Research Location / Wardrobe / Props for Action Shoot
When you add international travel to the equation how much travel are we going to do? What's the drive time from Beirut? We're not flying on United Airlines. How much are they going to charge me per bag to get my equipment on the plane? How are we going to source dumb bells or plates for that jib arm? Are there any restrictions on using drones in Lebanon? Now some of that David the athlete can athlete can answer. Some of it we have to research online. Some of it because RedBull is an awesome company when it comes to production we can hand off to the team at RedBull to enter those locations. And I'm thinking about this. I'm thinking about when we finally get there when all of the pieces of the puzzle come together I don't want there to be one tragic flaw in this situation. I don't want to show up at the location and it turns out it's on private land and the land owner comes stumbling down the trail and this is "What are you doing here?" It's so it's thinking about do we have permission?
And how do we get to this location? I don't want David to show up and it turns out all he brought was like a white painter's suit. I mean that's a bad example but he has the wrong clothes right? He brought Levi's and a you know a ACDC tee shirt. It's I need to make sure that the athlete I'm working with has the right stuff and with a professional athlete like David it's not he's never going to show up with the wrong clothes. He's sponsored by Mamoot. He's sponsored by RedBull. He has shoe sponsors but it's more the right color right? David's he's thinking about how do I climb the hardest routes in the world all the time? What is my next objective? He's not thinking about what color should my shirt be for the Lebanon shoot? And so I'm constantly instilling upon the athletes I want you to bring a bag of clothes. I want you to bring several pairs of pants, several shirts, several helmets make sure and this is even to RedBull this is important. You know RedBull asks athletes to wear helmets or hats. In photo shoots I also don't want a beat up helmet or hat. I mean even if it's branded correctly but there's dings and it's cracked and it just looks terrible that's something that I'm trying to manage before we're sitting at the location because it turns out when you get further from home you know you're sitting in a gorge in Lebanon and then the wrong color shirt comes up. It's really hard to solve those problems. Some times impossible to solve those problems on locations. So it's what can you proactively do? Props? That's sort of applies to action sports. It's you know the bikes they're riding, the quick draws, the ropes that they're using. If there is going to be other things in your frame it's just you want to make sure that those subtle details really they make a difference. It's you know all about the subtly. Often times is what makes the great photographs. So I think it's safe to say that almost all of my research starts on Google. You know the first thing I do after I've dreamed up an idea or an assignment has been kind of handed to me and let's just pretend that tomorrow our assignment is we're shooting Cody and Dillon at the train park at North Star for RedBull and I know straight out of the gate I know that when I'm doing a shoot for RedBull or for any client but RedBull in specific specifically they're not just asking for one photograph they want a set of pictures that tell a small story. A great peak action photograph. Details. Portraits. Scene setters. Sequences. Motion... They want diversity. And my goal always is I want to delivery 20 or 30 40 50 100 amazing different photographs and again you're probably not going to deliver 100 different photographs in one day but in a three day shoot you're always striving for more high quality images that provide diversity. Vertical. Horizontal. And the rational is that we just don't know how RedBull will use those photos. It could be wrapped around a bus which is a long horizontal. It could be a bill board which is a big rectangle. It could be you know the side of a building which is a tall vertical. It could be a banner ad which is a you know thin vertical online. It could be a square on Instagram. So our job or it could be a magazine profile where it is just simply a portrait of the athlete. So I'm always thinking about how am I going to create as much diversity if I have any control over the environment I want to pick an environment and a location that provides as much opportunity visual opportunity as possible. And Google is like the greatest place to do this to get just a taste like a from 10000 feet above the view of the location. So I go on and I punch in you know North Star Train Park and up comes a search result and instantly and even just at a glace you sort of get a feel for what this location looks like. Being from Lake Tahoe I see a couple of things immediately I realize okay this frame is not North Star. That is the lake is not in the background of the train park, but then I see this and I think whoa that's cool. There's like a big background we're looking into the truckie area. Okay yellow must be their color. The North Star it seems all of their rails and train features are yellow which actually I like. It's a good looking color they are fairly aesthetic. There's obviously big pine trees which are pretty common to this area. You know pretty big features and I've also learned to be really realistic. Who knows? We're showing up at the end of the season. They might be pretty small features but I use this to sort of start gathering information. I also you know immediately ask myself where on the mountain is the train park? And you know