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Advanced Lighting for Adventure Photography

Lesson 23 of 35

Location Scouting for Cyclocross

Michael Clark

Advanced Lighting for Adventure Photography

Michael Clark

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Lesson Info

23. Location Scouting for Cyclocross


  Class Trailer
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1 Class Introduction Duration:03:25
2 Evolution with Lighting Duration:04:44
3 Why Use Artificial Lighting? Duration:06:43
7 Strobes vs. Speedlights Duration:08:01

Lesson Info

Location Scouting for Cyclocross

We'll talk a little bit about location scouting for cyclo-cross, or any cycling shoot. And we were shooting in Bend, Oregon. We shot Smith Rock for the climbing. Maybe two months ago, at this point, we went out to Bend specifically to scout because I didn't live there and I hadn't shot there. And when I'm scouting a location, A, first thing I do is I call some friends that live there. So I have peers that are other photographers who've have shot quite a bit, that live in Bend. Tyler Roemer is a photographer who's actually shot for Red Bull a fair bit, and I just called him up, and he was gracious enough to talk with me. He was like, "Oh man, there's so much good stuff here. You should go and look at this, this and this." I have a good friend Ben Moon, who's another photographer. He used to live in Bend for a long time. So, I call up some friends and see what they suggest. And then I look at what they suggest, and then I even called an outdoor cycling shop, a mountain bike shop in Bend.

Bend's kind of a mecca for mountain biking in the United States. Seems like Moab, Durango, Bend are the three big mountain biking areas in the United States. So I knew there tons of trails, but that was the problem. There were so many options. I had to kind of narrow it down to what are the real gems, and what are gonna have spectacular backgrounds. So the mountain bike shop gave me a few options. And then with the Creative Live Crew, we came out, and we saw what could work. And if I'm being honest, we were looking for a forest. We didn't quite find the forest I was hoping for. This year, we're dealing with the elements. The northwest, I mean most of the western United States, has had the biggest snow year in decades. So we show up in May, expecting snow-free stuff, and there's still five feet of snow on the trail just outside of Bend. And the trails I was really hoping to get to were a couple hours away, higher up in the mountains, like the deep rainforest trails. Even when we did the pre-shoot a month ago, they were still buried in snow, so we couldn't access those trails. It's not like the place we shot at was horrible or anything, but it wasn't the thing I had in my mind. So just keep that in mind. Sometimes, with certain sports, like surfing, or skiing, sometimes even mountain biking or cyclo-cross in this example, timing is everything. You gotta get there when the powder is fresh. You've gotta be there when the waves are pumping. So, you know, we found the Lower Storm King Trail, and it seemed like all these trails right around Bend looked very similar. In a large, pine tree forest. Of course, like those images I just showed you with the aspens, I had something something like that in mind because I'd done that shoot before. So I could kind of predict what the images looked like. This is a much more open forest. So, it was tricky because, as you'll in the videos for the pre-shoot here, with an open forest like that, if you have full sun, that is your worst nightmare case. Because you're gonna have long shadows of the trees, and splotchy light coming in, and it's really difficult to deal with. So I was praying for clouds, and luckily we got clouds that day, for the most part. You know, even if we did have the light streaming in from full sun, we could've overpowered it with the strobes, but it still gives you a really splotchy background. So it could be tricky. If I'm doing a shoot for mountain biking, and it doesn't need to happen on an exact day, or any sport, let's say, if it's out east and I'm shooting rock climbing at Red River Gorge, where there's tons of trees right up against the cliff, I'm not even going out unless it's cloudy. Because it's gonna be a nightmare scenario with the cliff lit up, or the ground lit up, and the climber in the shade. And that's gonna be really difficult to control the contrast ratios for the entire image if you're shooting wide angle. So, there's lots of considerations to think about here. And you'll see those throughout the day, but the Lower Storm King Trail turned out to be perfect for cyclo-cross because it was a really kind of cool, S-curve downhill trail that Tim could just rip down this thing over and over and over. Typically, as you see with a lot of my mountain biking images, somebody's catching some air, or doing a trick in the air. That's a whole different scenario than cyclo-cross. Even though Tim, you know, caught some air on our thing, on a cyclo-cross bike, which is pretty impressive. There's lots of considerations. Typically, I would go out with the athlete, but that wasn't possible for this trip because Tim was in Boston, and we were out here. When you have the athlete there, and you can see what they can do in that scene, it really helps you establish how it's gonna work. And also, I'm looking for a trail that's not just straight through the woods. I'm looking for a trail that has some nice curves. When I'm scouting, I'm thinking about composition. I'm thinking, "Okay, I can imagine how the cyclist is gonna come through the frame." "But is there a good composition here?" "Are the trees tight enough?" "Or open enough for me to put my lights between them?" "Where can I position the lighting?" It's all the thing things we talked about yesterday in terms of scouting and location... pre-production, basically.

Class Description

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. 


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