Shoot: Capturing Action with Parkour Athletes
Aidan, you can do this amazing standing back flip, is that okay to do that?
Yeah, for sure.
So let's just, in your does it matter which way you do it, for you?
Let's have you do it so you're starting this way and going that way, since that'll be technically the softer of the two lights. I'm gonna rotate this head down just a hair, because we've constrained it now. And for these shots, the idea is I don't really want to show the floor, if I was not teaching a class, I would probably just lay on the ground. So I could get the camera as low as possible, because just like you know, if Aidan's standing here and you're doing the hero portrait, the lower you get the more superman like he becomes. Or with anybody, so I'm gonna move back a little bit and shoot a little tighter. And let me just take a test shot here before you do it, so maybe move over to your left a little bit, because you're gonna be airborne, just so you're in the center, yeah. So let me see, oh still looks good H...
istogram, oh this is the next one. So yeah, we're still getting a lot of light spill on that one light, but we'll deal with it here. I'm gonna be on the ground I think even as low as I possibly can, so let's go ahead and go for it. One thing I will say, in terms of auto focus, at this point, this thing he's gonna do, he's gonna be pretty fixed in a certain plane, so I could focus on him and switch to manual, and just take auto focus out of the picture. I'm at a 4.5, so that's not a ton of depth of field for a 2470 lens, I'm gonna be closer to with this guy, or what I'm doing with this, so since the auto focus is good on all of the modern cameras these days, I'm in continuous auto focus in the D9 setting on this, or I could be in the D21, which is just more points to make sure 'cause it's gonna focus on him, nothing else. So that I'm covered on the auto focus, and I'll just mash down the AF button on the back, with the focus point on him and make sure he's in focus the entire time he's doing the jump. So, let me get in here. Alright, go for it. And my timing was a little too quick there I think. Well, not too bad, that's kinda cool. But I think it's even cooler when he's like, head straight down at the floor, are you okay to do another one?
Let's go for it again. Okay, I think I got closer that time. Well, that's pretty good look at the hair. (audience oohs) the hair is great. So, you know, one thing you'll notice here is I'm shooting loose, I've got 36 megapixels, you know I've got tons of resolution, I could go a little tighter, but I don't want to crop off anything, it's gives me more room to crop this image, you know if I cropped it even significantly, I'd still have a 24 megapixel image, so not the end of the world. You want to do one more? I mean the lighting looks pretty good, we've got some bounce going on down here on the floor somehow, I don't think it's these lights bleeding in, we're shooting at such a high shutter speed, but let me actually drop the exposure on the wall, to make it a little bit more, extreme between the, him and the background. And I promise, we'll get you in here soon, don't worry.
Ha ha, no worries.
So I'm gonna drop my ISO down to 1600, shoot at F4, let's just see what happens here. And maybe even, one more. Just to, I mean we're gonna make that pretty dark, and if I would have brought a third light, I would actually probably put like a blue or a red gel, and put a, like a grid spot on it, so that we could streak a streak of light behind him. What was your question?
You just did it in one shot, is that for recycle time, or just because you just want one shot, or?
That's for recycle time, we could actually at this let me try it, great question, so. (click, click, click, click) We could shoot that fast, continuously, but that's like three to four frames a second, but I may or may not be continuously, I may be not catching the exact image I want, I might get he's here, then he's there then he's there, but none of those are the ones I want, and so as a sports photographer, I've got my timing pretty dialed, as you saw it only took one or two shots to get what I was actually going for and I can actually, if I am working with the athletes, I can get my timing dial so that every single time we'll get the exact same shot, or exact, or very close to the shot I want, if I'm just going one at a time. There are certain times where I am, you know these flashes and there's other flashes out there, but especially in this high sync mode, I think I can shoot at up to eight frames a second, or faster with my Nikon D4 or D5, and high frame rate. I did a kayaking shoot where we shot the kayaker going through the frame doing all these rolls and radial tricks, so it's possible, it just depends on the situation, but for this one I think because there's one place in the trick, that's gonna look the best, going one flash at a time will be a little easier to catch that, okay. It's tricky to know that though, if you don't have great timing, you may want to play with that but the only reason we could do that is because these are 1200 watt second packs and they're at really low power setting right now, they're at like 2-7, so that's like, well it tells us, I think we're at like 100 watt seconds, we're at 43 watt seconds, so that's not much light because it's dark in here to match the background, if we made the whole studio brighter then we could pump it up a little bit and have you know, a little bit brighter background and not have to be at a higher ISO. Or if we just let some ambient light come in, you know streak across, but that might also mess up how our lighting is right now. So, we got a good one of you, or actually let me reset this 'cause I took a lot of good pictures of the box there it looks like. Do-do-doo, the downside of using such a high res camera is when you're tethered, it takes a while, so that's pretty dark, let's go ahead and have you jump in. Ramie?
