Image Critique with Chase Jarvis
So, here we are. How are you doing?
I'm good. There's so much that you've been saying. Just in that last five minutes, as I'm sitting over there, I don't know, my head almost fell off, because I was just (laughing) nodding so much. There's so much truth in the, "Try and be different, not just better" mantra. I think that's one of the key ways in the industry to stand out. And I know we're gonna do some image critique here, and I know you wrapped up a little conversation about business. I was wondering if there's anything that I could do to help put any icing on what you just said.
Well, I mean, you do a whole show on how to stand out in the industry I see on your blog every day now.
So you're talking about this all the time. I mean, hopefully you can stand out and be different.
Yeah, of course.
I mean, what advice do you have for photographers?
Well, I think, in line with trying to find something that is an area of strength for you personally, Jimmy Chin was an ...
amazing climber. He really built his ...
Incredible athlete, and photographer.
Yeah, his photography on the back of being a world-class climber. Not saying that Jimmy's not an amazing photographer, but his photography skills have really gone way up in the last, I would say, two, three years on the back of climbing, putting him in a position to win. And each of us have an area of interest, and an area of expertise, and sometimes it's when you can overlay those two things, because you're gonna have passion when everyone else loses passion, you have this specialized skill set. For me, it was not dissimilar. In action sports, I was--
Because you started in the skiing industry.
I did, yeah, and I went to college on a soccer scholarship, been an athlete my whole life. I identified as an athlete more than a creative as a young person, and so when I got into photography, I drug that athlete part into me into the genre, and looked at ways that I could exploit my ability to ski the same stuff that the best skiers in the world were skiing at the time, where you fall, you die, chasing Kent Kreitler, and you know, the Canadian Air Force, and of these folks that basically put the new era of skiing and snowboarding on the map, Travis Rice. Following those folks around in the mountains--
Yeah, you get access in a way that few other people could.
Could, or even would want to.
Yeah, and it was an area of passion for me, an interest, and in there often lies your ability to stand out.
Yeah, because that makes you super unique. Just as it does for Jimmy, at Renon.
Yeah, Jimmy's a great example, great example. So, to me, I think that's a ... What I also love about this is this is true for 100% of the people who are watching.
It's, you know, not just the in studio audience, all you folks at home, you have an area where you have spent your whole life thinking, and an area of passion. And it might be obscure, that's fine. Double down on your strengths rather than trying to fix ... If I spent all my time trying to fix all my weaknesses in, you know, XYZ, sort of portrait posing, or any of those other things rather than just doubling or tripling down on the action sports,
Exactly. I think I'd still be trying to figure that stuff out. I'd still be watching creative web classes on where to put my hands. "What do I do with my hands?"
Definitely. That's, you know, part of this class, is I have this scientific background, so I'm a techie, geeky person who's a bit goofy, as you've seen for the last two days, but I could use that to figure this stuff out rather quickly.
One other sort of note, that attaches itself specifically to what you just said. You have to be intentional about this stuff. I believe that for the majority of the folks sitting at home, and I derive this belief from traveling all over the world, and asking people who, if I get offstage, there's a bunch of people, "Hey, how'd you get," and I just talked to people face to face, eyeball to eyeball, they think stuff just happens.
They do, and it's like, "Oh I just, "I miraculously got this breakthrough," or, "I stumbled on X." And sure, sometimes that does happen, but generally speaking, you make your own luck, and a lot of the things, this is another thing that I love about this particular class, and what you've said here is, it's analytical, it's intentional, and what you're constantly doing is trying, you're probing, "Is this different?" And the part where you were saying, "Do something different," I was taking flash photographs, high end, big packs out into the middle of wilderness, and shooting eight and frame a second sequences, strobed. No one had ever done that in the history of the world, and that took me like, I don't know, four weeks to figure out how to do it.
But you were the first to do it.
Again, what a my uniquely skilled to do, where can I disproportionately stand out from the crowd, and what does it look like? Those are intentional decisions. It's not like just I walked outside and said, "Oh my God, I have these packs, and there's a great skier." And the first time you do a thing, you tell a great story about your ability to do that, and help other people understand. So, I think it's a really ... I also get asked, "It's so much harder now to stand out." I'm not sure if it is or it isn't. Maybe it is, just because of the volume, but the ability to exploit your unique skill will always be there. That goes for everybody in the in studio, and everybody at home. There is something ... The cool thing about it is the answers are in here. It's like, "What am I good at? "What do I care about? "What can I uniquely deliver?" And sure, you're laying that onto the landscape, but that, that you go into that open-minded, with conviction, and somewhat analytical. Even if someone says, "Oh, I just stumbled into it," what they're doing is they're following their intuition. There saying, "I know I'm good at this, "I know I'm good at that, "I know I suck at this," and they're navigating that waters, those waters. And if you can be intentional, you'll find that thing that much sooner.
Well said, Sir.
I keep, I could talk forever.
I know, well ...
Like, y'all would be like the Maxell ...
The other thing here is, you know, you are one of the best marketers in the entire photography industry.
