(Reuters) - Reuters photographer Paul Hanna covered this month's FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships in Spain's Sierra Nevada mountains. Below is his account of capturing the breathtaking mid-air images.


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Photographing sports usually includes a mixture of patience, timing, positioning, perseverance, access, knowledge - and sheer luck.


Knowing how a sport unfolds and how to position oneself to capture the key action moment or emotion before it is gone is essential.


When it comes to winter sports, the job usually involves skiing into position with a heavy backpack carrying all the day's camera gear. Photographers also needs crampons to stop them sliding down into the course from their shooting position.

With such technical and physical demands, covering a competitive winter event such as the FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships can be a grueling physical feat.

The key to capturing the beauty of freestyle skiing is about getting the images of competitors flipping and twisting their way through the evening sky. The amount of time the competitors spend in the air is impressive.

The photo of China's Qi Guangpu performing an aerial during the men's aerial training was taken as the sun was setting over the mountains. But capturing the aerial as well as the fading sunset was difficult as there was no vantage point to get the two elements in the same frame. Cables blocked the view to the jumps and my position was too low to capture very high jumps.

A small scaffolding tower holding a few cables up became my best bet.

Without waiting to see if anyone would object and laden with cameras, I managed to scale the tower and photograph a handful of athletes before the light disappeared.

It was not the most comfortable shooting position with one foot wedged between a bar and the other leg wrapped around another bar for support.

At times during the event, I was also allowed underneath the jump to shoot pointing straight up as the athletes shot off the ramp into the night sky. The spray of snow appeared like stars - a picturesque setting for the athletes' impressive feats.

(Writing by Paul Hanna; Editing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Alison Williams)