Advanced Lighting for Adventure Photography


Lesson Info

Finding the Shot

It's finding the shot, and we're working with Ian Caldwell in this image. What happened at this point is it started raining immediately after we finished that portrait. And it kind of, for the next hour and a half, washed away our plans, literally. For what we were going to do and the order that we were going to shoot stuff in. The good thing is it did, is it drove all the other climbers out of Smith Rock so we had the place to ourselves. And we just hung out underneath an overhang, you know, waiting for the rain to stop. But Ian, who knows the area super well, he put up a bunch of these routes, he actually just re-bolted this route a couple years ago that you see in the picture here, a chain reaction. He's called the mayor of Smith Rock so he knows the place well. There's another route just around the corner and down the cliff, that is so overhanging that even though it's full on raining it wasn't getting wet. So we just moved down to that and it had the perfect setup for getting a pr...

etty cool image. So lets launch into that video. So what's happened is, because it's raining we've moved to a place that's a giant overhang. This is a climb called Rude Boys, it's yet another super famous climb here in Smith Rock. This is Ian Caldwell. And you've climbed pretty much everywhere out here? Or most of them? There's a lot of routes I haven't done, but, Okay. A lot of the classics, a lot of the good lines, and stuff. Definitely. Sweet. And Ian was kind enough to come out and not only help belay with us, but also climb, because you climb super hard as well. And his wife Darryn, who's behind him. Helping us out with logistics and belaying and everything. So as you guys can tell, it's pretty dark all of a sudden. You know, and... Lets see... Ambient exposure... I'm at ISO 1600, and to be one stop over... That's 500 at F 4. So let me just go ahead and take a test shot there and see what we get. And I'm looking at my histogram and as you can see I'm not clipping any highlights on that so, that looks pretty good we get pretty amazing light over there. Hey tom? Yeah? Will you feather that off just a hair more? Just like, half an inch, an inch? There you go, so we're just feathering the light a little bit so it doesn't nail this wall on the right here. Let me see if that's a little more... Lets go a little farther, Tom. So if you look over the light, you can see, that's good right there. It's not even pointed at the wall, it's pointed out about 15, 20 degrees from the wall. But there's still quite a bit of light hitting it. Nice, what power setting are we at Tom? 3.5. Okay, so we're way down on this pack, we're not even anywhere near full power. So the beauty of that, is that it recycles really fast, like as soon as I've taken the shot, I can just keep shooting, I could probably even 3.5, do motor drive at two or three frames a second. In fact, that would be good to know. (camera clicks) No problem, so. So I can be hammered down on this, if he's doing moves. I mean, and honestly, we don't really need to be in high sinc right now. It's so dark here, we could just shoot with normal flash durations, but, since we have a high sinc head on there, we're just gonna stick with it and keep doing that. So what Ian's gonna do is he's gonna, basically hike up to about the second draw, the first, up to the first quick draw. You know, it's too low, I wanna cut the ground. You know, with rock climbing we're not only looking for body tension but we're looking for exposure. Nice. Ready? Alright. (camera clicking) Okay. Go ahead and take there for a second. Alright, now we're talking. Really, that far? Yeah. And where are you're feet? Right now where they're at. Really? Okay, super stable. And you go behind your head or do you go through? Oh you go like that. Alright. Can you hold that for just second? (camera clicks) alright, so. When you do it, don't look at me obviously but, whenever you're ready, go for it, I'll be ready. (camera clicks) go ahead and take. That's pretty spectacular, eh? The ropes? That's a cool move. So what I think I'll do is I'll move up over here and just shoot it from a different angle and just see what it looks like if that's okay with you? What I was getting, so you guys can see, first I shot really tight. But then I opened up realizing that those guys are kinda lit up in the background. Honestly... I would love to... Somehow light this up a little bit more, maybe I'll have to do that in post, we could put another light over here, but it might just light this really bright and that would look weird. So I'll just have to play with it, Dodge and Burn it but, looking at that, if I look at the histogram here, there's nothing fully blown out, there's a little bit of blue blown out but it's cloudy skies so that's fine but my blinkies are just the tiniest thing, but since this is JPEG the raw won't be blown out at all. I could even go with 14 to 24 right here. And just have this entire thing over there. So the reason I moved up here is because of the way he's facing, I just want to see if this angle is a little more interesting. Lets go again real quick. Go ahead and do the move and you can click the next bolt. Okay. Let me... Take a few shots real quick. Sure, take care of it. Wow this is not bad. So I'm gonna crouch down here just for a second. That's where you're at, okay. Let me just check the exposure real quick. This is stinking good. Let me adjust here, cause it got a little brighter back there. Let me actually drop my ISO and go back to 1000. So because it got a little brighter over there behind him I'm just readjusting the exposure to get this dialed in. Alright, I think we are there. So ready when you are. Spot me Darryn. (camera clicks) Okay go ahead and take there. I'm too close to him for the lens I have, I'm only at 24 millimeters but, just to give you guys an idea, that's a pretty spectacular position. I want to get back to that move but I mean look at that! That's pretty insane, and... He's working pretty hard there, we'll have to find one with a good facial expression, very concentrated there. So I mean, it's pretty stellar once we work that up and really accentuate this, we'll have like like an in your face climbing shot that's a real moment. Cool. Okay. Just looking. Thank you Tom, can I have you help me change this lens? Can you hold that? And turn the camera off. So actually can I have you... There you go. Thank you Tom. Is it possible to just grab that draw and just un-clip there and swing back down to the second bolt? You got it. Yeah go for that, and I'm going to... I'm just gonna kinda lower myself... Tom is the man, look at that advice. So Tom just showed me something that I wasn't thinking about because I was so concentrated on the action is just to use this, right here in front of us, as a frame so that the edge of your frame is not fully lit up. This is why you have an assistant who's a good photographer. Let me just shoot with this wider lens, I changed my 14 to 24. Just to get a much wider perspective, I could have all of that, I could have the river in the shot here. I can have Darryn, the belayer, in the shot as well. Just to show the relationship with the rope. So lets go forward again real quick. Oh that is dramatic, look at that! Can I have a few of you guys go down and grab those packs. Water bottles, all that stuff off the ground. Alright go ahead and take. So I'm just adjusting my exposure because the light's changing a little bit over there. So I'm dropping my shutter speed a bit here. Pretty sharp, alright, lets do one more. Just go into the Rose move. Okay. So go for it, just go ahead and start climbing. (camera clicks) Alright. You go right first, then left? I go... Right handed out. Okay. and then go, my hand there, I match in this thing. Okay. my feet come to here and here. Alright. And then I just gotta hock. That thing up in left I see, yep. Right in the seem yep. There's a really got it. Deep pocket. So I'm just gonna start high on these two things and just go up one move. Yeah go for it, I'm with you. Okay, go to the side Darryn. Got it. (camera clicks) (grunting) Nicely done Ian. Go ahead and lower. Alright, so we had some good action there. That Rose move was just... (exhales) That's great. I'm almost, you know, Kai might even look better on the last move that he just did because he's higher in the frame. One of the things, compositionally I'm able to do, I mean look at his shadow, on the wall. So... The light right there and look when he flies off, what happens to his shadow, it kind of disappears, but he's scissor kicking his legs, that's, a little harder, we can't see his face which is a little awkward. We'll have to see how Kai climbs the route he might climb it a little bit differently. I might ask him to look at his feet, over here to the right just to make sure we see his face. But compositionally I have the climber up here, peak back there and we have the river running down in the bottom of the frame. So we have a strong diagonal all the way through the image, which is gonna really work well. This is gold over here, right now. I gotta say. This is, we found the treasure. Alright. So, now we're back we're just gonna zip through some of those images that are worked up, so you can see what we got. With Ian, you know, I was definitely finding the shot with him. And then we're gonna put Kai on the same route, but allowed me to try out different angles. We didn't show it in the video but actually we went up on the rock where the flash was positioned and tried that angle, we would have had to reset the lights completely at that point to make that angle work, it would have been a really cool angle but for the time we had I didn't choose to do that. We still got some pretty cool images of Ian. So I started out, as you can see here, a little more front, in front of the climb and then I moved up to the side and found out that I can see his face quite a bit better. And just see the move, you know, you kinda feel like you're right there with him, and literally he's not that far away from us, he's only 20, 25 feet away. I'm using a 24 to 70, at this point so I'm not using some giant lens. And then I thought "Well this place is beautiful, "we need to include that background. "we have this crazy looking sky, "lets include the river." and as I talked about in the video the strong diagonals really help the image. His green shirt definitely helps as well. And I think at this point I had switched to the 14 to 24, so it really helped the image. And also, just a little note about wearing knee pads in there, because when I shoot climbing I've learned that if I don't put knee pads on, I'll just rip up my pants because I'll kneel down on a really sharp rock, or when you see later when I'm up on the rock it helps out. Also I made a note about ISO at some point in the video, I just want to reiterate that, because it's pretty... ISO is the one thing that's not changing in the image, typically. So if I want to change the overall brightness and darkness of the entire image, I'm not changing the ambient light the background to my foreground mixture by changing the ISO I'm just darkening or brightening the entire image. So what's happening is like, darker clouds come in then the sun comes out so, the overall exposure is changing a little bit in the background and I can raise or lower my ISO to account for that. So that's what I was talking about when I mentioned ISO.