Everyone says that. I don't understand it. I really don't, but I'll take it.
It's a natural thing for you. But I mean, it's great. And you're right, because it's never been easier to get your work out there.
And if you produce mind blowing work, somebody's gonna see it, and somebody's gonna be like, "Hey, can you do that for us?"
Yeah, and when I say be different, notice it's different, not better. I don't say that, I say different, not just better. It's like, I'm not saying you shouldn't advance your craft. Craft is the core. Because you could get by with a picture or two, but as soon as you get asked over and over to make those pictures professionally, if you suck, you'll be found out like that. That's not to say you shouldn't try, but craft, like none of this, this is the get in the door fee to be good at what you do, and that's true in any sport. In chess, the chess tournament, you might be able to pull off a lucky ... I don't know why said chess.
What the heck? But, you might be able to pull off a lucky win, but it's been good at your craft, and being able to repeat that success over and over.
I didn't say that, but photography better be the easy part of your job.
For me, photography is the easiest part. It's hustling, and getting that job is maybe the hardest part of the job. And that's in any freelance, it's not just photography. If you're a writer, you know, you better be good at whatever you do.
So true, that craft is the baseline. But again, above and beyond that, it's this how can you stand out and be different, not just better. Because, you know, in this world, let's say you're splitting the difference, like you're talking commercially, but there's also a little editorial component here, in sort of the Red Bull action outdoor space.
It's not like a wedding, where you need to do 200 jobs a year to make a nice living.
My goal, if I was having a target to have a great year, would be 20 to 40 jobs, and that would be a banner year. That means 20 to 40 people have to like you enough to write you a check, in a world of seven billion people.
And that doesn't have to be all those huge jobs. Some of them might be smaller jobs, and some might be bigger.
For sure. But again, this to me, the only thing that I have, maybe because of my age, or my seniority in the industry is the ability to look back and connect the dots. And you know, you can't connect the dots looking forward. If I look back, there's this very consistent message of trying to be who you are first, being great at your craft, trying to put those interests together, and then shooting the thing that you wanna be hired to shoot. And you don't have to please everybody. As soon as you start trying to please everybody, you've pleased,
You're pleasing nobody. you've pleased nobody. That's, I think, those same things hold true today, and that's why I think it's exciting and interesting to critique images, because you know, not a lot has changed in what is pleasing to the eye.
The fundamentals are still the fundamentals, that's what I love about them.
Awesome. Well, let's jump in.
How about it?
Look back there.
That's pretty cool.
That's a sweet image actually.
This, I think I may have seen that. Yeah, no critique, next, that's perfect.
Yeah, all right. I mean, you know, in skiing, you would want fresh tracks. You know, something like that. Maybe if the snow was a little cleaner, but that's being hypercritical. I mean, that's great use of a strobe. It looks like the strobe's somewhere right out here, or maybe off to the side. You've got the sun in the picture. So, I mean, typically saying, you've got a lot of bright stuff around him, so it makes you look at him. If it was just the sun back there, then we might be looking at the sun, but because he's lit it pretty nicely, or she, or Brian, okay, lit it really nicely, that works really well.
Yep. I think one of the things that I both love, and can easily be critical to is sort of the quality of the flare. So, sometimes, like this flare to me is a little bit messy. It looks like there might be a spot on the lens there in the center left.
Good point, yeah.
It looks like there's a little something,
Like a little snowflake a little snowflake,
or something. and that's just the reality of being out there. But, one of the reasons that we have, you know, Photoshop and Light Room, and the ability to post-produce images is so we can put a little bit of a ... Again, it depends on the output. If you're shooting editorially, you need to be careful about all this stuff. So, you know, all of those worries, not withstanding for this conversation, to me, I think that can be cleaned up a little bit. You guys see what I'm talking about here? This area right here. It's probably just a cloud, but I don't know, to me it looks like the sun is catching it in a way ... You see this is, you know, we've got our little flare here, I think that's kind of interesting. It's sort of nonlinear, there's a little, and sometimes this is from a lower quality lens, you'll get nonlinear, like usually these little blotches.
Lineup really, yeah.
You know, maybe this is the element's cracked, or it's a little off. These are super small little fidgety things. But to me, getting a good quality flare is really important if you're gonna point your camera at the snow. I think the other point that I would say is, the light values are all basically the same, and this is a challenge when, this is one of the ways that you can manipulate the eye, is by different light values. Like, basically all those are really similar, the sky, and the clouds, and the backdrop, and the machine, and the rider, and the snow. It's basically pretty homogenous, there is not a lot of shade or shadow. But again, you know, this person's clearly trying to show the detail of the machine and whatnot. To me, that's one way to play with some shadow, that you might be able to up a game just a scosh.
Definitely. I mean, I was thinking, how can we make this better? So now, you've got a decent shot. Like, I can imagine this guy ripping down the mountain, and a wave of snow behind him, and putting a stroke behind there and letting the sun light it up.
And you know, your timing would have to be impeccable, but you know, that would be a pretty exciting image. Because here, he looks pretty stationary.