Sorry, I'm like so scattered all over the place, thank you for doing this, cool tattoo, by the way.
So go ahead and stand in the center, we'll do another portrait of you just to make sure the lighting's still, come forward just a little bit, there you go, perfect. And I'm just doing this test with a stationary subject so I can dial in the lighting before we start. The other thing, working with athletes, is I don't want to waste their energy, because I want them to do as many versions, or repetitions as they can do with, you know we've already had this talk, these guys are really good at this, so you know, when I'm working with athletes who are pushing the envelope, unless it's Red Bull or one of my clients, or the clients there and I'm not like regulating what's being done necessarily, there's always a conversation like, hey let's stay within your limits, if you're gonna push the limits, let's make sure it's gonna be safe, I don't want them to get injured on set here today, so. What's going on right now is I changed the settings so I need to pump things up a little bit. Let me just go a full stop right here, there we go. Get this dialed in. And one of the things you can see is, on this image right here, there's like a giant gap in the Histogram still. But I'm looking at his skin tones, and I can even, you know since I'm tethered here, go into develop module, and just another little trick you can see, and I can hold down the option key and the exposure slider, and nothing's actually blowing out on his skin, even though it kind of looks like it in the monitor up here, so. Let's go back to where we were, I'm gonna turn it down just a hair. Let's just do one more practice shot. So you kinda see how this is working with the exposure? It's a little funky having to go back to establishing the background every single time, but if you just go one stop, or you find out where your sweet spot is, for me it's somewhere between half a stop and a full stop. Two thirds of a stop, if I can be that accurate outdoors, is great, the only issue outdoors is, say it's a cloudy, partly cloudy day and the sun's going in and out of the clouds, then what I do is I start memorizing settings. When it's sunny or shady, it's you know 3200's of a second at 5-6, when it's sunny you know, it's 6400's of a second at five or whatever, so that gets a little confusing, but if you start doing it over and over, you can really get a feel for it. So I think, where'd our Histogram go, here. We'll stay there, that gives me plenty of room to work with. What do you want to do first? Do you want to do the run in? Can we do the twist, or do you want to do the wall thing?
Uh, I'll do the wall.
Yeah? Let's go for that, so just before we started, you showed us, what do you call this wall trick?
The hand or the foot?
Uh, the one where you come straight back out at me.
The wall back.
The wall back, looks cool, so ha ha. (audience laughing) let's see you do it real quick, I'm not, let me actually shoot it, but I'm not sure if the lights are in quite the exact place, I might have to move 'em back, so go for it. Alright, so you might have been behind the lights, we'll find out here in just a second, you okay, was that good?
Yeah, that's fine.
Actually the lights are pretty good, (audience laughing) let's see if we actually stopped the motion, 'cause that's a lot of motion. Ha ha ha, nice man, you're looking at the ground, you're doing what you need to do, that's awesome. So, and I shot it super wide, I can go in tighter now, but I think I want room. You know, whenever I'm shooting stuff for clients I definitely will shoot horizontals and verticals and I'll leave room, with this camera I know that we can take a vertical out of the horizontal and it's more than enough information for a cover of a magazine. But, and I think the lighting was fine because it hit you really nicely, and you really popped off the wall, so you were somewhere out here that it hit you, yeah. Okay, so what I'm gonna do is maybe, just cut these guys a little harder, 'cause you'll see, we have those two black halos on either side, and that's where the lighting's sneaking around somehow and hitting the wall. I mean, whenever you're using lighting, it's like herding cats, that light, those photons are going everywhere and you wouldn't imagine that this light is able to sneak around and create a halo like that, I mean it looks like the light's completely hidden but there is a certain percentage, a small percentage of that light like coming over here.
