Setting up the Shot: Using Natural Light
This is probably a good opportunity to introduce the students that have actually, that are part of this project. That's what makes CreativeLive so fun, is I'm not just standing here talking to a camera. I'm actually working with three incredible photographers, also in the action, adventure sports world. And guys, why don't you just walk out here, and we can, maybe you can give yourselves a quick introduction. Tell the audience what you shoot, where you're from, and how you're doin'.
Alright, my name is Joe Gall, aka Camera Jesus, from Detroit, Michigan. I've been with Red Bull for about six years, shooting lifestyle, music, culture photography. Real excited to be out here today, break into the realm of action sports.
Hey, my name's Bryan Ralph, or Ralphy. I'm from Nelson, B.C., Canada, and I shoot mainly skiing and snowboarding and a bit of bike stuff.
Hi, my name's Alex Goodlett. I'm currently based in New York City, and I specialize in sports action in the both adventure sports...
realm and mainstream sports realm.
I'm Mike Killion, I'm from Chicago, mainly shooting cold water surfing on the Great Lakes. You can see some of that work at Killertown is my Instagram and some photos from this trip, as well. Just super stoked to get out and shoot something a little different today.
Cool, and I think what we're gonna do is when we're in available light, I think we'll all just kind of huddle in the same positions. The key is we just want the athletes to know exactly where all five of us are at any one time, but feel free to shoot by all means, especially when we're in natural light and you don't have to be tethered to strobes or plugged into a set of strobes. My plan is, I think what I like to do is get a safe shot first, so the idea being it's beautiful light. Sun is still low in the sky, and my rationale, and we talked about this yesterday in the class, get something that's safe. Get something that we know the editors at Red Bull will feel like, "Okay, this guy got something." Like if the clouds come in, if the weather changes, because that's the reality, sometimes weather changes, or the athlete gets hurt or someone gets sick. So I'm gonna do the safe shot first, and there's a beautiful valley, big background. If it warms up today, some of that snow is gonna melt, and then I wish the trees were a little more covered. Dusting wasn't quite thick enough, so my rationale is I'm gonna post up somewhere here near the left and take advantage of this just big wide shot. I'm thinking I'll probably be 16 to 35 millimeter lens. We'll kind of feel that out, and now one of the things that's happening is we're gonna get, the guys are obviously, peak action is happening up here. So I'll probably fairly wide, and what I try to do is almost pre-focus because I don't wanna be tracking, right? I wanna build my frame, compose my shot, and then let the athlete really move through the frame. So it's gonna be a little tricky, and I'll warn everyone that's watching at home. I'm gonna be shooting tethered, which that's great when you're in a studio. It's a little tougher when you're standing in the snow, and it's hard to see the laptop screen. So I'm gonna be doing some guess work. I might shoot some bombs, and you're gonna have to excuse that because it's a little hard to not be looking at the back of the screen. And Brett Wilhelm, Brett taught the work flow session yesterday, is gonna be kind of helping me all day today. So I'm on the new Nikon D5, and this is actually a sweet camera for shooting in available light, right? Really fast, incredible auto focus if I get into tracking situations, so I wanna stop the action. I think when I'm shooting in a park environment where they're moving fast actually, when they're flying through the air, I definitely wanna be a thousandth of a second. Often times, I try to even get into that 2000th of a second range, just to make sure I can really stop when it's razor sharp. I'm not seeing the edges of skis blurred through the frame, unless I intentionally want that. Then, I'll go all the way down to the low end of the spectrum and shoot in a 60th or a 30th or a 15th of a second and just let them blur through the frame. But I wanna start by capturing action, frozen action. So the way that I'll handle this is I'm just looking at you guys, and I'll actually pre-focus and check my expo. Yeah, there we go, that's good, the hand, and it's 16 millimeters, how did that look on --
On the computer, at 16 millimeters, the reality is, by the way, this is not my standard set up in the field. A folding table with a computer on it, but that gives me a sense of what's working. Let's see, is that in focus? Let me just check my focus here. One other thing that's worth pointing out, 'cause I'm shooting with my gloves on, and that's something I advise is find some gloves that you're really comfortable with. These are ice climbing gloves made by Black Diamond, and they're made to, they're a sticky fabric on the front. And they're really designed for being functional. It takes some getting used to, but I can manipulate any button on this camera without taking my gloves off. And that's pretty important if you're gonna be working outside a lot. Otherwise, you end up in a situation where you're constantly taking gloves off. Okay, so Brett I just shot another frame. Does that look like we're sharp?