How do you freeze action, create motion blur and showcase the strength and style of athletes? When you introduce artificial light into your adventure photography, the opportunities are endless! It’s easier than it looks, and once you master the technical aspects, lighting on location can unlock tremendous opportunity for capturing portraits and action.

Red Bull Photographer, Michael Clark, joins CreativeLive to break down the barriers that are keeping you from letting your photography stand out. In this course, he’ll cover the basics of gear, incorporating flash, finding unique perspective and so much more.

Through demonstrations in the field, Michael will work with incredible athletes in a variety of lighting scenarios to show how to capture the heart of a sport and the spirit of an athlete. If you’re looking to make your mark in the world of action or sports photography, this course is a necessity in making your work compete with the best in the industry.

Michael will cover everything:

  • Location Scouting for your camera and your lights
  • Packing and gear tips for various locations
  • Scouting the best point of view to capture action
  • Safety and considerations for working with athletes
  • Strobes vs. Speedlights
  • When to use High Speed Sync, Hi-Sync (HS) or Leaf Shutters with your flash
  • Getting into the business of adventure photography
  • Creating tension in your photos

Michael will be working with professional athletes like trail runner Dylan Bowman, cyclist Tim Johnson, and incredible rock climbers to give you a rare and one-of-a-kind look into the world of adventure photography.

Submit your work to the Student Gallery for a chance at feedback from two of the best adventure photographers in the world, Michael Clark, and Chase Jarvis. 



  • 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!
  • 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!
  • 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