Ski Cinematography with Alexander Rydén

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Hi everyone! Today we’re happy to have Alexander Rydén, one of the best professional skiing cinematographers in the world, a long-time contributor to Filmmakersworld.

He coordinates and films action scenes in challenging mountain locations inaccessible to regular film crews. Often, he skis alongside the athletes while operating the camera.

He is usually a combination of first assistant director and cinematographer in those locations. He has been professionally engaged in this type of work for the last 10 years.

Hi Alexander! You are one of the few professionals doing this fascinating and unique job. How did the idea of combining skiing with filmmaking come about?

Hi! My interest in cameras began as a teenager while skiing with my friends in Edsåsdalen, Sweden. We would film each other performing tricks and then watch the footage, comparing it to commercial ski movies. 

This prompted us to think about how we could improve our skiing, and at the same time, it made me wonder: How can I make these shots look cooler and more like the ones in the big ski movies?

A few years later, I started as a trainee at a local TV station in Åre, which eventually led to a job at TV Åre. This opportunity opened doors to connections with professional skiers in Sweden.

Then I started working with the best skiers around the world. However, after years of filming skiers from a distance while sitting still in a helicopter, I surprisingly found myself getting bored.

I wanted to come closer to the action to be a part of it. I wanted to move and ski myself. So, in 2016, I started experimenting with follow-cam, which involves skiing alongside the skiers with the camera.

I’ve been skiing all my life and even competed in climbing at the elite level in Sweden. Today, I merge my athletic background with my passion for filmmaking. This unique combination has resulted in award-winning sports documentaries and commercial projects for renowned brands like Moncler, Loro Piana, Red Bull, Peak Performance, Ford, Oysho, and Sunrise.

My filmmaking journey has taken me around the world – from the snow-capped peaks of Switzerland to Alaska’s vast landscapes, Canada’s rugged terrain, Sweden’s serene vistas, Japan’s powdery slopes, the icy terrains of Iceland, and the challenging mountains of Chile.

Filming some of the best skiers in the world. 

  • Shawn White – 3x Olympic Champion, 6x World Champion
  • Marco Odermatt – Olympic Champion, 6x World Champion
  • Axel Lund Svindal – 2x Olympic Champion, 5x World Champion
  • Jesper Tjäder – 2x World Record, 1st XGames, Olympic Bronze
  • Kristoffer Turdell – 2x World Champion Freeride
  • Marcus Kleveland – 2x World Champion
  • Henrik Windstedt – World Champion Freeride
  • Julia Mancuso – Olympic Champion, 2x Olympic silver
  • Reine Barkered – World Champion Freeride
  • Richard Permin – Multiple World Class movies
  • Fanny Smith – World Champion Skicross, 2x Olympic bronze
  • Perrine Laffont – 5x World Champion Moguls, Olympic Champion

One of my recent commercial productions in Chile for Oysho was a challenge with the weather for me and the crew. I’m used to harsh weather, including strong winds and temperatures as low as -35 Celsius. 

The crew I’m working with comes from traditional film productions in more controlled environments.

This time we had very changing weather and one of the most challenging snow conditions I’ve ever filmed in for off-piste skiing – a true test for both me, with my camera in my hands, and the skiers performing in front of it.

The mountain was a sheet of ice, posing an extraordinary challenge. Our skis could barely penetrate the surface of the ice.
On the first day, the risk was too high; we had to cancel the off-piste shoot for safety. Instead, we switched to filming on piste skiing.

The next day we attempted off-piste again, but the conditions remained icey. Down in the forest, the snow had vanished since our initial recce. This forced us to scout for new locations on the fly. This is particularly challenging when you are a crew of 60 people.

First, the ice, then the race against melting snow. Tell us more!

Our options were limited. Not all areas had snow, and navigating, and skiing with the camera through dense trees was a challenge.

After conducting a couple of test runs, I found a route that seemed workable. It was a thrilling experience, skiing between trees, hopping over roots, and ducking under branches. 

Time wasn’t on our side; with each take, the snow melted further. By day’s end, we were practically skiing on the ground. Thankfully, my experience skiing on grass and rocks came in handy!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4X6jBOdZGsU
(Private Video of Alex freeride skiing on grass)

On our last day, we began with piste skiing in the morning, waiting for the sun to soften the icy snow. 

As the day progressed, we decided to give the off-piste another shot. I was hopeful that the sun’s warmth had rendered the snow a bit more forgiving. It was a moment of truth as I navigated through the off-piste terrain, now slightly softer but still challenging.

This is truly incredible! In filmmaking, especially in extreme sports, adapting to the environment is key. What have you learned from this particular experience in Chile?

This production in Chile taught me more about resilience, adaptability, and the sheer unpredictability of nature. Embrace your power and control what you can. Despite the hurdles, we captured some incredible footage, each frame a testament to the beauty and brutality of nature.

See the final piece here, directed by Nick Bartlett.

Who assisted you in this project? How does he support you while skiing?

In this production, I was assisted by my friend Marcus Ahlström. We used the DJI transmission system. 

