Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Shooting Skateboarding 101

The other night, I was out capturing some photos of skateboarding and I realized that I don't offer much advice for skate photography on APB.  If your interested in getting involved in this type of thing, there's a few bits you should know.


First off, skateboarding photography can actually be dangerous if you are not smart about your position (or are trying to get in close for the best angle)  Most published skate photos are taken wide and close placing the photographer in the danger zone.  Skateboards are not attached to the athletes feet so they tend to fly away from them when they fall and right into you.

Second, like any new type of photography, look through the magazines that represent the current trends in the sport first.  These are your guide to style and if you know what makes those images work, you will be able to apply those techniques while your out shooting.

Athletes know what's cool and what their best tricks are.  However, sometimes the tricks will not look good for stills, or are at a bad location.  Don't be afraid to ask them to show you something else, and be honest by telling them that you can't make a great shot with that trick in that spot.  It's great to start out with any suggestions they have because they know more than you do most likely.


Never ask them to push far out of their comfort zone.  This results in bad photos because they won't be able to make the trick stylish, and may hurt themselves.  You don't want to have to deal with the hospital...

When shooting skating, I generally like to add flash.  Like most of my photography, I feel that flash is what pushes me ahead of the competition and gives me an advantage over other photographers.  I generally use Nikon Speedlights and AlienBees flash heads.  To trigger everything I have a set of pocketwizards Plus II's, though I would love to have the new ones with TTL built-in.

The best location for flash varies, but for me it will work best to have someone else hold it so that I can reposition them, and don't have to risk setting up a flash in a dangerous area.  My general guideline if I'm only using one flash, is that it will light up the athletes face, arms, and board.  If shooting into the sun it works best to have the flash close to me.  Shooting away from the sun I like to add a strong light to the side, or place a powerful unit directly behind the athletes.  This adds a great looking rim light.  Experiment with this and you'll find a look you like that will be great!


Flash sync speeds are usually around 1/250th or 1/320th, however, you can push it a bit higher if you have the athlete in the top half of the frame.  This way the athlete is well-lit, but the bottom half of the frame has no flash in it.  This really only works during daylight hours because then there will still be plenty of detail in the bottom half of the frame.  If at nighttime you will end up cropping a bit.


Aperture is light dependent, but I like to stay around f/5.6 to f/10 so that the athlete is in perfect focus.  With flash I'm only shooting 1 or 2 shots of a trick, so I pre-set focus on the main spot where I want to capture an image.  Without it I will shoot with continuous AF and follow the athlete.  Expose for the ambient first, then build in a flash.  If you want to add more flashes, build them in one at a time and have the athlete stand where the trick will be taking place to check exposure.  You don't want to make them try something they may be nervous about more than once or twice so nail it the first time.

That's about it, please comment below if you have anything else to add from your experiences of shooting skating. Now that you've read this, get out there and shoot! You may be smarter for the article, but your never going to get better without the experience, enjoy!

That's the BUZZ for Today!  Please check back soon for more.


deciblast said...

Thanks for the tips!

Brad K said...

Are any of the athletes (skate board, mountain bike, skiers, etc) ever thrown off by the flash? How do they tend to deal with it?

Connor Walberg said...

Hi Brad K,

I have had one athlete that seemed really irritated before, however this was during a race and he yelled to "watch my flash placement" In his defense it was setup head on with the trail and triggered while he was looking towards it. Generally, the athletes don't even seem phased by the flash. Just ask first, or in a race set it up so that it's not directly set in the athletes line of vision.

Hope this helps!


edisk8 said...

I just have one external flash and I was looking for some helpful tips. These are the ones I was looking for. Thanks for sharing this info.

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