cliffy before the action started.

I got myself a new lens for my camera so thought the spectacle would be a great test for me and my ability to make use of the new glass.

After taking some shots around the riders briefing I had to find my position. There were several other photographers and videographers around so had to stay out of their way. Speaking with Robbie, an instructor and competitor as well as a photographer, he suggested a few spots from where to capture some of the best action. I did make the mistake of hiking from the bottom of the face upward, rather than descending on my board from the top. I was worried I’d miss any action. I checked out one low position but felt this was still too far so decided to scramble further up a steeper snow slope then onto rock. Now, if you don’t know the location it was on the Flypaper, Scotland’s steepest marked run.

I had my camera pack on, full of gear with my board strapped to it. I was clawing at the steep slope with bare hands and kicking steps where I could. It’s a lot steeper than I thought.

Puffing and panting, I created the rocky platform that would be my location only to find it occupied by others with more foresight than myself. They had easily skiid into position. To make matters worse, as I unpacked my gear I noticed my cold numbed fingers were bleeding. I hadn’t felt my finger nail trauma due to the cold!

The competition progressed despite my mountain manicure with the women snowboarders going first. It was great to see so many women taking part with strong riding as these events can often be male dominated. The male snowboarders followed then the skiers women then men.

The action was great as riders negotiated the steep face and rock formations with creative lines and jumps.

I was really using this day as a way not only to try out new kit, but to test myself and my photography skills. Trying my hand at high speed sports with tricky conditions and lighting. I think I did ok, but also took away a few lessons, especially around focus and when to stop, sequences and especially exposure when it comes to the ever changing mountain weather. I also think I should have tried another viewpoint rather than staying put. The hard work I’d  put into achieving my lofty position however meant I was less inclined to look for a different location. More effort next time. I was prepared with gloves hat and was comfortable enough, but didn’t pack water or food. That would have kept me a bit more comfortable during the 3 hours I was perched on a cliff.


I’d picked up some excellent tips from a YouTube Channel, ‘Learning by Doing‘. A great series in being a snowboard photographer by Vernon Deck. I met him briefly at British Championships I attended for work and we’ve been using him ever since. His channel is definitely worth checking out.

If you know me I mostly dabble in landscapes, but I really do like action photography. There are elements out with your control and I quite like that. Always thinking ahead about what could happen and trying to capture big moments in the action.

After the event and the photos I dumped my heavy bag for a few more laps around the hill. The weather had improved if anything and the rest of the hill was buzzing. It had been a good day for everyone!

P.S. I also forgot sunscreen!

You can view more of my shots below.

Weather held up and all riders put on a great show. Please share.

Posted by Michael MacDonald on Saturday, 2 April 2016