First of all, to avoid any confusion: the Michael Mueller who shot these images is not the same photographer who shoots sharks and invents waterproof Profoto heads. No, this is the Michael Mueller who shoots action sports and brings Profoto strobes with him to a snowy mountaintop.
“I like being outside,” says Michael. “I also like photographing people who are outside, and I find it rewarding to try to capture all the positive things I associate with this: the adrenaline, the forces of nature, the changing weather, the feelings you get when you’re riding your bike or skiing down a slope.”
It all started when Michael was in his early twenties and his snowboarding friends asked him to take some action shots of them. Michael soon realized that not only did he enjoy the assignment; he actually had a knack for taking photographs that inspires people to get out of their seductively comfortable sofas and head out into nature.
Needless to say, the encouraging, positive feel of Michael’s images has made him sought-after amongst brands that want their customers to feel just that – encouraged and inspired. The images in this article were shot during one such assignment, and the client in question was ski mountaineering brand Dynafit.
“The current trend in that particular market is quite realistic photographs, shot with available light only,” says Michael. “But Dynafit wanted something different. They wanted something that felt natural yet extraordinary. So, after discussing it with my agency Pascher & Heinz, I decided to bring strobes with me to the shoot.”
Said and done. Michael and his crew packed an AcuteB2 battery generator, spare batteries, an AcuteB Head equipped with a Disc Reflector, plus a spare head too, just in case. Then they headed for the slope.
“It wasn’t easy,” says Michael. “The weather conditions were quite rough, and because of the avalanche risk, we had to walk for half an hour in the snow in -20°. As you know, batteries don’t work very well under those conditions, but we solved that problem by putting ski boot heaters next to the generator in the backpack. This actually worked so well that we ended up using only two batteries for the entire shoot.”
Looking at the behind-the-scenes images of frost covered laptops and flash heads, you almost get the feeling that Michael’s shooting day ended in frozen tears. But as the final images are a clear evidence of, Michael got the shots he needed. Even more importantly, the client loved them.
“Yes, the client was super happy and the response from the community has been overwhelming,” says Michael. “Like I said, they usually prefer more natural looking images. My guess is that it worked because we didn’t fake anything. The weather is real. The snow and the wind are real. These are not models and they’re not acting. These are real athletes and they’re really struggling to climb that mountain. And even though we did use artificial lighting, we didn’t create light out of nowhere. We just enhanced what was already there.”