Mountain sports videographer Aurelie Gonin on filming in the snow (plus settings)

Aurelie Morrison Gonin What I’ve learned as24 Jan. 20245 Minuten Lesezeit
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Networking, never being scared of trying something new and enjoying the moment all helped Aurelie rise to the top of her profession

Nikon Ambassador Aurelie Gonin is one of the world’s foremost photographers and filmmakers in alpine sports, always striving to make the connection between the environment, the emotion, commitment and skill of her subjects. Her work appears in magazines across the world, at film festivals and on television. Starting out in Paris, Aurelie worked as a cinematographer and as a technical director of a journalism school before returning to her home in the French Alps twelve years ago to film mountain sports full time. Since then, she has also worked at Winter and Summer Olympic Games and other large sporting events around the world.

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Aurelie Morrison Gonin
AmbassadorMountain Sports Videography
What’s in my kitbag?
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If I could go back in time…

“I would have quit Paris earlier. It was a good starting place, though. I learned a great deal, networked and met a lot of people. I did a Master’s degree and interned at camera rental place. Back then, we were shooting with 35mm film, so I wanted to get familiar with the gear and the people who were using it. That’s how I got hired at first – because people would say, ‘Let’s do this together’.”

 

Combine backdrop with emotion

“Alpine sports combine a fantastic backdrop with amazing light and impressive action. I really respect the athletes because of their level of commitment, and my work is a real collaboration between athlete and photographer,” Aurelie says. “I like to be close to the athlete to see the emotion in their eyes. I want to show their strength and dedication.”

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You have to keep fit

“My fitness level is lower than the people I am filming, but my first tool is my body and I try to be in shape as much as I can to be able to access a place without being too tired. I visit the mountains a lot to learn how to stay safe, where and how to travel, and I’m always improving my mountain skills, including learning how to use all of the safety gear, because it’s part of the job,” she adds. “And never be lazy, because the best light is early morning and late evening!”

 

Gather your gear

“I use a Nikon Z 8 and Z 9,” explains Aurelie. “If I know I’m going to climb or ski, I will take the Nikon Z 8. If it’s a huge storm I’ll use the Z 9 as I’m more confident using the larger Z 9 in a harsh, snowy environment. My lenses are mostly zooms, the NIKKOR Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S, NIKKOR Z 24-120mm f/4 S, NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S. My most used zoom is the NIKKOR Z 24-120mm f/4 S. I also use ND filters for snow. For stills, you can increase your shutter speed, but for video you’re more limited so you have to lower the quantity of light with the ND filters, otherwise there’s too much light!”

 

Read more: The essential guide to filters: what to use for snow, water and effects

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Watch the trailer fro Greenlandic, shot on the Nikon Z 9 by Aurelie Gonin

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Film video in manual

“I always film manual to keep the exposure, ISO sensitivity and White Balance the same during the shot. I use autofocus to track the athlete; it tracks all the movement,” says Aurelie.  

 
Typical settings for filming:

Video encoding: H.265 10bits 

Resolution: 4K (3840x2160)

Frame rate: 60fps or 120fps

 

What I’d recommend to aspiring photographers is…

“Create your own style. With social media trends, mountain sports photography and videography can look all the same. I tell people to create their own style instead of copying one that other people are doing very well. For aspiring photographers, I suggest they start a collaboration with an athlete, because athletes need a lot of content for their social media – they need photographers and photographers need models. It’s a good collaboration because when these athletes get more sponsors and the sponsors need a photographer, there you are.”

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You don’t have to be specialised

“I do a lot of different things. I am a filmmaker, editor, photographer, journalist, trainer and speaker,” Aurelie explains. “I don’t think you should choose between two areas. Why choose between live sports and documentary? Why not both? I never get bored that way. You learn from each experience and build more skills. Being agile offers a great opportunity to try something new.”

 

Always have a pre-production checklist/storyboard

“Now, you never just produce one video,” Aurelie says. “You may film your video for TV or YouTube, but then you will also need social media footage. Filming for Instagram is different from filming for LinkedIn, so you must list all the content you want to create and create a production plan, plus stills and behind-the-scenes footage. Then, when you’re in the field and things happen fast and quickly, you know exactly what you’re going to do. You should always know what you’re going to do with a shot before you press record.”

 

Build your complementary skills

“Building different skills helps, because if you have never edited, you will forget some shots during the framing, Aurelie adds. “And if you’re an editor who has never filmed, you will be complaining, ‘Why did they shoot this way?’, because you have no idea what it takes to create the image. So that’s why I think doing both is important and makes your videos better.”

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Relish the ‘pinch me’ moments

“There are special moments when you have the feeling that everything you have done before just meets, and I have to say The Movement shoot (for the launch of the Nikon Z 8) was one of them. It was very emotional for us on that trip – in a good way! Then there are the moments when you arrive on top of a mountain with some people and you look around and you think, I’m at the right place now. I feel complete.”

 

Use equipment rental places to network

“For anyone who wants to work in big video productions, whether it’s live sport or fiction movies, I would still recommend going to rental places and talking to people there,” she says. “There is so much knowledge there and networking is really important.”

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Be organised

“While photography is a quick edit, a film can take three weeks to two months to produce and edit, and then hours for Instagram Reels. There are techniques for becoming faster, but it still takes time and it’s a big part of videography. So, you have to be organised with your shots so you can put them together to recreate the story. Have a checklist written down with all the things you need: opening shot, closing shot and mid-sections.

 

You don’t need to be in the Alps!

It’s not essential to be on a glacier location to shoot mountain sports, Aurelie explains. “You can shoot someone running in a forest or on a mountain bike. The important thing for me is the link between the person and the nature. Do it where you feel comfortable.”

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What I’ve learned the most over the years…

“I’ve learned to trust myself,” Aurelie concludes. “It’s often a woman issue – to not have enough self-confidence. You have to trust yourself to go out of your comfort zone, because that’s how you improve. You’ll be proud of yourself. Work and be committed and you will grow.”

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Showreel Alpine Medias House 2023

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