Bolgen (DJI Ronin-S on skis)

Do you remember that ski slope where it all began? Well, in Davos you will find a place like that and it’s called Bolgen. In 1934, it became the location with the first t-bar lift in the world, but that’s just on a side note. Rather more, I would like to share my experiences and thoughts on my first run on skis with the DJI Ronin-S. The plan was, to have no plan – and ride free.

In retrospect, the setting was more challenging than imagined. Sitting in a cosy room in front of your computer preparing for the shoot makes you forget that it’s actually pretty cold once you’re on the slope. You have to find the fine balance with a pair of gloves that keep your fingers cozy and enable you in operating the gimbal and camera with a firm grip. While filming (and skiing) with the Ronin-S you are constantly adapting to the terrain in terms of momentum and direction, trying to frame your talent and maintaining focus. Not to mention keeping an eye on the changing exposure situation on this bright and sunny winter day.

Over all, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens did a good considering form factor and image quality. The biggest concern on set was focus. I can only dream of trying the EOS R System’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF in this context. To keep the weight of the setup low and maintain full freedom of gimbal movement no monitor assist was used. This left me with DJI’s focus wheel and the camera’s own screen for reference. But the dynamics of the situation often forced me to keep the focus elsewhere, which meant that it was more a matter of distance estimation and aperture (i.e. depth of field) control: F/16 at 1/50 and ISO 100 was the setting of choice. Really, an ND filter such as the highly recommendable Heliopan Variograu should have been used to prevent the highlights from blowing out.

What are the take-aways? In order to apply intentional camera moves you have to practice with the controls and gestures of the Ronin-S over and over again. It did help that I used to be a skateboard filmer for many years, although the technology and topology felt more challenging at Bolgen. I also realised that less is more when framing this kind of action. Simple, deliberate shots instead of trying to film all over the place will do the magic. Last but not least, I really need to try that great Canon autofocus very soon.

Ethics statement: This video was produced on my own behalf and represents my personal views. I am in no way affiliated with any companies or products mentioned.