How'd He Shoot That Photo?

Photographer Christian Pondella breaks down his favorite shots taken before the rise of POV cameras.
POV image of whitewater kayak athlete Tao Berman in July 2007
Tao Berman © Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool
By Christian Pondella

Before the days of “personal cameras,” photographers had to get pretty creative to capture a POV image. The point-of-view image is a unique perspective, bringing the viewer very close to the action and allowing a glimpse into a sport and the associated action from the athlete’s eyes.

To capture a POV taken with a traditional SLR or DSLR camera requires some sort of rigging to attach the camera on the person or their equipment -- which means it also takes the cooperation of the athlete. It has to be someone willing to perform their moves while hauling a camera contraption with them that could weigh anywhere from four to 20 pounds.

I once watched a skydiver mounted with my camera and several video cameras land in a lake when he swore to us he would “for sure” land on the shore.

You also get the disclaimer from whomever you mount your gear to that goes something like: “I am not responsible for this gear if I break it.” To get the shot, the photographer needs to be willing to sacrifice thousands of dollars’ worth of camera equipment. I once watched a skydiver mounted with my camera and several video cameras land in a lake when he swore to us he would “for sure” land on the shore.

Today, personal cameras have revolutionized POV photo and video, with pre-made mounts for body parts and equipment that weigh just a few ounces. For traditional photographers who prefer to get the ultimate quality in the image, however, we’re faced with a more challenging task to go the extra steps.

Included here are some of my favorite POV images I’ve taken over the years.

Tao Berman - Kayak

Photo of whitewater kayak athlete Tao Berman in July 2007
Tao Berman with POV camera mounted in 2007 © Christian Pondella/Red Bull

This was one of the more complex contraptions I’ve utilized to get my camera mounted, this time on the front of Tao Berman’s kayak. I used a Canon Mark III and 15 mm fisheye inside a SPL water housing, remotely triggering the camera with a PocketWizard. This set-up must have weighed close to 20 pounds and probably made the kayak perform a little on the irregular side.

Bolivia - Ski Mountaineering
 

Photographer Christian Pondella captures POV image while ski mountaineering
Christian Pondella in Bolivia © Christian Pondella/Red Bull

I do a lot of ski mountaineering, during which you spend a good amount of time climbing mountains with your skis on your back. I had played with this particular mount several times in different locations before I decided that high up in the mountains on a steep face would be the most dramatic spot for it.

Photographer Christian Pondella captures POV image while ski mountaineering
Christian Pondella in Bolivia © Christian Pondella/Red Bull

I mounted my Canon 5d Mark III and 14 mm lens just below the tips of my skis and captured this image of David Rosenbarger and Giulia Monego in Bolivia near 19,685 feet. 

Kirby Chambliss - Aerobatic Pilot

POV image of aerobatic pilot Kirby Chambliss in front of the Golden Gate Bridge
Kirby Chambliss and the Golden Gate Bridge © Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool

I was able to mount my Canon 5D and 15 mm fisheye on Kirby Chambliss’s wing tip. I then placed a PocketWizard in the cockpit near Kirby’s controls and had him trigger the camera while he was banking a turn over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Photographer Christian Pondella rigs POV camera on Kirby Chambliss's airplane wing
Pondella's POV set-up on Kirby's wing © Christian Pondella/Red Bull

Stay tuned for more of Christian Pondella's "Behind the Photo" features, including this awesome photo of Brandon Semenuk from Red Bull Rampage.

Check out the latest amazing photos from RedBull.com's Adventure channel, as well.

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