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Every spring The Audi Nines creates groundbreaking snow sculptures to inspire a selection of the world's best skiers and snowboarders. Photo and video play a huge part in the Audi Nines. As well as an event team working to capture all the action, there is a photo competition with four invited photographers bringing their own creativity to the event. One of those was Markus 'Fischi' Fischer, the man behind the appearance of Darth Vader at Audi Nines this year. We caught up with Fischi and found out how this project came to life - and don't miss the giveaway at the end!
Sebbe DeBuk attempting a moon landing for Fischi's lens:
First up, you were one of the 4 invited photographers for the Photo Contest part of Audi Nines. How does the photo contest part of this event work?
Basically, we just go out and try to capture the best moments of the whole week, and put together a slide show which is judged at the end of the week. Within that there are three categories:
'Best AudiNines Moment': This can be capturing a special trick that someone pulls, but it can also be a good lifestyle image that shows the vibe of the event.
‘Best Creative Shot’: We came up with this category when the four of us met at the opening night ceremony. This used to be ‘Best Illumination’ for use of flash in earlier events, but we all felt that this category had become a bit worn out and we all tried to give it a bit more freedom and creativity.... So for this category, we just tried to be creative in any way, whether with the angle, or experimenting with double exposures, etc.
‘Shooter of the Week’: This is judged on our slideshow of work from the whole week, for the photographer with the best overall expression of the event.
All 3 categories were judged by the four photographers ourselves - voting only for the others, not for ourselves of course! Also the event photographers, Klaus, Flo and Davide cast their votes too.
Snowboarder Sven Thorgren's near-Earth-orbit double backside rodeo:
As a photographer, how is it different shooting at the Audi Nines compared to a typical competition or photo shoot in the park?
The main difference is that we can all do what we want (apart from making sure that we are fulfilling the three judged categories) and there were no guidelines at all. Usually, you have to get certain shots for clients and/or focus on certain athletes only. The AudiNines concept lets you give your very best AND have a lot of fun throughout the week. It’s my favorite week shooting in the whole season. I guess that really says the most about the experience!
James 'Woodsy' Woods feels a shifty presence:
We all enjoyed the appearance of Darth Vader at The Audi Nines, and it looked like you had a lot of fun. When did you come up with this idea, and how much planning went into this?
The Vader project was huge for me. I had this idea more than a year ago, but it needed a lot of time planning. I wanted to build the whole costume myself and 3D-printed all the hard parts of it myself. The suit itself is hand-sewn from a stock suit that was way too big, so I had to tailor it to my body size. I had heaps of fun especially with fitting all the parts together and with the LED lights in the chest armour parts. But the best was constructing and making the lightsaber with a stock grip, a red neon-lamp cover and an LED strip inside that was powered by a rechargeable USB battery. Unfortunately, the lightsaber was destroyed at the Gala Night party, but don't worry, I’ll come up with an even better one!
Of course, I could not tell anybody about this whole project before the event, so it was only Nico, Jonee from Audi Nines and Simon Jul (one of the event DJs) who knew about it! Flo and I had a great time shooting some ‘Behind The Scenes’ and I was carrying a 360 camera everytime I changed to ‘Vader Mode’… so many funny moments, I loved people’s reaction when they saw me!
This was originally planned to be a remote-triggered self-portrait action shot, but when that plan hit tech problems Fischi adapted with the help of fellow photo contest participant, Alba Pardo. That's some comraderie in action.
Do you often involve concepts like this in your shooting?
I realized that I indeed have a real soft spot for special concepts and for cosplay too! However this project was by far the most complicated one. Usually, I try to find a subject matter that fits the concept, and try to show this in the style of my images, for example shooting all in black & white when it fits. This time I decided to have a figure showing up in some of my images. It was good fun, being behind AND in front of the camera. The acting was just hilarious for me!
