Getting that First Action Shot: Snow Park
So do we have coms with those guys? Okay, I can see the athletes are up there. And this is a good lesson, we have walkie-talkies and we're trying to communicate with the guys at the fence but the reality is it's technology, sometimes equipment works, sometimes equipment doesn't work. What I like to do if I'm alone, if it's a one-man band style scenario is I'll actually talk to them on the radio and then I'll ask them to count to ten before they drop. So it's, "Okay guys, I'm ready. After we're done with this conversation, I want you to count to ten slowly and then oftentimes I'll ask them to yell "dropping" as loud as they possibly can. So it's, "Dropping!" And then I can actually, I know, because I'm not looking at them. I'm looking through my camera. If I have someone next to me, in this case Brett's working with me as an assistant. Brett will actually be watching the athletes and he'll actually count down until they hit the lip. So he'll say, "three, two, one" and then I know they'r...
e coming into the frame. And in short bursts like this, I'll actually lay on the shutter release button before I actually see them in the frame. Because when I hear "three, two, one," as soon as Brett says "one" I'm gonna start depressing the shutter. I know I can shoot like 120 frames with the D5 buffer and so I'll just blast it as they move through the frame. And as oftentimes happens, my frame might be terrible because it's the first frame and I might realize that Cody barely moves through my frame. But let's try it. Brett, are you willing to do the countdown?
Okay, just give us one second and we'll give you a countdown right here in a minute.
So Brett, I think I'm ready. Let's maybe if you're willing to be kinda close to me, let's actually go ahead and what I was just explaining, why don't you tell him, once you say "go for it," actually you can just queue him and why don't you give me a countdown three, two, one. One being when they hit the lip. And who's going? Let's send Cody first actually.
Hey Cody, we are going to send you first. Are you almost ready?
I'm ready to go whenever.
Okay, let's do it.
Alright, Cody, drop when you're ready.
Okay, give me a three count, Brett.
Sure. Alright. Three Two. One.
Great, alright, he was in my frame. That's good. I actually saw him move through it. So I'm gonna step over and look at the computer and see how this looks.
This came in.
And it's worth pointing out for those that are at home. There's some things about this picture that I would probably change if we were here shooting for a long time. I'm not crazy about where the chair lift is, but I'm leaving it in the frame more from the perspective of just illustrating how to make a picture. I just saw these images pass through the computer, it's great, he's a figure in a landscape, that's what I want. I want him floating in the air up above the big valley. It worked quite well. I did just notice Cody's in a green sweatshirt against this blue sky. Not the ideal situation, and so I think it's nice, I put them in different colors. Dillon's actually in a red flannel, but fairly brighter reddish orange. So it'll be nice to see this contrast difference between Cody in dark green versus Dillon in the red flannel. And I'm not gonna change my position, I'm just gonna shoot from the same camera position. I just wanna see what Dillon looks like moving through frame. And let's send him.
Alright, Dillon, whenever you're ready. He just dropped, I'll give you the same countdown. Alright. Three. Two. One.
Cool, that was nice. And I could see even through my camera without seeing the images pop up on the computer, I can already tell that orange top, that orange-red flannel definitely helped. It's a brighter, little poppier in the frame as he moves through that rectangle. And again, you're gonna see some things in these photos as you see them online, I can see some of the CreativeLive crew in the background, that's okay, this is more about illustrating how do I approach shooting this photograph. So I just got a save shot. I would call this a wide. Wide shot, small figure in the landscape. I intentionally left some of the knuckle in this shot. And that's just giving you some context so that they're not just floating in space. Now there's a lot of debate in the industry. In the industry, folks will say, "we always want context, we wanna understand where they're leaving" or they wanna see the lip of the feature where they're leaving. It's okay, every rule is made to be broken. You just wanna play it safe, you wanna get the shot, where you're actually putting in context and then shoot the shot where it's more artsy and you take it out of context and they're flying through the sky. The key is just anchoring it to the earth without seeing, if I crop up, let me just show you this for the heck of it. Okay, this is a frame where we see snow. We can see the knuckle. Then I can could crop up and I don't show the knuckle and I'm just using trees at the bottom. And so if you picture Cody or Dillon flying through the air by putting that knuckle there, you get a little more feel for, oh okay, how high are they. If I just float them above the trees, you don't know if they're 50 feet off the ground or 15 feet off the ground. So again, just looking for options. Brett, how did those last frames of Dillon look?
Okay, one other trick that's worth mentioning is we're outside --
Oops, sorry, went too far.
Yeah, that's nice. Nice frame and is he sharp there?
Yeah, I think so.
Okay. Yeah, he's razor sharp. Alright Alright, good. So we've got something. We have a frame. Right now if I had to ship these images to Red Bull, I haven't failed. I've got something in the can. Now I also made conscious decision, I sort of like these two tall trees on the left. It felt kind of geometric. I didn't mind leaving these trees in. Looks like I might have even unintentionally adjusted my frame. I thought I had more of them in. I think there's a CreativeLive camera op right here, so I probably cropped a little to the left for that reason. So, we got that shot. Let's just start mixing it up. I think I'm gonna move to the other side of the feature so that I go a little more front lit. It's gonna switch up our background slightly. And let's actually have a look at how that will play out. So there's also some logistics. We're gonna have to move a table and a computer, so that we can actually broadcast these images live back to our audience that's watching online. Why don't we, let's see here. What is our best way to do this. Maybe I could take a couple of questions while we are waiting.
