Intro to the Cyclocross Rider
So here we are with Tim Johnson, who's a world class cyclocross, mountain biker, road biker. You were a six time national champion, you said?
Red Bull athlete, how long have you been with Red Bull?
Since 2008, actually.
2008, so you've been with them for a while.
Yeah. And you just built this custom bike, like a couple days ago.
You know, I wanted to come out and bring something special so I figured I'd make a trip to the Cannondale Superstore and pull out somethin nice, so I brought my Cannondale Super X.
That's awesome, thank you for doing this.
Yeah, no worries.
And right now, we're gonna go through some clothing options here. And just get Tim kitted up. And then after that we'll go over and we'll have him ride on the trail a bit, so we did scout this location six weeks ago, the weather was a little bit different, it was a different time of the day, so we're here again, luckily we've got clouds today, so we're really lucky cause that...
just gives us a clean slate to work with for the lighting. And once we get him kitted up, we'll cruise down and I'll just, typically when I'm working with an athlete, I have them do whatever the trick, or whatever they're doing, a couple times so I can just see what's happening, how they move through the scene, see what they can do with the scene, sometimes they could do things that blow my mind and everybody else's mind, and we'll kind of find the shot essentially. And that will also tell me how I'm gonna set up my lighting. So I don't wanna go in there and start setting up lights and then see what he does, and then have to change it all, just waste time. But let's go and look at your clothing here.
Sure. As you said in your email, I brought a selection of clothes.
And so you can let me know what you feel like works best. Riding on a cross bike I would ride in spandex or in baggy so I brought both.
So we can switch back and forth, so black is usually-
Black shorts is normal, yeah, that's fine.
Usually shorts. What do you think about the white?
So, I sent an email to all the athletes saying no pure black or pure white except shorts, just because with digital cameras, often, especially when you're lighting stuff, a pure white shirt lights up like a Christmas tree and it can be a little rough with digital. It's not the end of the world, but we've got other options, so we probably won't use the white shirt. Super bright shirt. The nice thing about this is it matches the bike almost perfectly, which doesn't necessarily clash, so we might start in that or the darker one.
Yeah. This would be another option, so short sleeve, kind of a...
That's a sweet shirt. Yeah.
Usually when you have a Camelbak or something, you don't need pockets so that's what this shirt's for, so we can go into that any time.
Let's start with this guy, I think.
And the black shorts. The red is great, but as you stated earlier, it might clash a little bit because it is pure red and then we have this hot, bright orange bike. We'll try it out, but we'll see how it look in the camera. It could be... We'll see.
I don't know if that one's gonna work as well as the other orange one.
And then the other pure black I guess.
Pure black. So, I avoid black just because it sucks up all the light and it's really difficult to separate the rider from the background, with pure... The black shirt and black shorts. I mean, we're lighting it so I'm sure you could still see it but if you have a guy on a bike coming at you with an orange bike with an orange top, they're gonna pop off the image like there's no tomorrow, so that's why we're looking at the clothing. Every time I work with an athlete, we have this discussion in terms of the clothing, just to dial that in. And this is, helmet?
Yeah, and then having a... I was gonna say that luckily, in what we're doing today, repeatability is not a problem, so-
I'm not doing back flip, I'm not doing a-
Can you do a back flip on your cyclocross?
A trick with high consequence. (laughing) You know, I tried actually.
I was being taught how to do a back flip by another Red Bull athlete, Aaron Chase, and man, I tried so many times. (laughing)
Well, no back flips, that's okay.
None today. But then I did get a new helmet, so this is a fresh...
Ah, that's perfectly clean, nice.
Fresh bright helmet with a nice pair of Oakleys down there.
So hopefully that'll pop off.
That'll definitely pop off. So yeah, I think let's do those black shorts, and you have the spandex black shorts, we can try those out later too.
And let's just do the super bright orange, we'll start out with that and then we'll definitely change the clothing up at some point, we won't shoot all day with the exact same clothing because we wanna see if something else might work a little bit better, and we won't know til we try it.
Let's go ahead and have you get kitted up, and then we'll do a few test runs, then I'll just kinda look around at different angles.
So I think for this shot, I'm probably not gonna be shooting you dropping in from this side. We'll have you dropping down a steeper hill and we'll kinda crop out the red tape up there for the race.
We'll be on that S curve, so...
You're gonna shoot me coming this way?
Gonna shoot you coming this way, and I'm gonna be pointing the camera at you either that way or kind of cross.
