Good photography helps make the image, but it's the content that will bring it to the next level. Anyone can readily shoot basic subjects in studio or household settings. But take something out of it's element and combine it with another sport, and you have a one of a kind image, the type that will bring your portfolio to the next level! I'm not talking down studio or tabletop photography. There is TONS of room to be creative with those, but it all relies on the subject matter of the image. Here is how I captured the image below:
Most skiers are NOT willing to do this. This is a crazy idea turned even crazier by two professionals (warning: do not try this at home). The athlete is Casey Baskins, sponsored by Fat-Y-Pus skis, and this is his driveway...
He built this jump and told me he wanted to 'jib' (skier slang for tricking over, on, or through some urban feature) his basketball hoop in the driveway. I helped shovel snow off the roof to the left to build a landing. Turns out he really only needed a few inches of landing though, because he kept clearing the pre-built landing and touched down in the 3 inches of snow past it. Seems painful to me, but I'm not the pro skier. We nixed the landing idea and spread it out evenly about a foot deep.
To capture a shot like this can be a first try thing. This was not one of those cases. We shot from about 6 PM until 11PM, and the above image was captured of the very last jump. Casey landed hard in a different spot, and knocked over my flash, fortunately it survived the incident!
You have to make sure to coordinate with the athlete and learn the perfect position that will show their trick off the best. More of the earlier shots (unedited) are posted below. I also like to shoot from a ton of different angles (you should too!) to guarantee that one of the images will show off the true talent of the athlete.
Now on to the technical information. See how the house on the right side of the image bends inwards? That effect was created by a fisheye 10.5mm lens from Nikon. It allowed me to be practically under the hoop, and tilted forward a bit to show the height of the jib. Make sure you know where the athlete will land so you don't get hit in any sport.
Camera Settings: f/8, ISO 250, 1/200th second shutter. I chose a higher shutter to avoid contaminating the scene with the lights the skier was using to see each jump. The f/8 aperture was to maximize my chances of perfect sharpness, though because the exposure is mostly flash the image will be fairly sharp no matter what you do. Typically my ISO is always around 200-250. No real reason to go lower unless it's very bright out, or higher unless I'm trying to achieve more ambient light.
An AlienBee B1600 at 1/4 power with barn-doors was setup to the left of me and about 12 feet back. I raised it to the same height as the hoop to lower the hoop's shadow on the backboard. I used the barn-doors to help reduce the amount of light that was shining on the lower foreground of the image, and on the roof to the left. Without it the roof was blown out and drew the viewer's eye away from the athlete. When a person first looks at an image it is important to know that they will be drawn to the brightest and sharpest parts of the image. To learn how to selectively sharpen, check out this post.
A second AlienBee B1600 was setup at full power behind the jump and to the right. It had an AlienBee blue gel over it. I'm kind of crazy about gels, but then again, I'm crazy about anything that will make my photography more unique. My intentions were for it to help light the house on right and left, but mainly to light up the snow spray from the jump. Each time before Casey hit's the feature I would head up the stairs and throw loose snow on the lip of the takeoff. This creates the brilliant blue snow spray.
Finally, a Nikon SB-800 was setup to below the hoop and just out of the frame. It was set to full power and zoomed to 85mm to add more light to the athlete, and accent the hoop making it look more 3D. All flashes were triggered with PocketWizards. The earlier images throughout this article used variations of this setup, plus a Nikon SB-800 flash with blue LumiQuest FXtra placed on it to light the landing area.
Timing is key with this shot because Casey is moving very fast. Sometimes you get lucky and nail it first try, but usually it takes tons of hard work, and precise shutter clicking!
The best advice learned from this experience? Be on the lookout for more options, and be creative, build your shots up as you shoot. At first it was all about the skier tapping the top of the backboard. Then we realized a basketball jersey would add to the shot. From there, the basketball was added and we had created something totally unique. Props, talent, subject matter, and lighting will make your work shine. Spend time creating an image with people you enjoy working with and you can create something truly unique!
That's the BUZZ for today! Please check back soon for more.