This allowed him to pull focus and also assist in framing the shots when necessary. This proved particularly helpful in the tight forest, where my skiing space was minimal.

Do you have any equipment preferences for your shoots in extreme locations? What is your favorite ready-to-go kit?

I like filming with Red Komodo, it’s my go-to camera. Its small form factor, lightweight, and superb image quality combined with a Global shutter. It’s possible to shoot high-speed action handheld and get a nice organic shake.

For this particular commercial shoot for Oyhso in Chile I used:

  • Camera: Red Komodo X
  • Lens: Zeiss Standard Primes 2
  • Gimbal: DJI Ronin RS3
  • Tilta advance ring grip
  • Monitor: Small HD DP7
  • Video system: DJI Transmission
  • Focus motor: DJI

What aspect of your work excites you the most? What motivates you to always push your limits?

Capture the talent up close and personal with the action. Make you feel like you are there with us. Transmit the raw energy through my camera. My drive is fueled by my passion for adventure, I like showcasing the rush and authentic adrenaline, and the sense of danger. I want to turn unthinkable ideas into unbelievable and unforgettable moments. 

With my personal experience of mountains and skiing, I anticipate the unfolding moments. I usually have to nail the shot first try. As it takes a lot of time to get to the location and set up the shot.

ski cinematography

To me, it’s about living a life of adventure and letting people experience the thrill and beauty of remote locales through my work. Inspiring others to embrace these moments fully is what motivates me to constantly push my limits.

If I’m not physically and mentally fit, the quality of my cinematography suffers, and the risks can be significant. I must continually push myself to ensure I’m prepared for critical moments. 

When I’m not filming, I need to train in either climbing or skiing. I’m on skis around 130-160 days a year.

Can you tell us about the time you shot on film? We remember it was a very particular challenge.

Last summer I shot skiing on a vintage analog film camera for major Italian luxury fashion Moncler.

As the second unit action director and cinematographer, I orchestrated the action scenes in tandem with the athletes, navigating terrain inaccessible to the main film crew.

My role involved action filming — skiing alongside the athletes while operating the camera. I had the thrill of chasing world-renowned skiers Richard Permin, and Perrine Laffont, and snowboarders Shaun White and Xuetong Cai. Their incredible skills are set against the stunning backdrop of snowy landscapes.

This Moncler film captures an exhilarating skiing journey, filmed through the lens of 16mm analog cameras — the vintage Bolex and the Arri 416.

This project marries the excitement of extreme winter sports with the distinct challenges and visual appeal of analog cinematography.

This presented a unique set of challenges. For starters, shooting on film meant I couldn’t instantly review each shot taken. Framing shots became an intricate task, especially since I couldn’t see what I was capturing while skiing. The camera, devoid of any electronic aids, left me without the convenience of using a monitor to guide my framing.

Given the camera’s limited viewfinder, which was practically unusable while maneuvering alongside world-class athletes, I had to innovate. My solution was to mount a GoPro above the camera lens. This setup allowed me to use the GoPro’s small screen as a framing guide, offering a glimpse into the scene I was capturing.

This workaround was essential for maintaining some level of control and intentionality over the shots I was taking in such dynamic conditions.

I operated a spring-loaded Bolex film camera, which allowed me to capture footage in 15-second bursts. After each burst, I had to manually rewind the camera’s spring to prepare for the next 15-second take. 

With each film roll, I had a total recording time of 3 minutes at my disposal. Once exhausted, the process of changing the film took about 10-15 minutes—a meticulous task that required precision and patience in the fast-paced environment of action sports cinematography.

We are shooting on Durfurzpitze 4634 meters above sea level, in Switzerland, the Alps’ second highest peak, its landscape perpetually cloaked in snow, thanks to the expansive glaciers. Skiing on glaciers comes with its own set of hazards, particularly the crevasses. 
These deep cracks can be hidden under the snow’s surface, making it crucial to navigate with caution. The last thing anyone wants is to fall into the depths of a crevasse, some of which can stretch down to 40 meters.

How important are social media to you, and how have they changed your career? 

To me, social media is a way to give back to the community, I want to inspire people to follow their dreams.

When I was a teenager I didn’t think it was possible to work with film. It was a fake job and not something for a kid growing up in a small village with 60 people living there. 

It wasn’t until I saw a cameraman live and in person, during a tv production in Åre. 

I realized people were working with cameras. This made my distant dream feel closer and something I could touch with my hand. I remember I got to try the zoom of his camera.

I believe social media is also a crucial channel for marketing.
Through Filmmakersworld and its community, I’ve met a lot of talented individuals, and I later had the opportunity to work with them. 

“Every day is an adventure, and every challenge is an opportunity to create something extraordinary”

Alexander Ryden

Thank you, Alex, for sharing your incredible and challenging journey as a skiing cinematographer with our community, we’re excited to see what you’ll do next!

If you don’t follow him on Instagram and stay tuned!

More articles and exclusive stories are in the pipeline 🙂
If you missed the latest, check it out.

Much love
FilmmakersWorld Team

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