Skip to main content

Communication with Athletes

Lesson 27 from: Advanced Lighting for Adventure Photography

Michael Clark

Communication with Athletes

Lesson 27 from: Advanced Lighting for Adventure Photography

Michael Clark

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

27. Communication with Athletes


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Evolution with Lighting


Why Use Artificial Lighting?


Pre-Production and Pre-Visualizing


Equipment: Overview of the Gear


Equipment: Selecting the Right Gear


Strobes vs. Speedlights


Lighting 101: Flash Sync Speeds


Lesson Info

Communication with Athletes

So now we are going to talk about communicating with the athlete or who ever you're working with. In this case we're working with Tim here. He's a national champion cyclocross rider. And just a note on working with athletes, I get the question fairly often like how do you get to work with these like world class athletes like Tim or I think we show Chris Sharma yesterday or Kai or Dylan like we're working with later. And you know when I started out I was working with my friends. And the topic comes up like even some of you in the audience we've been talking in the breaks. When I go out the people that I'm working with understand we are there for a photo shoot but early on when it was just my friends. That were going out to climb a root or something, maybe I could convince them to go out later in the day. So there was good light on the root. Maybe I couldn't you know. So you had to deal with what you're dealt with there. And I think there's this thing that I have to prove myself to the a...

thletes as a photographer and especially when you're working with somebody like Tim or Dylan or Kai. You want to really... Those images better be good and you want to be able to show them like amazing images quickly or at least at some point during the day. So that they're like wow okay this photographer is good. I'm not wasting my time out here with them. And even for your friends it's harder when I was starting out shooting climbing. I would go and photograph my friends and then submit those images to Rock And Ice and Climbing magazine and if it wasn't a famous climber then that picture had to be unbelievable to get published in a magazine because if I'm photographing Chris Sharma or Kai the magazine is going to sit up straight and look at those picture with a little more enthusiasm then they will of my friend who is not famous and may only be climbing on a much... Not a cutting edge root. It might just be your average everyday root. So how I got to work with other athletes from the start of my career into where ever I am now. Is my friends knew other climbers who were better then them And then those climbers, once I worked with them a few times and proved myself to them that I got cool images would introduce me to friends that climbed even harder than they did. And then it's just working your way up the food chain. It's not like I never photographed my friends again but I just kept working with a wide variety of climbers. There's also the thing of not burning out the people you're working with. If I went out to shoot with Tim like 50 time he'd feel like oh Michaels calling I Know what he wants. You've gotta, they are mostly friends, all of these climbers or all of these athletes become friends at some point in this process. And eventually I got to Christian Core whose an amazing world class climber from Italy. And then we had Chris Sharma and I knew some other climbers. Its just being a part of the community. And forming these friendships and even with Tim and Dylan interestingly, the night before the shoot I was having dinner with them with the whole crew but I sat with Tim and Dylan and I was like I do you know this person and we had friends in common. Both Dylan and Tim and I. Even though we had never met because when you know the adventure sports world is a pretty small little world. So if you're involved in more than a couple different sports the odds are, you might have some friends in common. So that even created a bridge of conversation we could have if we both had good friends that we knew separately. We instantly have a bond that we've formed there. Just like when you're shooting perched or when you're shooting adventure sports you've got to build that relationship and you'll see in the videos especially when we do the portraits I'm continually talking to the athlete to keep building that relationship. To keep that connection going. And hopefully my images are also speaking for myself so that the athlete sees that and they get excited not only by the images I'm shooting but by the location we're in and I want them to have fun. I don't want it to be like a chore for them. So I think that's the precursor to this video. In this video Tim's, we're both discussing how to communicate with an athlete. And that's always... Whenever you're working with an athlete sometimes they may want to communicate a little differently. And the case with Tim and Aaron his rep who is also cycling on some of these you'll see. For cyclists it's a little bit different. Like the one more time thing wasn't a good line because there's some superstitions that we had to deal with. Let's go ahead and roll the video and we'll keep talking about the communication after the fact. We're gonna let you guys shoot for a bit here. Changing off and but before that we just want to talk about communication So we can be ultra clear with the writers. A so they know exactly what we're doing and B so we will know what they're doing vice versa. So communication is huge. If they think you said yes and they drop and your not ready and you don't take a picture. A we don't want to waste your efforts and B we don't want to waste our battery power and this that and whatever but still we use some lingo that like one more shot is not the way to go. It's like let's to that again. Let's do that again and to be very clear instead of just saying ready say go for it or drop in Tim. We say their names is another good thing. So they know if you want Tim to drop in first. He's gonna drop in first or if you want Aaron to come in first either way. If you shoot multiple people just say what order and then if you want five seconds between us or 10 seconds and then you know you have that time and we don't have to wait for 10 and then go and that might take a little bit more time. If you can visually see us to say great but other wise listen for dropping or rolling or something from us. Definitely and as you said earlier you guys are ready the whole time. So it's just a matter of us letting you know we're ready. And it's okay to go. And then also for this shot specifically Aaron's on a downhill