this prompts me to go and find that map and I'll probably click on that photo so I'll get a lay of the land. Like what does the hill at North Star look like? I figure out pretty quickly and if I'm not mistaken this is the train park right here so we're going to go up the gondola and then there's a chair lift that gives us access to the train park. And now I can start making some pretty educated informed decisions about how I'm going to approach this. I realize okay the lake is south of North Star. You see it poking out so this train park must be sort of North facing it is on the North side of the mountain. This is West. That's East. So it's the North East side of the mountain. So that tells me something about light. I can figure out where I'm going to park. I'm just going through all of these logistics. So I'm not fumbling when I get there. So it's like I want to problem solve in advance of actually being on location. So in the ideal environment then you have time to actually go and scout or tech scout. And so yesterday this is Bret Wilhelm. You're going to meet Bret later today. There's Bret. I'm there. The whole live creative crew is behind me. Honestly we need to figure out how we're going to pull this off from a practical perspective. So now we're actually in the park and looking at the actual features figuring out what is the best location? And how are we you know going to do two things? There's a crew behind this film you know so that we can teach live. But two as a photographer I'm looking at it and saying how are we actually going to make interesting pictures? What are which feature which jump is the most impressive? And what rail? How can we get something close by? So that I can toggle from one to the other? First we're going to shoot the jump and then we jump over and we shoot on the rail. So we ski through the park and to put it in to perspective because I remember early on when scouting you know I was I would do it really quickly I would like ski through the train park like turn my head as I am skiing and that was it. This took us like two hours. I mean we'd ski through the train park we'd stop at each feature and I'd circumnavigate each feature. You know it's some times I'll bring a camera. This was more about just eyeballing but I'm looking at the features. Bret and I are talking. We're talking there could be a shot from this angle, profiled, silhouetted. Yep. Okay. And then we seen the stand up on the lip. Yep okay this would be a nice shot with small figure in the landscape. We go but you know we're kinda hiking back up the hill yep this could be a long lens shot. And you know there's some guys in the park. And that helps. And they they are hitting the features. We brought Dillon Zellers with us. And Dillon and having an athlete there is hugely valuable because he has insight that I don't have. I don't know you know that not very common that I hit a 35 foot feature and that I can do it once and that will end the day I think. But having Dillon there was really valuable because it's hot. It was pretty warm. And Dillon had feedback the effect of hey this is going to be pretty tough if it is this warm and like I'm going to need a lot of speed. You know the landing will be good but it's going to be pretty tough to get enough speed. So you're listening to that feedback and often times I'll have a piece of paper in the my back pocket. And I'll actually draw the feature really rudimentary drawing of the feature and start doing icons you now with arrows, camera, and then you know arrow this way and start blocking out the shots so that I've really pretty visualized whether what are the opportunities? One of the things I find is that once we are on location it can actually be you know there is a lot going on. People are asking questions, you're giving direction, you're trying to manipulate your camera to get the right exposure. And sometimes you can sort of loose sight of what is the end goal? And having that cheat sheet on this day on scout day your mind you're not overwhelmed by the actual moment. Until you pull out your cheat sheet and you have the ability to reference that cheat sheet and okay we'll do that next. That's our next move I've already got shot number one. Let's move around the feature. Let's go to shot two or three or four. And so having that shot list whether visual or just words written with bullet points is incredibly helpful I've found. There's a couple of apps that I use on my phone that really help as well so that you're making informed educated decisions. This is Sun Seeker. So this is the free version of Sun Seeker. You can pull out your iPhone and it tells you in a 360 degree circle it tells you where does the sun rise? And where is it going to track? And where is it going to set? And that's based on the GPS in your phone. Hugely helpful. It was kind of an overcast day. And but I want to know where the sun is going to be and so on those scout days and then you can like pay $ and upgrade and then you get sort of real time as you move the phone you can see the sun goes in the sky. And I'll show you guys this app tomorrow when we are at North Star. Hugely valuable. Hugely valuable. For knowing what is going to happen. You know some times you're scouting at night and it's you know you get in late at night your flight is delayed. You end up at your location and you have no idea orientation? Where as you pull this app out and you have a pretty darn good feel for where the sun is going to be in the morning. This is a pretty good idea to do screen shots in your phone. So that you know late night when you are in the hotel room or your at dinner and you're trying to remember how it is going to work. Doing