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Advanced Lighting for Adventure Photography

Lesson 3 of 35

Why Use Artificial Lighting?

Michael Clark

Advanced Lighting for Adventure Photography

Michael Clark

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Lesson Info

3. Why Use Artificial Lighting?


  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

Why Use Artificial Lighting?

Let's move on into the next section, which is why use artificial lighting. You know, as I just said, learning to use lighting definitely will help you take your photography, at least for me I found this to be true, it will help take your photography to a different level because you really have to look at the light super critically. You know, I can look at you right here, and I'm looking at the lighting we have set up, and I can see where the shadows are falling on your faces and when I was just an ambient light photographer, I knew that stuff. You know, you know about light but when you're really putting a strobe in somebody's face with a modeling light on and watching what happens when you rotate that light and they're not moving their face, you really start to look very critically at how the light is falling on someone's face or on a cliff that you're gonna see in some of these images. I think using artificial lighting is really scary, it's hard, you're gonna fail a lot, and that's t...

he beauty of it because the more you fail, the more creative you get, the farther you take your imagery. I know for a lot of you here and in the online audience, many of you are already using lightings so you already know this. This is a slow process. It's definitely not fast. When I hear a motor driving away, just shooting, I like to shoot for Redbull a lot, and a lot of the times I'm not using strobes. I'm using either my D4 or my D810, we're just motor driving away at five or 12 frames a second. That's a very fast process. But as soon as I pull out that strobe, well A) you gotta plug the head into the pack and then you gotta put the light modifier on and then you gotta figure out where to put it, and then you gotta expose. So it just slows the whole process down, which I think is great because when we slow down, we tend to get more creative, we tend to think, we tend to figure out the shot more completely than if we're just blasting away. All of these things help form a much better image in my experience. At least for me. So, when and where to use artificial lighting. So when the light's not great. Obviously that's high noon, and you gotta pull off an image and maybe there's a giant storm raging over here or whatever the situation, it can save you as a pro photographer, as a photographer, if you need to get a shot that still looks decent. When the ambient light is too dark obviously, is another one where you use flash. You may just use a speed light for that. It depends on the situation. High-contrast situations are great for using flash because as you'll see in some of these pre shoots we did, you got hard light streaking in, you can actually get some soft light on the person if you're shooting a portrait, or you can create a whole different look with this new high-sync technology than is even possible before. When you wanna add drama to the image and I have some examples of this, I'll show you, or just when you don't like the way the light looks. I think the biggest thing here, when to use artificial light with this new technology, is when you wanna get creative, when you wanna create something that's completely different than what you're looking at with your eyes. It's amazing when you do this. I'll just show you some images here. So this is a shot of Dawn Glanc, she's a professional ice climber. Super cool woman, amazing climber. I met her maybe five, six years ago in the Ouray Ice Park. Ice climbing is one of my favorite sports so I go ice climbing every winter, three or four times when I can. This was in the park and I saw her climb and I knew of her, and approached her afterward and thought if we could do a shoot together. But this is, there's no artificial lighting here. This is just a cloudy day and the ice park in Ouray, Colorado is in the shade so that's why it looks like it's fully cloudy. This is with one light setup. So a year later I came back. We worked together. There's a bridge above this with the light boomed out over the bridge pointing down on the ice climb. But just look at the difference between this and the first shot. We created something super dramatic. Here's another example. Here's a mountain biking shot. This is above Santa Fe, up in the Aspens, in October where they're nice and gold. With lighting we created something super dramatic. And you know, it depends on your taste as to whether or not you like this type of dramatic image but it just shows you what's possible. This was shot with a medium format camera so it wasn't even the high-sync technology. When you show the athletes these images, their eyes light up cuz they're not seeing this until you actually show them the image on the back of the camera, and then they get really excited about working with you, you get more out of them, they get these incredible images to help promote themselves as professional athletes and you can just, I've seen it really amp up my work in a huge way. Here's another example. I shot this for Angel Fire Ski Resort earlier this year. This is the before image. It was snowing so hard. It was dumping maybe two and a half feet in 24 hours, which was phenomenal skiing. We had some snowboarders and a skier out there. This is a two light set up and you know, our heads, our lighting got super wet because the snow was really wet and heavy this spring. But I just look at this image and I'm just like, you know, I knew what was going to happen with the lighting but still, when I see the image, I'm like, wow! That is a huge difference, going back to the before and then after. It just takes it to a whole different place and I think Angel Fire was so blown away by the image, I'm not even sure they know what to do with it, if it fits into their marketing, you know, the way they usually market. They were pretty excited about it, you know. And here's just a single image. I don't have a before and after because it would just be a silhouette of him on the rock and the cliff here, but just to give you the sense of the power, you know. You go out at the right time of the day, and I don't know that we'd necessarily need to have high-sync for this light or for this image. The light's like 100 feet away from the climb. And the beauty of these new high-sync techniques is that you can light things that you've never lit before because you can put the strobe so far away and still get an effect.

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