Cool. And any time that it's the first time, I'm gonna watch these guys hit this jump, I'm not exactly sure where they're gonna be. I've learned with athletes in the park, any athlete, you have a conversation about what they're going to do, and then what they actually do sometimes is quite different than what we talked about. So this is more about talking about the methodology and illustrating how to make pictures than really nailing that perfect frame. So my rationale is I'm gonna stand here, probably fairly low, this isn't a huge feature so I'll probably be squatting down just to get some big blue sky in the background. And I guess I would leave it up to you guys. If you feel you wanna kinda park it on this side, that's fine, or if you feel like you just wanna watch from the side, that's also okay. I think let's try to stay in a cluster. One of the things that I'm already thinking about is where I wanna move next. Let's say after this first pass, we make a nice frame. Kinda my rationale always is shoot the first photograph. If I get it, I check sharpness, athlete looks good. I'll just move on, I move to the next location because I'm realistic that in a competition environment or if they were really out here just sessioning in the park, I might not get that many laps. So I wanna make every jump really count for me. Alright, so that's probably... Cool, just radio when you guys get up there.
Alright, I'll let you know.
So I just wanna make every jump count. So if it turns out I get it on the first pass, I'll probably switch to the next location and really try to build some shots straight out of the gate. Okay, and right now, what I'm thinking is in terms of locations, I think there's this side, which is kind of a light wise, and I always hold my hand up so that I can see what the light's doing. There's sort of side to back lit right here. So kind of a rim is gonna come from the sun, and I can see that same light is modeling on you guys right now. Kind of interesting light. I can move just 15 feet to the other side of this lift, and then all of a sudden, it's switches to I can look at my hand full front light. But it's fairly nice light right now. I think the next thing that I'll probably do while the sun is low in the sky, I might hike down into these trees and see if I can't find an angle where there's a foreground object and maybe play with that sun. Silhouette them against the sun, really back light them. Also, going above the feature, I kind of scouted this a little bit earlier this morning. Getting above the feature on a longer lens where I have a bit of compression, 200 or 400 millimeter lens, with a valley in the background looks like another shot. So I'm always sort of building that road map in my head of kind of what should I do first, what can I do second, what should I do third, and of course, building that road map based on what is the light doing, what are the opportunities, and I'm paying attention to the sky. For a moment there, it looked like clouds were building as we were setting up. Now, it seems to be blue sky. Any questions from you guys?
Well, we're stoked that a little fresh snow this morning and blue skies, and it's fairly warm out, so for the end of the season, I think this is a great opportunity to get some good shots today.
And I think my guesses were mostly gonna be 16 to 35, maybe kind of 24 to 70 and 70 to 200, just based on shooting in parks and kind of the space that we have to work with. So I noticed you guys all have backpacks on, or you can stage your backpacks to the side, I think that's perfect. Okay, so I'm gonna get set up here. And why don't you guys, let's decide. Do you guys wanna be on this side?
Kind of wanna be behind you.
Yeah, if you want to, jump in. I'll maybe, yeah, why don't I pick a spot, and you guys can --
Yeah, you sit.
Let me tuck in here. Cool. Okay.
And one other thing that's worth mentioning guys is, so I typically set up my camera so that I focus with my thumb. So I like to really separate the focus so when I press the shutter, that's just to make the picture. And when I'm focusing, it's on this AF On button. And you can do this whether you're on a Canon or a Nikon, but I find for action photography, it's really conducive from tracking focus. And then when I'm ready to make a picture, I actually have to press my shutter versus tethering the focus to that shutter button, and that's definitely a technique that a lot of the mainstream sports guys use. Football, baseball, basketball guys, so that they can really be selective about when they're shooting and conscientious of when the frame is actually in focus rather than tying in those two functions together.
I have a question, when you're kind of pre-focusing to an area, like what kind of F stock do you use? Like, 11 maybe, or?
I mean, and the idea, I love shooting really shallow depth of field, even when I'm on long, wide lenses, but in this environment, I'm trying to play it safe. So I'm somewhere in that five, six. Five, six tends to be a great starting point. I'm at six, three right now, and I might even, I'm gonna go to five, six. You're up to 16 hundredth of a second, so I'm 400 ISO. I'm daylight, white balance, and I am at 16 hundredth of a second, that's a really fast shutter speed. My guess is we'll see zero movement in the athlete, even if they're spinning or flipping. I very rarely am at the F 11, F eight, usually five, six. Five, six gives me enough in a 16 millimeters. You've got quite a bit of depth of field there.
So if you're waiting for the athlete to come through the section like you said, and you don't wanna track focus in your composition, you're making your frame, do you find that you kind of move as he's coming off this ramp, or you're just gonna stay tight the whole time?
In this case, because it's really about the background, to the right of my frame, there's a north star flag that I don't want in the shot. There's a chair lift that I don't want in my shot. There's some big trees that I'm not crazy about, so I'm actually gonna frame my shot and then hold. I mean, theoretically, I could put it on a tripod, but I don't need a tripod here. But I'm gonna lock off my frame in this situation and let them pass through my frame. So I'm very intentional about what's on the edges of my frames. Like, what am I allowing to be in my photograph?