I can see a lot of that one.
Oh that one, is it that one, okay maybe we just need to cut this guy down, let me know when you
A little bit more down.
That's pretty good, just a little smidge there.
Cool, actually yeah, do the same thing on that one I think, if you just pull it in and rotate it more towards the light, there you go, perfect. So, let's see if that cut it down, we'll just do a portrait real quick instead of having you do it. There you go, he's already got it dialed in, look he's watching out for me, he's like I need to be between the lights, oh I need to shoot wider so that didn't really show me much there, so this'll show me more of what's actually going on. I don't know if I just changed one of my settings there. 3200 F4, 1600 are the same, but it's darker now because we cut the light really significantly, so that means we just need to crank up the power, so we're back to where we were, and I'm just looking over at the packs to make sure the power's actually going up, let me do one more. The beauty of being in the studio, is you know, we've got time, well we don't have much time because we're teaching a class, but we've got time to play with this, so that's a little bit hot maybe for him, I'm gonna turn it down, like two or three tenths of a stop, most packs these days, I think of all the top brands, they'll either go to tenths of a stop in terms of the power output on the packs, which these do as well so that's really nice 'cause you can really dial it in super accurately. Do-do-doo that's a little bit better, that's close, I might even go down another tenth or two tenths of a stop. Do-do-doo, alright, it's getting pretty dramatic so we'll stick with that, let's go one more time if you're up for it. I think I got it, I might have been a little on the back side of his rotation. Yup, let's do it one more time. Nice, I think I got it that time. So, the other thing that's happening is because we've closed down the lighting, it's not hitting him, so let's open it back up we'll just let those little teardrop shapes happen, we can deal with that in post, which is not necessarily ideal, you know ideally if I was having, doing this I'd just pull it out farther, but I'm a little limited here, so nothing you were doing, totally fine, let me actually go back to where we were, 3200 F4, I'll just use those same settings, because I think it's gonna be pretty close. And we need to bring the strobes down to seven. Alright, so go ahead and back up just a bit there, and we'll do one more portrait. And on the auto focus, while we're waiting for this to come in, I use both, I'm kind of, I use the front shutters sometimes and the rear AF on button, lots of sports photographers swear by the AF on button, or photo journalists, on the back since Nikon is, you can do it on all cameras choose whichever you want, I don't know, I use it, I turn it on, turn it off sometimes, it just depends on what I'm doing. That's a little under exposed, so let me turn up the power just a hair. And I'm looking, the reason I know is I'm looking at the Histogram, we have a pretty dark background, so that's why most of the Histogram is on that far left side. See how that works. That's still a little under exposed, let's try another few tenths. Do-do-doo, well that looks pretty good, alright, let's go for it one more time, are you doing okay?
Let me get into position here. Alright, I'm still mashing that back button so I'm falling focus with him as he goes onto the wall, and off the wall, go for it. Alright, I know I got you upside down, I don't know quite, got a little bit of an angle on there, which is great, so that's pretty sweet. You know, straight off the bat. That might be the best one yet, you're still looking at the ground, for sure which is totally fine, that's what you should be doing, it's a little out of focus though, so my follow focus probably, well, it was a little off, let's try it again. Let me change into nine point here, instead of D21, alright I'm with you, go for it. Alright, let's see what happened there. So same deal, I think it's sharper. That's the beauty of shooting tethered, is you can see if you're sharp. so, little still, ah so let me actually turn on the modeling lights on these guys. Just so we can have a little more light on him for focus, yeah that should be that guy right there on the side. And if you hold it down for three seconds it'll stay on forever. There we go, yeah it's on, it's probably not super bright but every little bit helps, so let's go for it one more time. The one thing you'll note is when you're shooting at F, I'm shooting at F4, so this is not your typical action, you know aperture if you're in a studio, you might be shooting at F8 or F11 just to have everything in focus, but part of this high sync thing is you end up shooting at lower shutter speed or lower apertures, it's just a matter