bike, cross country. Looks more downhill to be. And then on a cyclocross, so the way they drop this is a little different so just be aware of that with your framing. He's gonna get more air like he did in that last one. So if you frame too tight you're gonna have his head cut off at the top of the frame. And with Tim you're kind of sucking over the back of the bike a little bit to absorb the roll. Yep So he's gonna need a little lower. So just account for that in your composition. But let's talk about how we set this up. So it's the same thing we've been doing. We have the light trap for me I'm shooting at IOS 800. Which seems really high I realize but that just allows me to get a really high sure speed. I'm wearing manual mode. I'm at 2500th of a second. At F56. So IOS 800, 2500th of a second F56. How did I come to those. I looked through the camera. Looked here and that's more that two stops under exposed because what happened to us is the sun came out and the sky behind them is super bright. So I'm not even exposing for the background. I'm exposing for that sky out there so I don't have a fully blown out sky. And that's making this pretty dramatic because the lighting is actually pretty near the brightness of the sky but it's making those trees in the background fairly dark. And here again this is one of those moments where I know my camera has a huge dynamic range. Maybe the background is a little darker than I want but I can pull the shadow slighter out in light room. And pull some detail out of that. I don't want it to be pitch black in the final image but and I'm sure all of our camera, you can do the same thing. Go for it. So I think you know, between the two shots, the two sides this is definitely the better angle cuz there's less sky. So as you see there communicating with the athlete is super important. I moved over to the other side of the trees just because the background to clean it up quite a bit. And then we found out it was much better but in certain sports I think its, As you saw with the climbing, I mean if you watched that video you may not even understand all the lingo for the climbing lingo that I'm talking with Kai about. A butterfly coil. All these different things that a specific to climbing. And I'm asking him to take and then grab the drawn and the do this. So I think it's knowing the sports, I mean in any photography genre knowing what you're shooting knowing about what you're shooting is critical but especially in sports photography. If I'm shooting NFL Football which I've never shot but let's just say I was a photographer shooting football knowing football and knowing those athletes on the field is critical to anticipating what's gonna happen. Because you're not gonna have control over that or be able to set it up again. Here, even though I have control over everything to a certain degree I can ask Tim or Aaron to do whatever it was they just did again and again. The language was, we changed how I talked. I usually do one more time all the time. But with Tim it was better to be more succinct. He's absolutely right being precised in what you're asking them to do and being very clear is critical. In some sports like let's say skiing for example. You have to be absolutely clear with the athlete because in skiing the ultimate sky shot it's got to be perfect powder, untracked and once that skier goes through the frame once that's over. You can move over a few feet if it's possible and shoot another shot with the tracks behind you but you may only get one take on a ski shoot because the skier's gonna come through and then it's not, it's not untracked anymore and so typically what we do there is we take a little snow ball and we kinda throw it out there and it'll be like I want you to make, arc this way right there and hit that spot. So that's when you've gotta really work with the skier. And the skiers gotta be good enough to actually do, or maybe they can do something better then what you've asked but you've gotta communicate super clearly to make sure they understand exactly what they need to be doing and where. And especially like ski photography there's been a lot of lighting in the ski world for the last decade or so. Just like there has been in a bunch of these adventure sports. So that's clear that it's different for every sport. Obviously surfing you can't be like oh I want you right here because the wave's different every time. So you have to kind of work on the fly with that. Hand? [Man With Mustache] What happens if you have an athlete that's very difficult to communicate with? How do you overcome like an awkwardness or like give them... Cuz it's a two way street really. It's a two way street for sure. I've never really had an experience. I think the attitude you put out is reflected back to you. So also, like Tim, I mean look, it's an honor to shoot with Tim. He's a six time national champion. He's pretty famous. My brother's really into rode biking and I told my brother that I was shooting with Tim Johnson. He's like are you kidding? You're shooting with Tim Johnson oh my gosh. So I think your excitement, your passion, your enthusiasm, they will feel that. And if your getting good image. I mean if you aren't getting good images they might get a little frustrated. I would understand completely on their end of things but I don't know. I mean, you work with it however you can. There's personalities that I think as a working pro I know one of my traits is that I can deal with just about any personality and deal really well with that personality. I don't, you know? You do what you can to make the best of every and any situation and most outdoor athletes that I've worked with are amazing human beings. They're really excited. That's the benefit of working with professional athletes cuz they understand that this photo shoot or this video shoot or whatever it is their doing is part of their contract A but B they understand this is furthering their career. Just like it's furthering my career. So there's benefits on both side of this equations which is also why I let the athletes use the Image cuz I'm usually shooting for one of their sponsors. So if I can let them use it on their website or anyway I can help them out with their career I will do it. You're not gonna become a millionaire, well maybe some of you will being a professional rock climber. It's not like their making mega bucks as professional athletes. Some of them are for sure and definitely some of the athletes that Red Bull sponsors are doing extremely well but I'm trying to help them because it's a tough way to make a living as a professional athlete. And they even have a lifespan of how long they can be a professional athlete. So it's even more critical that they get