I think, yeah, so showing some movement, and maybe just a hair more context. I'm guessing one of the reasons, again, it's our goal to just suppose things, you know, a little thought experiment here, but because there are a lot of other tracks, and you see the stuff in the foreground here, like there's clearly, you know, this is when you're, you don't wanna walk in the snow, and then stepped back up and take a photograph of it.
Move over to a place where there's not steps in the snow.
Yeah, don't shoot this photo if there's a bunch of crap in the way. And if there is crap in the way, then I understand it, but how can you then take what would be a negative and make it a positive, put it in the foreground so that it's like creating a little element of visual interest, as opposed to just photographing it sort of--
Messy in the foreground.
Yeah, yeah, in the foreground. And if you can include context, like this is something I see, I don't know if you've touched on this, but context is everything. People that'll just show the skier up in the air, just floating, every once in a while that's okay, but generally, you wanna show the take off and the landing, to give context for the size of the trick, the style. This is almost like an action portrait, it's just so close up. A lot of people do that when it's crappy.
When it's not perfect conditions.
And that's smart, that's making use of what would historically be a negative, and trying to turn it into a positive. Cool.
I mean, and I just made the, you know, those running images I showed you like an hour ago, you know, they weren't as good as this, and the foreground was a little messy, the background was super messy, so at least he has a clean background, but just a clean foreground, like you're saying I think would help it out.
But, that's what's beautiful about crit, is that you get to learn from everybody's mistakes, and then if we like expand what we think about this photograph just one layer further, then we can include a lot of other things that might not be addressed in this particular photo, but that are challenges that this photo would come up against in context.
Let's move on to this next one here.
We got like 100 of these things, don't we?
Yeah, so we've got quite a few.
We should stick and move.
So, nice handstand. Wow.
Yeah. He is strong, to be able to pull that off.
I think it's a similar thing to what you are talking about. It's fully lit, so my eye doesn't know where to go, because the ground, you know, if I'm looking at this, the brightest thing in the frame is the foreground with the concrete, and it takes my eye a lot of effort to get up to the person's face. It's also an extremely busy background.
So, this is one of Ben's pictures, in studio. So, you know, what did you like this with?
Yeah, it was actually just a spur of the moment thing. We just had a softbox, and a speed light. And yeah, I probably should've upped the exposure to darken the background, and make it a little bit better. There was a lot of extra spill from the speed light, so I think kind of bring it down a little bit would've highlighted him better. And like you've been saying the whole time, avoid black.
Yeah, well, I mean it's a city scenario, so it works. You know, it's okay that he's wearing black I think.
As both of us are sitting appear in black.
Exactly, wearing black.
Avoid photographing us.
Yeah, while we're on camera with four cameras.
Yeah. Yeah, I think just as a reminder, like the reason we critique is like this is not your best picture, it's like the process of dissecting. I think a lot of my early work was really, you know, imitation is part of the journey towards mastery. You look at someone else, and you know, there's the creative gap of what you see in the magazine, or see in your mind, and what you can actually execute. This is an Ira Glass quote, that's the creative gap. And as you move towards mastery, you also reduce the creative gaps, such that you can make the exact picture you see in your mind, where you can walk up to any situation and create the image that you want. And you know, that's a long process. You've heard 10,000 hours, you've heard, you know, the journey to mastery, all that stuff, but just an important, you know, as you're sitting here in the front row listening to us talk about your picture, we can all learn from this. And as you were just saying,
Exactly. like, "I shot a bunch of pictures like this "like two hours ago."
Yeah, exactly. Mine are no better.
Yeah, I think my short pointed critique would be really similar. Everything has a similar value, Everything is like tonaly, like if you measured it all, it's all pretty middle of the road, and then you got actually the least interesting thing is the brightest, so your eye is gonna draw to that. Yeah, do you see what I'm talking about? Like, if you just took this down to grayscale, it's all pretty similar. And one point that I think is worth sharing, you're never gonna be able to sort of completely repair a committed exposure. Certainly we have post-production, and you could probably do a lot to highlight him, take the background down a little bit, bring him up a little bit, but what I heard in your answer was about, "Oh, we just had a softbox, and it was quick and dirty." Your best pictures are gonna be quick and dirty. At some point, you're gonna, like, "Oh my God, how did I get that picture," and you were just walking by, and you found the precise moment. You can hack that softbox a little bit, by aiming it in an extreme way, such that you turn a softbox, I don't know how big it was, but into a strip light by standing in front of it, or getting an assistant to stand in front of it. You know, I see people walking around with the camera at this height, with the camera right here. Like, you got these things. You got like, you got an automatic tripod,
You can move down,
You can put it above your head.
You got a zoom lens. So to me, you know, if you lowered that, and put him up, and cropped the curb out of it, it was more trees, and he was more dramatic, like, there are just ways to, again, not judging specifically this photo, but conceptually trying to tell you not what to think, but how to think.
And I think the easiest answer here is move position. Like, it looks like a skate park's right behind him, that probably has a much cleaner background. If you walk him out to the skate park, and there's a little bump sitting up in the skate park, have him do the handstand on there, put the sky behind him.