Yeah, we kinda talked about this before cameras got on, but we first pulled up and immediately didn't like that big black flag. So what would you suggest if you were coming in and shooting an athlete like we were today how to go around that or work with people at the hill here?
So I think that's a great question. The question is as photographers we're oftentimes trying to avoid stuff sticking out of shots like this black Northstar flag here. Obviously if you run the marketing department at Northstar or you run the park at Northstar, the reason there's a flag here is you want folks to know that this event is taking place at Northstar. So, there's two different realities. If we were shooting at the X Games or at a Red Bull event, we obviously can't go in and move the branding around. It's an event, it's running, and in fact, Red Bull wants that branding in the shot just the same way that Northstar wants their branding in the shot. Now in a situation like this where we're actually working with the athlete and we're trying to make aesthetic, kind of evergreen images that last a long time and aren't tethered or tied to a specific event, in a situation like this, first of all, I'll just try to politically shoot around it. I'd rather leave the banner in the sky so that I don't ruffle any feathers. But if it turns out my angle necessitates moving that flag, and it's worth pointing out, the shadow of this flag was in the bottom of my frame and I was conscious of that shadow being in the frame. If we were really gonna try to refine these images I would definitely be asking, can we actually move the flag. Odds are, on a day like today, Northstar would have no problem with it. If it adds to the frame, I leave it in. If it takes away from the frame, I'll take it out. This afternoon, we're gonna be shooting on a rail with strobes and when we get into that environment I can already see the flag is dead center behind the rail. And so we'll definitely be asking to take the flag out of the ground in that environment.
So, Corey, we're probably ready to move.
Okay, let's do it. So you know, a couple of things are happening here. Obviously, we're shooting tethered on the laptop. We're gonna be out here all day. So mostly we're shooting tethered, not because I need to shoot tethered to make great pictures. In fact, if you're out here as a one-man band, you're shooting your assignment for Red Bull or for another client, you're not gonna be tethered. You're gonna be shooting to your camera body and you'll download the images in the aftermath. We're shooting tethered here today so that we can share images live to the feed online. Because obviously, that feedback is valuable. When I'm shooting tethered, it actually makes it tricky because I can't see the back of my camera. And so I really have to have faith that my settings are correct, that Brett has actually set the computer, that everything is set up correctly. We're using Capture One, that's kind of our default tethering software when we're gonna shoot to a computer. Shooting to a computer is fairly common when we're working with big clients and we want people reviewing the images real time and feeling confident that what we're shooting is working. One other trick, and this is worth pointing out, any time I'm outside shooting in the field, I wear sunglasses but they're non-polarized lenses. And so by having non-polarized lenses, I can actually look at the back of my camera or I can look at the computer. If you have polarized lenses on, you'll look at the computer or the back of your camera and you can't see it until you turn your head sideways because of the polarization. So then you're constantly taking your sunglasses off to look at the computer, to look at the back of the camera, and so I'm pretty accustomed to using this tint, this style of Oakley glasses. I sort of know it's a stop and a third of ND, and then I look at my camera. I'll look at histograms, but I actually get a pretty good feel for, am I correctly exposed or not. Another thing that I do is if we're out skiing all day, of course, I'll wear goggles and a helmet, but if I know I'm gonna be in one situation or in the park for a while, I'll always have sunglasses in my bag and I'll take off my helmet and I'll put on a ball cap just so that I can actually be more comfortable and really get the camera up under my eye. I can shoot through sunglasses. Goggles are really hard to shoot through. I end up, I'm constantly pulling them up over my head. I just can't get my eye close enough to the camera and have confidence that I'm tracking focus correctly. So always in the kit, a pair of sunglasses, ball cap, or even a beanie if I'm gonna take my helmet off. If we're shooting skiing on the mountain and the athletes are gonna be coming really close to me. I make a pretty conscious effort to keep my helmet on. I might put on sunglasses but if I'm on a fisheye lens and they're making turns near me, sometimes stuff happens and you get nailed by your athlete. So having that helmet on makes a pretty big difference. In fact, if I were a good steward of safety, I'd probably have my helmet on right now standing right here at the lip. So, obviously we have a computer set up, we're shooting directly to this hard drive so we have a G-Tech hard drive, shooting into Capture One, but sending pictures to the hard drive. It's worth pointing out when shooting tethered I'm not shooting to the card in my camera. It's going directly to that hard drive, so we're also running power if we're gonna try to keep this laptop running all day. We have a generator in the trees. And it's worth explaining all of that because it will simply affect our timeline for moving around. When I'm just shooting to card, I can be much more nimble obviously than when shooting to a laptop. Brett, anything else that you think is --
Well, it's beautifully sunny out. Maybe talk about proper exposure on snow, given how it's beautifully sunny out.
Sure, cameras have come a long way in the last decade. It used to be when shooting on film, you had to play all of these exposure games. You'd meter off the snow, then it would under expose because it's so bright it would fool the camera meter. Thankfully, on cameras like the D5, these meters are incredible. You could virtually just shoot on aperture priority in most situations and the camera will correctly expose given we're in a snowy environment. But, you should be very conscientious of when shooting on snow, it's very easy for the camera to get fooled. And it's just simply, it's a big white surface punching light right back into the camera. And the camera thinks it's actually brighter so therefore underexposes based on neutral gray. So the beauty of digital is you can meter, take a picture, look at the back of your camera, look at your histogram, make sure it's not peaking. The beauty of shooting on snow on the flip side is you have this giant reflector that's bouncing light right back into the athlete's face and filling shadows which is quite nice.