And at some point, I'll probably stand on that rock and actually shoot down at you as you're coming underneath.
Just to get some different angles, so we'll just go down there and I'll have you ride it a couple times, you know you don't even have to come all the way up the hill unless you just want to for momentum.
That's helpful, okay.
And then I'll just watch, two, three times, you don't have to do it too many times.
Just so I can get a sense. What I typically do when I'm shooting mountain biking or cycling of any type, is I start a little farther away with a little longer lens and then I start moving in.
And then I eventually end up like, two inches off your pedal.
You know, with the super wide lens because I'm sure you can hit the same line like, over and over and over.
I'll try, yeah.
Within millimeters, so my face won't be right behind the camera, but I'll be right there. And I won't do that right now, but we'll just kinda get a sense of the background and how you flow through that, if that's okay.
Thank you. Go for it. And I'm actually gonna start out over here and just watch from a little farther then I'll walk down. So, even right here there is a shot. I like that little S curve over there, there's some trees right here in the beginning that aren't necessarily the greatest foreground, but that is pretty cool, even with a 7200 I could sit here and shoot from right here. Before he goes down, hold off for a second, let me walk down a little bit. (footsteps) I did also bring a camera. I just have a normal like, 24 to 70 on the camera, I don't have a specific lens, just so I can kind of frame up the composition and get an idea of where he's gonna be in the frame and how the trail's gonna flow through the frame. Because with all of these, you know action shots in a landscape like this, it's not that I'm going for a figure in a landscape shot, but oftentimes, I'm placing the person in the frame in a certain way so that the background's nice and is appealing. Let me just frame something up, we'll have him flow through. (footsteps) Let's see. Alright, go for it. (camera clicks) Cool. And you know, the things I'm seeing here, is just how he's angling the bike. I'm also seeing as he comes down the hill, and he's not fully going for it right now, I'm sure he can go a little bit faster, there's some dust being kicked up, so if we light up that dust with a backlight on this set up, we could actually really accentuate some of the movement of the bike and show that speed as he's coming into the drop. I really like this S turn right here because it gives a little arc to the frame, and then we have these trees over here that once we light em up with the strobes, will be quite a bit more dramatic than they seem right now. And again, you know, we scouted this location six weeks ago, we were hoping for cloudy skies because if we walked out here, this is a very open forest, there's a lot of light that would be coming through the trees if we had full sun right now. And that would be your worst nightmare because you would have shadows of all these trees and then really bright light streaming in, and then you would either have to wait for a cloudy day or come out here with strobes and over power that light streaming through the trees, which would be you know, part of the issue. Right now with a cloudy sky like this, it gives us a fully clean slate to work with so that our light's gonna be the only light that we're introducing to the scene. This'll be great. We've got a bunch of different options. I'm basically gonna be shooting him coming probably this direction, just because of this S curve is what I want in the frame. There's also a boulder over there that I can stand on and get on top of the boulder shooting down at him as he comes underneath me with a wider lens. So that also gives me a totally different photo option and however I sent up the lighting, it'll still work for that shot as well. So we can get multiple angles without having to reposition the lights. So now that I've figured out kind of where I'm gonna start in terms of my composition, my position, we'll get rolling, we'll shoot this shot, we'll get the lighting set up, then we'll shoot this first shot and then we'll move up onto the boulder after that, and we'll see how it works.
Alright, so you can see our location here. Having Tim ride through the scene a few times helped me figure out where I wanted to shoot from. And just so you can understand when we did the scouting, I actually took a camera with me, I pretty much framed up the composition as I thought I would shoot it so that I knew it would work. There was one question that came in about...
Yeah, we had a question from Aaron, who is asking about, do you ever need permits in these types of scenarios to just do the type of photography that you're doing.
Definitely, and the answer to that question is yes, when I'm setting up lights like this. So, typically if I'm just gonna go shoot mountain biking, with just my cameras and maybe I'm gonna ride with the mountain bikers and take one camera and one lens, and just go out there and shoot with available light, I won't apply for a permit. We'll just go do it because there's a very small footprint. We're not bringing out the whole kit and caboodle, we're not bringing out the lights, and we also don't have a crew of 20 people with a video crew and everybody else out there. But in this instance, when I'm setting up lights, if I'm gonna set up lights, let's say you're in Yosemite National Park, you're gonna need a permit to set up a light stand and put a light on it. If you're in Colorado in the forest, you probably want a permit and a light stand. Where I live in New Mexico, if we're on a big assignment, I'm gonna pull a permit, just to make sure, if I'm on national forest or BLM or wherever we're at, that we don't get shut down at some point during the day of the shoot. So it depends on how big of a footprint you have, but you should apply for a permit or at least check. You know, we had a permit for Smith Rock yesterday as well, we had a permit for all of this stuff. And I believe in this instance, we're on national forest, so we checked with the national forest, and went through all the paperwork. Other things to know when you're applying for a permit, you typically need to have insurance. Liability insurance, and it's usually like, minimum one to two million dollars liability insurance in case a tree falls over or something happens while you're on the shoot. So that's just something to keep in mind if you do start applying for permits.