You've got a winning image with a really clean sky, and maybe you shoot a little environmental portrait.
And with the same equipment, right?
You just moved your feet, and location just a little bit. Talented athlete though, that's quite the move.
Of course. This is so fun, I can do this forever.
So, this is exactly what I should've done on the trail running shoes that I just talked about. I should've moved the camera, and blurred the background, and it works great. You know, I think he's got, he's framed it up nicely, though I would like to see actually how far off the ground he is. I think that might make it a stronger image, because it gives us some reference.
Yep, that's the context piece.
You know, he could be five feet off the ground, he could be a foot off the ground, he could be 20 feet off the ground, I don't know. It's still a cool image, but there's just that one little snippet of information.
Yeah, great. To me, it's context. I love this as a style, in an environment where otherwise it's probably the middle of the day. This is, to me, when you approach mastery, you start finding ways to make interesting pictures when it's like, "Okay, I got this cork thing, "I got a glass full of water, "and like how my gonna make it interesting?" When you have done this a thousand times, like to me, this is a great step in the right direction. I love this as a, especially in action sports, to show movement is so much of--
It's static, yeah.
Yeah, so much of it's static, and this is, you know, panning is an art. Like, you should just pan, and feel what it feels like to track a subject. And it's very easy to see that and then say, "I know what's happening there," but can you actually do that? And when the shutter's going like this in front of your eye, how do you keep the subject in the same place in the frame? That's what that--
And year panting with the subject's movement.
It's a risky shot. I mean, because if you shoot at a normal shutter speed, fast shutter speed, you know you're gonna get a shot. But this is risky. You took a risk, and you got something more unique Than if you didn't take the risk.
For sure. I would say about the lighting though, you know, pull the lighting. It looks pretty frontal here. I would say if we pulled the lighting off to the side a little bit more, get a little more shadows in there, or maybe even put the lighting on the other side of the rider, so the shadows are on the side towards us, that would make it a little more three-dimensional, and a little more graphic. And we're nitpicking here.
Yeah, this is super nitpicky.
This is a cool picture.
Yep, cool picture. The last thing I'll say is, do you see that the darker area to the left, and in the previous two images that we've talked about is sort of the homogeneity of the light. If you put the rider in the light against a slightly darker background, and what's happening here is the sun is clearly lighting up this area of the image. If as the shooter you're here, and if you did this, and it looks like a he, but he or she jumped, and you had them, this color rider
In the dark area. Against, yeah, this tonal, exposure for the rider against this darker area, you can see how that would be--
It would pop off the screen a little bit more.
Yeah, a little bit more dramatic. Contrast, differential light values is one of the things that you're looking for. That's a key element.
And I think that's hard to do in the field. There's also the thing about how your eye moves around the image, that you know, you see the bright white helmet, or maybe the white sky behind it, and then your eye starts moving to the rider, and it doesn't really go to that left side of the frame, which comes back to your point. That's really hard to think about while you're actually shooting. It's usually something, for me at least, that I see when I'm processing the images, or editing them down. I'll be like, "Oh, this one really works, "because of XYZ. "I didn't see it while he was out there, "but I shot a bunch of images, so we got it."
Yeah, one last piece is, to that end, once you get a great image, I've watched people obsess over something like this, and this can be a cool, but this version, this image at its apex is a great image, but it's not a great, great, great, like game changing image. So, once you get ... You know, you've heard the 80/20 rule, it's called Pareto's Principal, you can get 80% of the way to perfect pretty quickly, and it's that last 20% that is the game changer.
it's really difficult. I often ask myself, "If I put the time in," because in a shoot, you have limited time, right? The day is only so long. "If I put in the extra time, "is it possible for me to get an image "that the client's gonna go, "'Oh my God, must rehire this photographer,' "or am I gonna get an image that's gonna "be in my portfolio?" And if the answer's no ... This is like the overall manor. It's not just the technique of managing your camera and the athlete, this is like, "How am I managing the shoot. "the client,
Exactly. "the whole--"
The athlete, or whatever Yeah, all of the things.
You're working with. This is just the thing that, as you get, you know, move towards mastery, this dialogue starts to be a part of the conversation.
Yeah, and the one thing I will say as we move onto the next one is, for me, as a pro, if I get like five to 10 stellar images in a year, that's a banner year.
And I'm being hypercritical. Like, those images have all four elements of something I'm looking at. You know, it's a good light, amazing action, you know, great composition, and then there some fourth element that can't be defined, that somehow connects with the viewer, and really takes that. Maybe it's the context, maybe it's a newsworthy image, maybe it's this or that. You know, those images are really rare. I know Ansil Adams said this, if he gets three or four good images in a year, it's an unbelievable year.
Yeah, it's a banner year. That's why the portfolio is developed over a lifetime. You have to do something today in order to get hired tomorrow, but to me, that's the best, it's the reason you keep coming back to things like golf. You have like 100 shots, and you don't come back for the 99 crappy ones, you come back from the three or four good ones. That tells you what I shoot on an average round right there. (laughing) But, conceptually, it's the same. You know, you don't come back for all of the sort of the mediocre images--
That we all shoot.
