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Cyclocross Photography 101

Lesson 22 from: Advanced Lighting for Adventure Photography

Michael Clark

Cyclocross Photography 101

Lesson 22 from: Advanced Lighting for Adventure Photography

Michael Clark

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Lesson Info

22. Cyclocross Photography 101


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

Cyclocross Photography 101

Let's talk a little bit about, you know, shooting mountain biking, or cycle cross, or off road cycling here. Um, just to give you a little walk through, and these images are lit, for the most part, that I'm showing you. Um, each sport is a little different to photograph. You know, climbing is definitely different than a lot of other sports. With mountain biking, it's much more fast action, you know, any kind of cycling they're flowing through the frame, and you've got to catch them with the flashes at just the right place. So, it's a little bit more or a timing issue, than climbing is, cause climbing is a much slower sport. But there's a lot less lighting issues as well, because you don't have to hoist a light up onto a cliff, or worry about exactly where the lights are, in relation to the climber, off the ground. So here, because they're on the ground most of the time. And this image right here, this was again, shot at the Telluride Mountain Park. There's two lights, these are the sma...

ller ELB 400's, so they're not super huge, heavy packs. The lights, I think from this side, there's one kind of in front of him, and one off to the side, so it's not a pure light trap. You know, one of the lights was in front, and one was to the side. You can tell that, because of these stripes on the aspen over here, so you can tell that there's a light hidden over here in the trees. And then there's another light, you know, maybe 20 feet away up here, and this one has a huge soft box on it, so, it's creating a little bit softer light on the front of him. Uh, but again, this was a day to night type scene, where, it was almost full sun, I think a cloud came over, right when we shot this image, so it's a little darker than full daylight, full sun, but you know, gives you an idea of what we were doing. This is that same place, you know, and I just had her stop. At some point, she stopped, and looked back at me as we were talking, and she was asking questions about how she should do the jump, um her name is Oralie??, great mountain biker. Um, and I just thought, wow, stay there, don't move, that's a great, kind of in between shot, so it's not always about the action, you know, you need these lifestyle, quote unquote, shots, um to help tell the story. And with mountain biking, this is downhill mountain biking, their bikes are so heavy, they're not riding them uphill, they're walking them back up, then they ride down to do it over, um cause, these bikes are basically like lightweight motorcycles with huge shocks on them, and gears. They're 35 pounds or so, these days, um so it's not like a cross country mountain bike. And so you'll see most of my pictures are of mountain biking in this section, this was the first time actually in the pre shoot, that I've ever shot cycle cross. And we had Tim Johnson, who was like the six time national champion cycle cross rider, so it was pretty amazing to work with him. So this is that same jump, right after I shot that portrait of her, she was coming in, and I shot this a couple of different ways. This is a different type of shot, and then it's a motion blur, and not only just a motion blur in terms of the person, but I also panned the camera with the mountain biker, so you can see the whole ground is blurred as well, and the foreground is frozen by the flash, just like the mountain biker is. And I love doing these motion blurs, you're going to see us do a motion blur today, um with Tim. Um, just because it gives a feel for the movement, it really helps show the speed, and how they're moving through the frame, and they're really simple to do, honestly, they're not that difficult. We talked about this image yesterday, but I'm just giving you a feel, for how the different ways you can shoot with strobes, or speed lights in this case, um, creating images of cyclists. Mountain biking, you know, it's all about the location as well. So here's, this is the first time I tried out a light trap on a cyclist. I did this above my home in Santa Fe, this is at like 10,000 feet in the mountains above Santa Fe. There's this amazing aspen grove, and I had some prototypes of the ELB 1200 last fall, that they sent me for feedback. Um, so I set this picture up, and you know, it's tricky to line up the strobes coming in from the sides here, so you don't like, light up a tree, really bright, and then your viewers eye just goes to that tree, instead of your subject. And, I'm not quite sure how I like this image, still, cause it's so dramatic and different than any mountain biking image I've ever created, like yesterdays pictures, you know, shooting from above with a light trap. I'm still getting used to it, to see what I think. Uh, there's a few other variations of this image, I think this one works way better than the last one. Maybe it's just because the cyclist is a lot bigger in the frame. Um, this is definitely my favorite from that whole shoot. But just to show you how we can create really dramatic lighting, and just so you can see, if I go back here. This was still in full sun, you can see that there's dappled light coming through the trees, and then, we started the shoot around four in the afternoon. And here, there's still some light coming through the trees, but it's gotten a little darker, I think the clouds came in. And at this point, you can tell it's sunrise, or sunset out here, so it's getting pretty dark at this point, so it's creating a much more dramatic image, just because the ambient light is lower. This is also the only one of the series that was shot with the Hasselblad, with a leaf shutter, so it wasn't using the