those screen shots helps you remember relative to your location. You know how this is going to play out. I use Noah a lot for weather it seems to be a relatively accurate weather forecasting tool specifically in Tahoe. But I've found you know around the United States and around the globe. You know just a snap shot of what is the forecast going to do? And this doesn't look good. (laughs) Who knows? This is maybe it's changed. A couple of you know maybe half a day has passed. But it's just having a snap shot of what are we going to experience tomorrow going in as as prepared as possible. You know a great example. You know there is a cold trend coming through. I just want to make sure that I am comfortable even. I want to make sure I have enough clothing on that it's you know I want my focus to be on creativity. I don't want my focus switching to like god damn I'm freezing. I don't have enough layers on. So it is me and its also empowering your athletes or your subjects to be comfortable and so it's you know letting Dillon and Cody know hey guys you're going to stand around a lot that's the nature of photo shoots. You might be standing around a lot so bring a down jacket that you can leave at the top of the hill while you're just standing there and then you are warm and then you peel it off and then hit the jump. So day three we're going to Woodward. Same thing. And I'm using these examples of what I learned from the scout. I do a Google search. Immediately I realize a couple of observations. The color palette in Woodward is pretty cool. It's like gray walls. It looks like there is big spools of insulation in the roof. I noticed the white insulation. And I of course know that we are shooting BMX so we are going to be in this concrete area. Kind of the street simulation area. Also makes me sort of want to go and jump into these foam pits because that looks really cool. Hopefully we'll get to do that. But it's a big facility it looks like its pretty dark with a little bit of natural light pouring in through windows. So and I also note how are these pictures getting made from up above? Like it seems there's a lot of pictures from Woodward that are coming from an elevated angle and you know a light bulb goes off in my head which is cool like I hope I can shoot from that location. And I hope it's not it doesn't require renting a cherry picker or getting in a 25 foot ladder but my guess is it is not the case because a lot of pictures are just randomly on Google from a high elevation. So then we go to the scout and of course there is this magnetic pole. I see there is this tower. Like kind of a three story tower at the end at the other end of the building and immediately I go up there and boom. Cool pictures. It's sort of you know iPhone pictures just for the scout. I love that there's dark walls. You know that makes for clean backgrounds we can control the light. And put strobe on our subject in the foreground and you know kinda of keep those backgrounds dark. That elevated angle really cleans up our environment. So immediately I felt attracted. Attracted to that. There's some windows but I'm not so sure we can really rely on it. I looked at Sun Seeker and decided you know we'll work with the available light in segment one. On day three but we're gonna go in with strobes so that we can really control the environment and then I started really looking at some of the features in terms of where could specifically where could I block out these shots. And I should have some times with more time all I shoot with my Nikon I'll shoot frames with out a subject in the shot just to sort of look at compositions and look at light. But this little tunnel could be a great spot where you know we get Corey up above the rail. I mean there are super shallow depth of field. Clean up the background with depth of field. Some of these rails look pretty good. I kind of like this environment for a portrait. I want to do a cool moody portrait. We brought a little smoke machine so we can add some like texture and atmosphere. Again just you know searching around. And I always recommend really circumnavigating the location. Like sort of don't just show up. Look at the over view. Look at the overview and literally walk around the location. You know look up look down lay down get up high. You know Kind of feel it out because it's a lot easier on your scout day to look around than it is when the athlete's there. Because when they athlete's there they're sort of they're tapping their foot wondering why they are waiting for you. So it's just taking advantage of your time on location. This is not the best representation of I'll often times ask my athletes or subjects hey can you send me a photograph of all of the clothes we have to work with? I texted Dillon yesterday and I think he got the text as he was leaving North Star. So I think he put on his jeans and his flip flops and a tee shirt and then laid out the actual gear that he had on. The ideal would be I want to see five jackets. I want to see two pairs of pants. I want to see four different goggles. I want to see different boots. Different boards. So that I actually have sort of a menu to pick from. I can say hey it's an overcast day. I want to shoot a solo and I want you in all black. Or I need a vibrant red flannel. Let's put you in this flannel. And so I'll almost always ask to see what the athletes are bringing. I want to know what color their board is. I want to know usually I would even ask but can I see the bottom of your board? Can I see the top deck? I want to see the clothes options. And it's just you know doing this far enough in advance so that you know what you are getting into. That is really valuable.