of using the auto focus so that you nail it in terms of the focus. Go for it. Whoops, sorry. (audience laughing) that's actually one of the reasons I don't like using the back button because sometimes I jam them both together at the same time, I don't know it's just one of my own issues. Well, once we turn it on it wasn't actually bright enough to do that much, so no worries. I'm ready when you are. Ah, I triggered way too soon, so let's let him recharge, go for it again. Alright, I got it that time. Oh and I'm zoomed it, so that's why we're like, so that's pretty sharp, it's just a matter of getting the auto focus there. So, and it's not quite exactly, do you want to do it one more time, okay? And then we'll have you come in and do the Webster. So yeah, this is it, I mean if you're shooting dancing you know, we were talking earlier like a lot of my shoots, the athletes get a pretty amazing workout and oftentimes if I'm shooting rock climbing or some of these sports where they're way off the deck, you know it's the hardest thing that they can do that's going to be the most interesting photographically, so I'm like, okay that's the hardest rock climbing move in the world, now do it 15 times in a row. You know, and the next day they're like, whoa, I am destroyed, so we don't want to push you guys that hard, but let me sit down here real quick. And I'm gonna shoot vertical this time, just to get more of the frame, go for it. Oh, I might have missed it again. Did you kick off the wall? That's kind of interesting, let's do it one more time. That's my famous line, one more time, (audience laughing) just so you know, ha ha, and I know when I did the other creative live shoot, some athletes don't like the one more time, they're like let's do it again so it depends, some people have jinx things when you say certain phrases, so.
One more time's alright.
You're good, okay, just making sure, I don't want to, ready when you are. Alright, I think we got that one. Yeah, that's pretty dead on, in terms of the positioning. Let's see, please be sharp, ah, it's a little soft, oh it's sharp on the shirt. It's not so F4, the hands are out but the shirt is in, so we're doing, you know, I would probably if we had more time, redo it so that we're at a five, six or something like that, and we could totally do that, we just change it, and then change the power in the lights. And let's do that while let's have you go in next, and why don't you step out, and I'm gonna redo it for the background and go to F5-6, and that'll just mean you're fine, thought we were gonna have to change the power settings on the lights, get rid of that, so that's pretty dark, back there. I'm just gonna up my ISO. It'd be pretty cool to do this at F1.4 or F1. if you really want a soft background with action, and that's where a camera like the Nikon D5 is, I remember I did a test, with the D5 and we were shooting Motor cross flying by at 60 miles and hour with a 28 millimeter F1.4, at 1.4, every single frame was sharp and I was blown away, 'cause I was like this is impossible, how is this possible? So the auto focus was just so good on that camera that it could get every single frame sharp. And something like this, that's where you would need or rent that camera if you don't own it, you know to get that kind of auto focus. You can also focus in the dark really accurately, which is pretty key, so we got a pretty dark background here, let's just try that, go ahead and stand in here, we'll do another portrait real quick. Change the power of the packs as needed. Well, that's not too bad actually. Seems a little hot, once Lightroom put it's uh, stuff on it but it's okay, we can deal with that in post, nothing's blown out on his skin, so let's do, we're doing the Webster kick, is that okay to start out with, or do you need to do something else?
Now do you need to run in for that one a little bit?
I can get like, two steps.
Okay, so wherever you need to be so that the action's happening like in here.
Alright, yeah I sit down and, see if I can get as low as possible here. And I'm gonna shoot wide again so I'm with you go for it when you're ready. Alright. So, I can see your face, one of the things when I'm shooting with athletes, is almost always you want to be able to see their face, this is just something, I don't know why this is a rule, but it always just seems to work better, you connect more with the person when you can see their face. I know with kayaking sometimes their arm is front of, in front of their face, so here, wow look at the hair, holy mackerel, nice hair man. (audience laughing) oh and it's pretty sharp too, I mean we're shooting at pretty high ISO but it's sharp. Yeah I used to have hair to my waist, so I appreciate long hair. I shaved it off at one point, it was pretty scary. Anyway, let's go one more time, is that, are you okay doing that?