high sync techniques, that the other images were created with, but that goes to show you, that you know, leaf shutter, high sync, you can do both, and it kinda has a similar look and feel, to the image, it's also, the aspect ratio is a little different, as you can see. So, just to give you an overview, of some of the cycling pictures, you know, this is also, I think, another Hasselblad picture, just him sneaking out from behind the tree. Um, you know, I love the way the shadows are coming off of him, and off of the trees, uh, I don't know, this is just a phenomenal aspen grove, and it's an incredible location, I've done several shoots up there, one with trail runners. Um, and some other cyclists, so, there's certain locations, when you find an amazing location, I'll go back to it, and keep shooting it, just like the ice climbing pictures yesterday, um, and location is so key, that's what we're going to talk about next, for this shoot. That, you know, it's half the picture, like this next picture, uh, this was actually shot for Adobe, ten years ago, when I shot for Lightroom, before Lightroom version one ever came out, um, and, Ryan Reed here, who is an amazing downhill mountain biker, this is called the super bowl, it's just outside of Moab, and we'd been shooting, since like four in the morning. This is about 2:00 in the afternoon, um, and you know I have my assistant, so this whole thing is basically a five foot ridge that goes around, all the way around this thing. So he rode all the way around here, and came over here, and then he's jumping off at one point, and I'm tucked up underneath this little ripple, just sandwiched underneath him, cause literally, he's four feet above me dropping in. At one point he actually landed on my foot, which kinda hurt, but you know, you keep going. (laughter) And my assistant's holding a strobe above the top, you know, above me, so that it's hitting him, to kinda balance the light out. But you look for all these crazy, you know, little options. This is a fisheye lens, that's why you see this come in, on the edge. It is actually shaped this way, so it's not like the fisheye is massively distorting it, but I'm always looking for these crazy angles, especially with cycling. You know, can I mount a camera on the bike? While they're riding, you do a motion blur, with flash, while they're riding, and maybe that's a secondary camera, and I'm shooting a normal shot, and then I also have the camera on the bike, and I'm triggering both shots at the same time. Um, so I'm thinking of all kinds of different games, getting really creative, before I even get out there, to figure out how I can get different angles, different images, different shots. I mean that's part and parcel of the outdoor adventure genres, nobodies ever gotten this angle before, how can I get that angle, you know? Do I need a helicopter, do I need to swim under the wave, and shoot straight up as the surfer comes over me, you know? What do I need to do, to make this picture happen, that's never been done before, is pretty much the game we're playing. Um, so I think there's a, one more in here. This is one that was shot, again, with the ELB 400's. The sun is directly behind him, the lights are about, you know, as far away as from me to the audience here, so that's maybe 15 feet away. It's got the high performance reflector, so that sports reflector, to really focus the light, and I'm shooting at, I think it's 64 hundredths of a second, or eight thousandths of a second. A really high shutter speed to darken down that sun in the background. Um, the reason this image works though, honestly, is because the sun is right behind him. If the sun was down here, and he's up here, our eye would go to the sun, and not to him. So I purposely put the sun as close behind him as possible, because I want your eye to go to that brightest thing in the image, which it tends to do naturally, and then I lit him up, and we had him do this, I don't know, a dozen times, and Daniel was amazing, I mean, he could do this over, over, and over. This is actually in Santa Fe. It's a pretty remarkable little BMX park, and people actually travel from all over the United States to come, go to this BMX park. So, he did it a bunch of times, one of the times, he literally came by the camera, millimeters away, and I could feel his breath, and the wisp of the tires. So it's like, okay, I think I'll back up just a little bit, you know? So, and it creates, you know, it's all about the athlete here, he was the one, you know, the first eleven times he did this, that looked really cool, but it didn't have quite the, the action that I needed, quite the gesture, so, he could feel that, I kept showing him the images every single time, and he'd see like, oh okay, I see what I'm doing, I'm not doing this. And so then he would go up the next time, and he can correct, and do what he feels, would look really good in the camera, cause he started to see exactly what I'm getting, and because he can see that, he can impart his own artistry into the image, especially in BMX. Um, he rides motocross, he does a bunch of wild stuff, gets huge air. So, you know for him, he's probably 20 feet off the ground, cause this little run in, is another 10 feet down, and then he's, I don't know, five, six feet off the wall. So, it's pretty amazing, what the athletes can do. The other thing is, when you're working with the athletes like this, you know, we went out there, I hired Daniel, he's a friend of mine, to get images. But you know, when you involve them in the process, they can do things that you don't even know they can do, that can make your images so much better, than if you just kind of like, ah we'll do what I can imagine you can do. And you know, amazing athletes, especially working with Redbull. I mean their athletes can do stuff that's just mind blowing. Um, and that really, as you see on my website with some of my images, can take your images to a level that you'd never dream of.

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