Yeah, that everybody shoots. You come back for the ones that are epic.
That's kind of going back to the 80/20 thing, that's why I keep trying to keep the ball moving.
That's a cool portrait.
Yep. Yeah, it's a very stunning portrait.
Nicely stylized. I mean, looking at the lighting though, I'm kind of wondering how they got that light underneath the hood. And this is Jim, in studio. So, how did you get the light up underneath the hood? Are you bouncing off the floor?
Yeah, I see the highlight there below, I would say the source is--
She was just under lit by a beauty dish.
Lit from underneath.
Up lit, yeah.
That's pretty cool.
Yeah, it's great.
You've got nice room lights in there.
That's too far away for me. I like that, I'm just gonna go stand over here. Yep, I like that a lot. I think, expression, I mean, there's not too much to say. One of the things that's a strength of this image is its simplicity. I consistently find that that is a major problem, especially for aspirational, for folks who are aspiring to the next level, is that they try and put too much stuff in the frame. If there's ever more than one subject, try and make the two subjects a subject, unless you're specifically trying to paint like two boxers or something, and then I would still make that two boxers the focus of the thing. In this case, you don't have that problem. Very, very simple.
The only thing I would say is the catch lights in the eye being on the underside is a little strange.
But that does help explain where the light's coming from.
And this is a very unique image. You know, I think, if I'm specifically talking about the lighting, for me, seeing the chest lit a little too bright, I'd probably tone that down, because you want us to look at the face.
Those eyes in particular. She's got a pretty intense stare. So, maybe I'd dodge and burn that down just a little bit.
And maybe some of flyaways here, you get some curl, you know. And we wanna, especially in action sports, where authenticity is really important, but you've almost sort of broke that wall. When you're in the studio, and you are crafting everything, I would say, you know, you've crafted so much of the detail, you've crafted the lighting meticulously, you've got a nice little innovative style there, there's no reason not to go in there and say, "All right, cool, this is a little bit distracting. "We've got things going in different directions here." And to me, it doesn't really add to the photograph. This stuff is a little distracting. That's not to say take it away, but some of these are, like the round ones here are a little bit weird, and it's just a little bit ... I mean, this is super fidgety, because it's a very clean, simple image, which I love. Yeah, solid.
And on a taste thing, this is my opinion, so take this with a grain of salt, you know, I see a lot of portraits these days where they've cleaned the skin so much that it loses all texture. I mean, we're looking at it on a TV, so this is not the optimum place to see this. It may look totally different on the monitor, but you know, it seems a little too smoothed out. And that's, I told you earlier that I like a really gritty feel to my portraits.
There were some challenges with the skin that forced me to kind of go all the way, or not at all,
Yeah. And I chose to have to go--
Yeah, but that's a great explanation. I don't think it undermines Michael's critique.
Yeah, it explains what's going on.
But you're also solving a problem.
That's why critique is valuable, because the more you hear of, "Ah, this is, "you know, what an expert thinks, "and this is the challenge that ..." There's plenty of times that instincts are wrong. If we were sitting here looking at an unretouched version of her face, you might be saying, "Oh, "you might wanna smooth her skin a little bit more."
Yeah, exactly, or do something.
We'd be saying exactly the opposite.
Exactly, because we don't know the full story.
Yeah, take all the stuff with a grain of salt, for sure. Great image.
So, Jackie's image here.
That's well lit, beautiful lighting, nice time of day. I think she chose a very good time of day to shoot this. It's backlit, so it's a very dramatic image.
Yep, love the color palette.
It's really gentle on the eye. The simplicity, again, what's the subject of that image? It's pretty obvious what the subject is, right? I love simplicity, with repeating patterns, and these are recipes for quality picture. Guy's obviously crazy fit.
Ripped, for sure.
Yeah, you did a good job.
Choosing the athlete, definitely.
Yeah, for sure. I think running, I don't know, I'm not sure if he's running up backwards, which is unlikely, so he's probably coming down. I think physiques in general, and/or it's hard to get a good look for something going down stairs. This is just having shot running for every major running brand for 15 years. Like, the number of good-looking, this is maybe one of the best ones have ever seen. To run down stairs and get a good shot, because typically what you do is, what happens when someone is running down? You better look where you're going, so your head goes (mumbling). Then, your chin goes (mumbling), and when your chin goes uh, and they tend to lean back, because you don't wanna fall forward, and so you get this sort of awkward body position. Again, I truly think this may ... You do see what I'm talking about, there's a little awkwardness in his gate.
In his expression on his face, too.
Yeah, in his expression. These are all micro elements, but to me, this is the difference maker, and that's why I don't think this is gonna when a photo competition, because it's a little bit of an unnatural body position. But, technically, I think it's great. I think the post-production's beautiful, the lighting choice of, you know, the choices that were made here were great. And here's the flip side of the same argument I meant about running down stairs versus up, how many images have you seen of people running up stairs? Of people running stairs, 100 out of 100, or 95 out of 100, so this is an attempt to do something different, just look at it through the lens of when you see an image like this, or when you're thinking of shooting one, I personally have never liked a photograph, and I've shot, I'm almost at a million, but that's over 10 years, maybe a million photographs of people running stairs.
