Design & Style, Arts & Entertainment

Photo Studies: Shooting at the Top

Jimmy Chin

Lesson time 10:22 min

Join Jimmy as he breaks down two sky-high photoshoots from his career: one from the top of the tallest building in the United States, the other from the peak of the tallest mountain in the world.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Skiing Down Mount Everest • Climbing One World Trade Center


I'm going to be working with Sam Crossley, who I have worked with for several years. And I'm going to walk you through a couple real-life scenarios on two images that I shot. The first image of that I'm going to talk about is the image here of Kit DesLauriers on Everest. I took this image about a couple hundred feet from the summit of Everest. So here we are at around 28,500 feet. The tricky aspect about skiing Everest is that you really can't crush yourself when you're getting to the top. Because really, when you get to the top. You have to be on your A game, if you're skiing it. So we did a lot of training, getting into shape to climb the peak. This moment is probably 10 minutes after we summited. Kit, here, standing right above the Hillary Step; Rob DesLauriers, her husband, is right below. And we're about to repel this 40 foot section. Then we have to ski across the south ridge here over to the south summit on the left. It kind of drops off 9,000 feet into Tibet, and then on the right, it's 7,000 feet into the western coon. The reason this image has always stood out for me is that when I went to Everest to ski it, I always wanted to shoot an image that I hadn't seen before. And getting Kit in her skis, getting ready to ski off the summit, this image was the one that kind of stood out. The thing about skiing Everest and shooting at the same time is that you're pretty focused on the skiing. It took us two days to ski from the summit back to base camp, and I actually only fired, maybe, 10 frames total. That's very uncommon when I'm shooting, that in two days, I only shoot 10 frames. But I was pretty focused on keeping my edges on the ground. In scenarios like this, where there's fairly high stakes and you really have to stay focused on, in this case, being a skier and a mountaineer, you really have to choose your moments carefully. When I'm in a situation like this and I don't really have too much bandwidth to think about manual features on the camera, I have everything set on automatic and program, where I could just pull the camera up, bang the shot. I knew that in its automatic settings and program settings, that the camera had always been very good at getting the right exposure. The lens I was shooting was really good at focusing. It was the camera I was very familiar with, so I was able to kind of trust the camera system in that situation. And in this moment I remember, skiing down to Kit. I just shot her skiing off the summit. I get to the Hillary Step. I'm looking down. There are these clouds kind of coming over Lhotse, which is the peak in the background, the fourth highest peak in the world. And this is one of the few moments that I actually had a moment to pull out the camera and take this shot. [MUSIC PLAYING] This image I shot on top of the World Trade Center. I got a call from Kathy Ryan, one of the great photo editors in the business. I'd met with her before and she'd always said, hey, I want to take...

About the Instructor

Jimmy Chin has built his career taking photos at the top of the world, earning him the cover of National Geographic and multiple awards. Now he’s taking you on location to teach you techniques for capturing breathtaking shots. In his photography class, learn different creative approaches for commercial shoots, editorial spreads, and passion projects. Gather the gear—and the perspective—to bring your photography to new heights.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Jimmy Chin

National Geographic photographer teaches his techniques for planning, capturing, and editing breathtaking photos.

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