What if something comes up really quick and you don't have time to pull a permit? The lighting's right, everything's good, what are the potential ramifications or consequences of not having a permit? Have you ever run into that, as well?
I have. I mean, I've been shut down on some stuff when we couldn't pull a permit or we were doing stuff where there's no way they're gonna give you a permit. And then you're just shut down and you probably get a fine, depending on if it's in a national park, it might be a pretty hefty fine, like thousands of dollars, so that's not good. (laughing)
If you got the image, could you still use the image, or would they prevent you from using that image?
It depends on the situation. I don't know, that would be... If you're in a national park and you're shooting something, you could probably still use the image, but I mean you definitely don't wanna be destroying a national park in any way, shape, or form. You notice yesterday and today, I'm an outdoor person, if you're shooting adventure sports then you're an outdoor person and there's an outdoor ethic of leave no trace, and obviously we're on a mountain biking trail here, so there's lots of mountain bikers coming through as you'll see in the videos, there's a few coming through. So, we're being very careful with the environment, we don't want to destroy anything or cause any damage in any way. So, your question, I haven't run into that, so I'm not sure. There was a shoot I did, the first shoot I did for Red Bull, was with Danny MacAskill, an amazing trials rider who's fairly famous, and we didn't' have permits for anything, we were just going around town, San Diego, shooting all this different stuff, and he was jumping off all kinds of things in parks, we did a shoot in the middle of a traffic triangle on these sculptures that he was doing back flips off of and they were really tough metal sculptures, we weren't injuring the sculptures in any way. And at some points we'd have the cops called on us. And it was no big deal, they understood what was going on and we just kept going. And in some instances, the police showed up and they were like, "Wow, this is so great. Do that again, I wanna see it again." (audience laughing) So you just never know what the reaction's going to be. And we didn't harm or injure anything while we were doing this, we made sure that if he was jumping off a roof top, he wasn't going to injure anything.
Like, in a Danny MacAskill situation, what about like, background logos, other competing corporate identifying marks, like how do you deal with those? Can you incorporate those in your photos? If they're in the environment, like how do you deal with that?
Well, luckily for adventure sports, there's not a whole lot of that, cause we're in the middle of nowhere so there's no logos except for what the athlete is wearing. The Danny MacAskill stuff, there weren't really a whole lot of, there were cars in the background and stuff. And I'm sure for the big shoots they do where he's riding the rooftops in Spain, they had permits, I mean for sure. They're not just goin out there with a giant movie crew and doin this. If they're shooting a video and there's more people involved you definitely need a permit, but it's very rare that I'm actually shooting somewhere where there's a logo in the background. Though, when I'm shooting for Red Bull, obviously there needs to be a Red Bull logo on the rider. And you have to think about that and that's something as a Red Bull photographer you're instructed on. If you're shooting an event, sometimes you'll line up the action with a Red Bull logo in the background just so it's, the sponsor gets their due in the image. I've had shoots, a lot of the Red Bull shoots, there's an art director on set with you or out on the shoot with you, and so, they are watching your back and watching this stuff happen and helping you get better images, which is great. Whenever you can have an art director on the shoot with you, it's so great. You have your assistant, then you have the art director, everybody's looking like, maybe there's a fold in the shirt or something's going on that I'm not seeing cause I'm concentrating on the action. But you know, they can look and see if, can we even see the logo? And with Tim here, he's got a helmet that's got the Red Bull logo but then he's wearing, I can't remember what the brand of clothing it is, but he's sponsored by Cannondale, he's sponsored by Volkswagen, so he's got logos from his sponsor on his jerseys, which is typical for cycling, but the Red Bull logo's a little bit small, so if this had been a true Red Bull shoot, we might have needed to change that and make it a little bit bigger. Though as you see it comes across pretty well in the helmet, I suppose.