Actual like actuations on the camera, and there's not one that I've ever said, "Yep, we gotta put that in the campaign."
Wow. I mean, other little technical details, I mean, Jackie, you've done a ton of processing on this. Or, not a ton, but you've done some. I would take out these little bright spots here, along the edges, whatever that is. I mean, it makes sense that there's sun streaking through the back of these stands, I wouldn't take that out at all, but just the super little hotspots that might draw your eye away.
Tiny little thing, but just, you know, to finish it up.
If you're gonna be in there for as long as you are in there on that guy, you might wanna just button those up a little bit. But, yeah, another really cool image. This is fun. (laughing) I really, I'm gonna come back tomorrow. Will you guys be here?
Let's do it.
I know this place really well. This looks like Angel's Landing, in Zion?
Is that where this is from?
Which is a really fun place, lots of exposure, so I always like that. It's hard to tell what the subject is in this picture, because they're so small in the frame. I think I would like to see the subject either closer to the camera, or wearing a brighter shirt, or you know, it's just hard to tell what's going on.
Yep. Facial expression would be awesome. Like, looking up, or looking out. If they're gonna be looking at the camera, one of the reasons you look at the camera is to create connection. When you're 30 feet away with a wide-angle lens, you're not gonna be able to achieve connection, like with looking right at the camera. So, my instructions of the model would be, look up, and just look just a little bit off, like you're looking at the, like assume that the trail goes like this, and you're spotting where you're heading. Because it's not gonna be a great picture. You know, maybe. I would say, "Yeah, look at me. "Look to your left, look to your left, "a little further, a little further," and I'm shooting like 10 frames every time that they're moving their head, and that's what a good model, and I think good instruction sounds like. It's not like, "Move your head." It's like, "One degree to the left, "again, a little bit further, a little bit further, "and you're just like, 'Bap, bap, bap, bap, "'bap, bap, bap, bap.'" Every time that they're moving their head, you're getting five or six frames. Because to me, this is ... I understand you need to look where you're going, but you want that moment where you're like. That's, I think, the difference between--
And you want them taking in the view, because they're in such an amazing spot.
For sure, for sure. Burkart.
There you go.
So, Chris does a lot of like small person, big landscape, but the small person is either doing the thing, doing the activity, which this person is, and it happens to be at the peak perfect moment of that person's journey up this rock, and to me, this is not the peak perfect moment.
But imagine, you can see there's probably some little wind here.
Blowing the, yeah.
She looks up, she looks into the wind, hair goes, "pff," then you get another, you get the sense of wind too, just from looking at the still image.
I mean, the other thing, knowing this location pretty well, because I've done a lot of climbing shoots in Zion is, you up to the top of Angel's Landing, you keep going over the other side, which can be a little sketchy, I admit. If you're not a climber, you may not like that, but have this person stand on top, and then get that in the background behind them, with the person cleaned up against the sky. You'll have a little bit more of an iconic looking image.
But still, just keep moving here.
Yeah, still a fun picture.
And, this is one of Aaron's running shots. That's better than any of my running shots (laughing) that I shot for this. So, you know, you got a waterfall, you've got, it looks like pavement I guess. Is this paved trail or something?
Is this on Hawaii?
No, this is actually in the Columbia River Gorge.
Eric Lankershim is the athlete, and yeah, I'm interested to hear what you guys say.
I think the same thing with the light values, like that we've been, and this is a really common thing as your learning to light, or perfecting your lighting skills, the just almost ... I understand that, in some cases, you're trying to just fill, and if you're filling, to me, this is overfilled. And, if you're not filling, then you ended up at a place where the light that's falling on the subject is almost exactly the same EV as what's in the background. So, I would either pull it down a little bit to try and just so that you can recognize the person, that you don't get heavy brows and some of those things. So, in this case, maybe it's you're featuring the clothing or something like that, say it's a catalog shoot. I understand, like the art director's gonna say, "Make it brighter, make it brighter," and you'll have to, you know, wrangle that battle on set there. But to me, that's like, aside from saying it's a really cool image with, you know, interesting composition, and you know, a cool location, yeah, that's one of my sort of early observations. What about you, Michael?
There's one thing I'm thinking about, is that typically, I was saying earlier how you want more space in front of the person if they're moving a certain direction than behind them, and I know why you did it here, because of the waterfall, but I'm thinking, if you just moved your camera farther this way, and had the waterfall between him and the bush--
And he's like, "Yeah, but there's a dump right here."
There might be. (laughing)
We've all had those photographs.
I'm just guessing.
There's a freeway right here.
You know, and you do have this trail coming around, which I'm still trying to figure out how this, wow, this must be a really heavy switchback trail. I'm just thinking of other possible options to solve that issue of having a little bit more room in front of him, so we can see where he's going to some degree. But, it may not have been possible.