Teamwork (and technology) to make the dream work: Alba Pardo donning the costume for the night shoot (below left) and Fischi with his 360 camera below skier David Wise (below right):
This was a complex project. Who did you pull in to help with the Darth project?
I have to give a special shout out to Alba Pardo, who doubled as 'vader me' at our night shoot with Jesper Tjäder one evening. My plan was to remote trigger everything, but it turned out too complicated, so I was super grateful that Alba offered to wear the suit for my main image of Jesper lured by the dark side. The event DJ Simon Jul helped me at the Gala Night, he was playing the original version of the ‘Imperial March’ and switched to ‘Shoop’ once i was on stage. Perfect timing & I had a lot of fun dancing in the Vader costume! :D
What's in the bag? A minimal mirrorless set up, GoPro's, tool kit, lunch, light sabre... (Photo: Klaus Polzer/The Audi Nines)
Let's talk gear: What’s in your pack for a typical day shooting at TAN?
I decided to keep my gear limited, but still be prepared for the unexpected. So I brought my Sony A7IIIr with just the 50mm (my favorite lens) plus a fisheye. For the Vader appearence, i had a 360 camera on a selfie stick and I also had my full GoPro kit in the backpack to hook some of the riders up and get some nice POV angles. Of course my tool pouch is always in the bag as well, since stuff can break and I wanna be able to fix stuff on site. My backpack of choice was the Ajna with a Large Pro ICU, as all components of my kit fit well into it and I even had some extra space in the top for extra gloves and a big water bottle.
Having fun is half the battle won. No problems with that one...
What are your tips for someone shooting taking part in a live photo competition like this?
Be quick! The week goes so fast and you’ll need more time than you think to select, edit and retouch your photos while you are there on site. There’s always side events going on every night that you don’t wanna miss, so the time is super limited. Have an idea and follow your idea as much as possible. Improvise if things change throughout the competition. And last but not least: Stay positive! Its ‘only’ a comp and if you have fun shooting that's already half the game!
Skier Jesper Tjaeder with a headlamp, an innovative park feature, meticulous lighting and a cool trick: image like these are a real colaboration:
The weather was a challenge for the riders and photographers at times this year. How did you work around those conditions?
Since its the same conditions for everyone, it doesn’t matter too much. You just need to be creative and play with whiteout conditions. On the bad weather days, i did a lot of black and white images that turned out great. I feel like for us photographers, the weather wasn’t that bad… It was the riders who suffered more. But there were still alot of very productive sessions going down in ‘bad light’ !
David Wise had set a new world record highest air out a quarter pipe the day before, but wasn't slowing down with his family on deck (Photo by Fischi, below left). The family and Darth Fischer on share a moment (Photo by Florian Breitenburger, below right)
Last but not least, the footage of the riding coming out of TAN is pretty mind-blowing. What was the riding highlight this year that you saw go down in front of your eyes?
Unfortunately, I missed David Wise’s world record, since I was over at the girls' feature in Gurgl at that time, but luckily David was hitting the quarterpipe again the next day. It wasn’t world record hight, but his whole family was cheering him on top of the landing and that was even better, I think!
Sebbe DeBuck and Sven Thorgren were killing it over "the launch pad" (the big middle kicker) on the Friday session. That was mindblowing. Another highlight was shooting with Jesper Tjäder and the Distillery crew late night at the C-Wallride, with Jesper nailing a perfect Wallride 540 out. Not just once, but multiple times.
The bottom line is there were more highlights that you can count, happening almost every day. Thanks AudiNines for a perfect snow-season ender!!!
Thank you, Fischi!
Follow Markus 'Fischi' Fischer's cosplay and other creative adventures on his website here and on his Instagram here.
We have teamed up with our friends at The Audi Nines to give away an f-stop pack and ICU set up. In honor of Fischi's efforts we'll throw in some extra black accessories too!
Head over to the @audinines Instagram today to enter! STARTS 5pm CET May 9th....