as far as they can in their careers. And that's why I think the responsibility is on me to really get these amazing images for them because if I can get amazing images that get published all of the place then that means that they're gonna be really excited to come back and work with me again. And you know I really want to work with like Tim and Dylan and Kai, I would love to go another shoot with them at some point in the future. And so I'm building that relationship not just for that shoot but for a long term future. Not like I'm gonna be the only photographer that ever shoots with them but just so I get another chance to do something else. Which is very exciting. [Woman With Blonde Hair] So when you're just starting out you said you were working with a bunch of friends. I do the same thing. My friends are not like five 14 climbers or fantastic athletes does that affect at all what you had in mind for the shot itself cuz obviously when you're working with professional athletes they are doing amazing things so that trick or that pose or that move is the emphasis. When you're working with beginner athletes when you're just practicing your skills did that affect it more like, more of a landscape shot or like more of a zoomed out... Just the angles you work with and your skills you tried to like practice with those younger developing athletes? It depends on the situation. With climbing when I started out, they were amazing athletes. They may just not be climbing at the highest level in the world but they were climbing a level way higher than I was able to climb. And in some situations they saw my career starting out and they saw the first few images start to get published and then they trusted me more once they saw that I'd already got an image published into the climbing magazine. And so that impetus was like wow well he's already gotten published so the odds are higher that when I go out with him he might get a few published. And who doesn't want a picture of them doing something really cool in a magazine so the rest of the world can see it? That would be pretty fun. So that helps but you know typically I may not be focused on the movement or I'm just looking for that epic landscape to put them in. And I got really, I don't drink coffee. I drink Red Bull more than coffee or tea or anything but I got really good at making coffee and so I would be making coffee in the tent at three thirty in the morning. To get those athletes up to go out to the location at sunrise. And if you're gonna wake somebody up at sunrise or four hours before sunrise in the middle of the night Roust them out of their tents to get them going. You better come back with some good images or their never doing that again. So when I said earlier, you've got to prove yourself to the athletes. You've got to prove it by coming back with images that really blow them away or at least make them excited about going out and doing that again. That answer your question? Alright. Pretty much. I mean the other thing is when you're going out with your friends your just gonna get what you get. If it's the middle of the day and they're not willing to go out later with you or if they're putting up a new root or depending on what their doing. The Red Bull Air Force is an interesting example because I'm not a skydiver and even though I've shot with them a lot I don't fully know every nuance of that sport because I have never jumped off a cliff and base jumped. And I can't exactly go base jumping with them even if I was a base jumper. It would be like you know, they are the 10 best base jumpers on the planet. And if I could jump with them I couldn't even stay with them. It'd be like me driving formula one car next to a pro formula one race car driver and trying to shoot out the window. It's just not gonna happen A I couldn't stay with them. I'm sure I'm still falling at the same rate they are but I don't know all the maneuvers. And all this stuff. So that's why in adventure sports you typically pick the sport you know like climbing. We've been talking about. And obviously there's a few sports where you have to do that sport to actually shoot it. Like surfing and climbing are part probably the big ones. Skiing for sure or snowboarding. You need to be pretty a amazing skier or snowboarder if you're shooting skiing or snowboarding cuz you're gonna be put into situations where you're gonna ski the exact same thing the athlete is skiing but with a 40 pound backpack on. (chuckling) And so that's why people like Christian Pondella amazing adventure sports photographer. I mean that guy could be a pro skier without the camera. He is an amazing skier. So it just depends on your technical abilities. I'm not five 14 rock climber. I can climb at a proficient level but I've got all kinds of big wall aid techniques. So I can get up any cliff if I need to. To get myself in position. So it's just having the skills in addition to the photography skills. And then we're adding the third layer here or the fourth layer with the lighting skills. And I think as you build your career or if you're just doing this as an amateur. If you're out there on line and you just like shooting your friends doing that stuff just keep thinking about all those angles. I mean the more cool images you get of your friends the more they're gonna be willing to do something and work with you to get a different image.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Reference Guide
Chapter 2: ABCs of Lighting by Michael Clark
Advanced Lighting Keynote PDF - Day 1
Advanced Lighting Keynote PDF - Day 2

Ratings and Reviews

norah levine

This is a course that I could watch repeatedly and be able to learn something new each time. Michael is a truly an expert in his field and is so generous with his knowledge. This course really breaks down the process of adventure photography, but it's more than that. I don't think you need to even be an adventure sports photographer to get tons out of this course. Michael is really good at breaking down some very complicated technology. Thank you!

a Creativelive Student

Great course that combines the technical aspects of shooting with light in different situations, with the art of making a great image of athletes. Michael is a great teacher and I'm sure his lessons will continue to help guide over and over again!

Jeph DeLorme

Great class with dozens of tips, ideas and lighting strategies for tough outdoor lighting challenges. Advanced class taught in a way that allows even a beginner to get a handle on lighting tough situations. The location videos provide real life examples that make this class a definite must have for my Creative Live collection. Thank you Michael Clark and Creative Live! Jeph DeLorme

Student Work