Yeah, and to me, I would love to see a long lens of him coming up with a compressed background, and the waterfall where it's not the focus of the picture, where there's some depth to the image. That's another thing, it just kinda feels a little bit flat. And that's one of the main characteristics of everything having the same light value, is that the image just feels flat, it lacks depth. Even in a world where, if you shot this at two eight, and he was tach, and the image was soft, sitting from where I am right now, I couldn't tell the difference. It's unlikely that that's the case, because I know you were using a wide-angle lens here, and you know, anything past about three feet is gonna be in focus using this lens, but generally speaking, like that is a problem that I see a lot of folks fall into. It's a trap. You think you're nailing the exposure, but in nailing the exposure, you're sort of making an image that's almost--
A uniform image.
Yeah, it's really uniform, which sometimes can create lack of depth, or visual interest.
This image actually led me to this class right here, right now, because I had the Elinchrom set up with the action head, and I shot this on location. I was super stoked on it, and I got back and I looked, and there was just a little bit of ghosting. And you know, you guys can see that image as well.
That's the best kind, right, when you know it exists, as no one else does.
Oh, it bugged me, because I was so stoked. I was like, "Yes, this is it." Obviously there's a lot more I could improve on, but that little ghosting became an obsession for me. And so, you know, I did a lot of research--
Here you are in the high sync world.
The hypersync, I tried to do that, I failed miserably at it, and you know, now, taking this workshop, I understand why I failed, and I know that there is equipment out there to help me get better at this.
Can I throw one more thing your way?
Just the humility with which you just approach to that is fantastic, it's incredible, and I think if you maintain that for your entire career, you will crush. Because it's looking at pictures, and sort of being able to celebrate them, but never being satisfied, which is the number one driver towards the upper echelons of the industry, and to be able to look at something, and be excited, and know that there's more work, again, I've literally talked to probably thousands and thousands of people eyeball to eyeball, and you can sort of hear in their voice what their biggest challenges is, and what their biggest opportunities are, challenges are, and their biggest opportunities are, and I think that's a, you know, that's one of the reasons that Creative Live exists, is for that lifelong, that there's always gonna be a thing, and so kudos to you for being moved enough, and inspired enough to take on a next chapter of learning. If you keep doing that, you're gonna go far.
Thank you very much.
Yeah. Man, those were wise words of wisdom there.
That's what these wrinkles right here are from. (laughing)
Gotta keep learning. So, Brooke, this is one of your rock climbing pictures from the shoot you told us about. Is this the same one, with those guys on the cliff?
Yeah, it's the same one. So, same climb, Faroe Islands, northern Europe.
Wow, so this is a huge, big wall, and an ocean in the Faroe Islands. You know, after having shot rock climbing for 20 years, you know, he stuck in a dihedral, so there's not a whole lot he's gonna be able to do. We could see his face, so that's good. He's not really looking up our way, so it's hard to connect with him. Also, because you're so close to the cliff, it really compresses the cliff line, so he could be 100 feet off the water, he could be 1000 feet off the water, it's hard for us to tell. This is where I think of the stilts would be good, to get out from the wall, and so you could show this like tunnel effect of that thing going down, which will help show the draw of gravity underneath them, and then maybe, you know, in a different position on this climb somewhere, there's more interesting body position.
So, I went really far really fast there in terms of that critique, because we've talked about it a bit. And also, kind of a similar thing, he's wearing a red shirt, so that's great, but the tones are pretty equal on the rock climbing part of it, and then it's dark in the ocean.
So our eye doesn't have a whole lot of anywhere to go in the image. Whereas, if you had like giant rollers in there, on the ocean, rolling--
Manufacturer those for us.
Yeah, exactly, just phone up God, and say, "Hey, I need some big waves, now."
Yeah, the challenge with this one is where the belayer is, that's a natural ledge, so there is another like 100, 150 feet drop.
Yeah, I can see that.
So I definitely think that kind of getting off the wall would be definitely a good way to show that extra perspective, because this does not do justice to how huge this wall was. It makes it look like, "Oh, that's cute, "they're on a beach," when they're literally like repelling on this massive face. So yeah, no, I think the stilts is something I'll have to try.
Yeah, that is an amazing, both a chore from an image maker's perspective, and a talent in action sports, is making it look like what it is. And because these, you know, I mentioned earlier, like places skiing, if you fall, you die, you know, here, if you clearly fall, you clearly die, and doing that justice, the pitch, the steepness of a pitch when you're skiing, you know, 40 something degree ice face in Alaska, like, it's very easy to say it's a 40 degree ice face in Alaska, until you're on one. (laughing)
And then you're freaking out.
Right. And to me, this is sort of this next level aspiration that I'm trying to communicate, which is what can you do to actually put that person there, where they can register what's happening? And sometimes, that's in small details, sometimes it's in perspective. Like, there is a million things, and mastery looks like knowing what thing to do at the right time to create that.
So, that's why this is an endless career, this is an endless passion, because the sooner you realize, as soon as you think you've mastered something, you realize that you've got so much to learn. But, cool image for sure.
