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Advanced Lighting for Adventure Photography

Lesson 4 of 35

Pre-Production and Pre-Visualizing

Michael Clark

Advanced Lighting for Adventure Photography

Michael Clark

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Lesson Info

4. Pre-Production and Pre-Visualizing


  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

Pre-Production and Pre-Visualizing

So, for me, as I spoke about earlier, lighting really slows you down, but also it really forces you to think about where you're going to set up your lights, what the location looks like. So, pre-production. What I mean by pre-production is figuring out where you're gonna shoot, what the location looks like. Here's the whole list here. How are you going to get your gear to the location? All the logistics, and as the last slide said, pre-production is pretty much the most important part of the entire process, I think, and I typically go out and location scout either the day before the shoot or years before the shoot, in some cases, because knowing exactly what it looks like, which is different for every sport or different for every subject, is a huge factor in whether you can actually even achieve the shot. So, considerations are, what do we need for this shoot, how many lights, how many people are gonna need to carry all that stuff out there, or how giant of a pack am I gonna have to ca...

rry to get it out to the location? From rock climbing photography, I'm used to carrying like a 100 to 120 pound packs, which is why my knees are not in the greatest shape these days. But, that's a consideration. What's the concept? What's the idea? I think above and beyond the gear, I want everybody to keep in mind during this class that, sure, there's a lot of technical stuff going on, we have all this gear, which you may or may not have, which is totally fine, but keep the final image you're trying to get in mind and really think about the image that you want, and don't get too lost in the technicalities of the strobes and the cameras because, in the end, we're trying to create images. It doesn't really matter. The gear is great. We've got to keep that final image in mind. And yeah, what's the concept? What angle are we gonna be shooting from? All these things come into play, which they do for normal photography as well. So, typically when I go out, I have a shot list. This is an old-school little book that I have that I write stuff down. These days, it's typically on my iPhone that I've typed up and created a PDF with all the images I'm trying to think about. This was for a Tahiti surf shoot, a surfing trip at Chopu. I had all kinds of ideas, having never been there, having done a ton of research on Google, looking at Google Earth and just the orientation and knowing where we'd be on the wave and all that kind of stuff. As to exactly what type of stuff I would get, but you also see there's portraits of pro surfers, there's a ceremonial dance with the Tahitian dancers, which is a very more of an adventure travel photograph image, but I wanted to create the entire story. I even have in here, this was back in the Elinchrom Ranger days, try hyper sync from on the wave with the surfer. So, I've already thought through, how am I gonna position the flash, maybe even what lenses I need, like a 24 here, I've 7200 somewhere in here. So I've really kind of gone in and thought through individual images that I wanna get, and it's also, for me, as a photographer, I get fixated on a certain shot, and sometimes it's hard for me to get off of that shot that I'm trying to get, and so when I have this list of shots that I wanna get, I can always, every half hour, go back and be like, oh yeah, I wanted to get that shot and this shot and this shot. I should move on and try and get those, because I've probably already gotten the shot that I was trying to get. So, it's just a reminder to not fixate on one image the whole time you're on a shoot. But the gear can be a nightmare. I mean, this is just one of five gear closets, and that closet goes back five feet in each direction with this giant piano printer next to it. The last two assignments I've done, I had my Subaru Outback was filled with 600 pounds of gear, most of it lighting gear, two camera systems. It's ridiculous. When you have that much gear, you're anchored down and it's hard to actually do stuff, so you have to really tailor the gear to the shoot and figure out what you need exactly and not much more. So just to give you an idea of the process, I pulled out the gear. This is a sea kayaking shoot I actually did for Red Bull Photography a few years ago, and we were standing around for hours this morning that we were gonna take off, trying to figure out how we're gonna get all of that into those boats. So, that can be the logistical process as well. This is all part of the pre-production. Figuring out where you're going, critical. This was that same sea kayaking trip. And just to show you, again, the evolution. This is that image I showed you earlier, where I first lit the ice climbing. So, this is a three year process. That first year I shot with no lights with dawn, the next year I shot that first one, which was cool, but it wasn't exactly what I had in mind, the third year I went back and I had, this is the image I had in mind when I first thought of working with her. It's the same place. She was over here. The bridge is right above. She was over here in the other shot, and I just switched it, and I went back and tested the day before to know that I could get the exact lighting I wanted, and then when she showed up the next day, we got the images. But just to see how much effort has gone into some of these images to create them, is critical. So here you can see the light as it was set up on top of the bridge. The ice climb is right here, below, and it's raking across that ice climb, as you can see. Here's another example, this surfing shot, which I'll say, you know, it's a cool surf shot but it's not like an epically unbelievable, best surf shot I've ever made, but, it's lit from the beach from 500 feet away with five Elinchrom Rangers, and I had four assistants on this shoot, and one of the assistants, Bryan Billman, who is a legendary surf photographer, good friend of mine, figured out that the lights were going past the surfer each time, and it was not a great surf day, so there were only like three waves that the surfer got aerials on, and we caught the best one somehow. By a miracle, if you ask me. I still look at that surf image and I'm like, how did that happen? 'Cause we were shooting at F4, we were lighting him from two football fields away, like 500 feet, just insane, and we pulled it off. And it was just, for me, this was an experimental shoot. I wasn't on assignment here. I was just trying to see how far we could push this lighting and how it would work, just to give you a little background on the production. I planned for this months and had Elinchrom ship out a few extra strobes for me to use, which was great. I brought a few of my own and then really thought through it and we originally wanted to shoot at Pipeline on a really good day of surf where, you know, they were in the pipe, but that just didn't happen while I was there for two weeks in Hawaii. So, you still have to kind of roll with the punches here.

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