And, experience will dictate that. Like, the more and more you shoot, the more you'll be like, "Oh yeah, "I remember that time I ran into this problem. "I just pulled out whatever, and it worked great."
You know, but you don't wanna do that over and over and over, you wanna keep pushing, and expanding that--
For sure. Once you get it in the can, then you can experiment a little bit more. Do the thing that you did when you solved the problem last time, and then, "What can I do different "to try and unlock ..." It's like a videogame. Like, what's the thing that's gonna unlock the next level?
And I know one thing, Michael, and I've discussed with a few others here, with adventure sports is, having to separate doing it for personal pleasure, in going out with the intention of getting photos. The story behind this was the climbers, this was the first dissent, they bolted this line. Once it was bolted, they climbed it, and then there like, "And we never wanna "go on that route again." So, I have like my one chance to get the photos, and then it was like, "Okay, does anyone wanna "go back down?" They're like, "Nope, we're done. "we're getting beers, we're outta here," and it's just like, "Okay, that was my one chance." So, it's separating, like it was great to be there and experience that, but going out with the intention next time of being like, "Okay, we're getting photos. "If I need you to repeat this move, "if I need you to look at me during this photo," like going out with the intention of capturing images.
Yeah, and I know you've emphasized that in this course a little bit, but that is a thing that so few people will understand. Like, how can you take ... I shot a Naked Juice add, and it was a guy walking on a trail from the beach to the parking lot with a surfboard, and I think I shot like 3400 frames. (laughing) I'm not even kidding. And it was in a time window that was so small, because the sun was doing a thing, and it's like the repetition that is required to truly get the great images. And sometimes you walk out and you go, "Bang."
That's a rare.
Yeah. The world thinks that's how it happens, and y'all of us in here, and y'all at home
Out there. know that that's not really how you create a career, and an ongoing stream of these images.
And that's part of the hard work thing we talked about an hour ago, you know, in the business section, is just, whether your amateur, you know, and there's some amateurs that are better photographers than some pro photographers, there some amazing amateur photographers out there, so it doesn't matter what you're going for, but the amount of hard work you put into the image, it shows.
I call it the sweat equity. So, the more sweat I put into an image, often it shows. You know, you shot 3400 images in probably an hour and a half, or two hours, you had some sweat equity just in, you know, making sure you got that image.
Stretch out the finger there.
But I mean, I'm sure you moved around a bunch while you're shooting that.
For sure, and I know that ... So, I'll just throw one other thing on that hard work bit. I think action sports photography is the hardest type of photography that there is. And I'm biased, because I think I cut my teeth in this industry.
But, you go from here, as budgets get bigger, and whether it's Hollywood, or you know, some high-stakes campaign or whatever, sure there is a large amount of pressure, maybe the pressures greater because there's more people and more dollars at stake, or whatever, but to be able to do an activity, like you're doing here in the Faro Islands, to be able to battle mother nature, to be able to have as many moving parts as what has to come together to create an amazing image, between athlete, mother nature, light, your ability to get the shot, to think on your feet, you know, just keep this in perspective. That may be dealing with the mother of the bride, I've never shot a wedding, and I don't anticipate ever doing that, but to me, just to put all this stuff in perspective, when we're critiquing this, I think that's the benefit that we have, is we know you were freezing up there, you'd been in there for a long time, these people are maybe stronger climbers than you, and they're outpacing you, there's 1000 things that you're struggling with right now, and the ability to make a great picture, like, pat yourself on the back, and just know you'll have a much easier path if you wanna shoot studio portraits at some point.
That's true. I mean, it's very true. I think portraiture is still extremely hard, and it's not as easy.
Yeah, I'm gesturing for sure.
But, you know, physicality wise, like if I was a rock climber, or an adventure, if you're a skier, skiing on 40 degree ice, every other shoot you have in the rest to your career is easier than that.
Yeah, I mean, I remember just like, now I got a chair with my name on it, and someone bring me a doughnut, and I'm like telling ... Yeah, it's a really beautiful element of what y'all have done to make these pictures, so remember that.
This has been so much fun. Thank you, Kenna, and the whole crew with Creative Live. I've really enjoyed the time here. And thank you, live audience, for coming out, and you, online audience, for tuning in. I hope you enjoyed it, hope you learned a lot.
Amazing, amazing course.
I have a big project going on at my computer, and to watch and listen to this on the side was very distracting, because you're dropping a lot of knowledge, a lot of knowledge. Thank you so very much.
Michael, remind everyone where they can follow you online, as we wrap the class, and we go forward.
So, MichaelClarkPhoto.com is my home base for the website. The blog is on there, everything is linked from there. You know, my social media accounts are linked from there. MichaelClarkPhoto.com. And if you can't remember that, just search adventure sports photographer, and I show up at the top of Google, or Michael Clark, and I'll show up there as well.
I totally got lucky, totally got lucky.
You're gonna come back for our next SEO class in adventure sports photography, how about that?
Yeah okay. I can tell you how you get lucky.
Can we just give him like a serious round of applause right now? (applause)