I mean look at the striations in his muscle as well. That's pretty cool and the way the lighting is set up with the light trap really shows off muscle striations. The side lighting coming in really helps sculpt the body well, for both men and women so. I'm gonna get down again, I'm still shooting loose, I might tighten up just a hair, ready when you are. (click) Ope, sorry hold on, the back focus strikes again. Alright I'm ready. Alright. Just maybe a little bit in front of the lights there, we'll see. Oh it's all hair, that's even better. (audience laughing) you know, and here is just a little, just being real here, down and dirty, you know sometimes you're in the studio, you've only got so many times these guys can do these maneuvers, the lighting may or may not be perfect on the background back here, but I can deal with that in post, that's not a problem, just being real. You know sometimes you don't dial it into the x number degree, depending on your timing in the studio, especially while you're trying to teach a class at the same time, what do you think about doing one more?
Yeah I can, I can eliminate the kick, just so I can kind of
Kind of mess with where my body is, it might help.
Okay, and I remember the one time we did it, you had your legs really straight out too.
That's probably not possible with such a short run in?
I'm fine, I'll just do the normal one.
Okay, alright. I am ready when you are. Cool, so that time he was a little closer to one light than the other, we'll see what happens. That may not make such a huge difference, man, the hair is great. Is there a part that I'm missing where I can actually see your face a little bit more?
I think that's on me, I'm just
Okay, no worries, go for it, and maybe start out a little farther back, there you go. So, one note is I'm tracking him the whole way, I am moving and keeping the focus point on him and I'm using the center focus point, which doesn't matter what camera you're using, sorry I'm sitting on the ground teaching, but um it's the most sensitive focus point on any camera, the center focus point because it's a cross focus point and it's just gonna be more accurate, so I can crop later if I need to. Go for it. Nice. Oh, there you go, perfect we can see the face, we still get a little hair action, you know. Super cool, let's see if it's actually sharp. The moment of truth, it's decently sharp, so there you go, I mean the only issue is the noise, but we can clean that up in post. Is there one other thing you want to do real quick?
Let's do, I think we're good, we got good stuff of you. So I did the wall thing, you were doing some back flips or rotations in there, in the other room.
This one? Yeah, let's do that one.
You see my eyes light up and I'm like, yeah let's do that one, that's great. And here's the other things, when you're working with athletes is, it's a give and take like I might think something's super cool and they're like, I can do this in my sleep, and they see that picture and they're like dude, you know, relax let me show ya the stuff, so he showed us this earlier and it's pretty complex looking but it's pretty cool. Go again, so ready when you are. Oh that was great, your legs really split, I hope I catched it, or caught it right at the right moment. And, oh yeah there we go. You okay to do that a couple more times? And take as much time as you need in between. So here's one thing, I was shooting a little, I was like, caught my breath for a second I was like, oh I might have been a little too tight, but I wasn't, got lucky I'm gonna shoot looser just so I make sure I don't cut off a leg. I'm ready when you are. Oh yeah, that was like a front kick that just came straight at us, come on, ooh yeah! Man you're like Jet Li, like ha ha ha.
That's amazing, so I mean here, you see we'll do another one but, you're talent matters hugely in this, that's very obvious, so I'll just tell you a story. Like I don't know Jet Li, the actor Jet Li, kung fu master, you know he's renowned in Hollywood because you, you know you tell him like, I want you to hit this mark right here on the third finger with your pinky toe, he can do that over, and over and over like two thousand times and never miss, so for focus pulling on the movies imagine the precision he has to have to like, you know, wha-choo, you know kick that and really high or whatever he's doing, like fully airborne he can kick the exact same place. Somebody can put their hand up there, pull focus 'cause it's all manual focus in Hollywood, and have that foot swing by in perfect focus with his face out of focus, so your talent matters hugely. So you guys are great, thank you for doing this.
Let's do it one more time 'cause those are pretty cool. Alright, I might have cut his bottom foot off, cause I don't know how I zoomed in there, but yup, ah man that's horrible. Okay let's do it again. (laughing) sorry, that was totally my fault, when I set it down somehow I rotated the lens and didn't think. I'm with ya. Ooh, those are great man, alright we've got like three or four decent shots, I'm pretty sure. I think the other one's a little better, you're a little more airborne, we'll stop there.
My hand's in the way there too.
That's okay, we've got like, I'm gonna start doing a little post processing. And maybe talk about a little other stuff, so. So we got a couple of good shots in there, you know and the reality is you only need one or two that are great, if I was shooting this on a shoot, professionally, we'd be here all afternoon, I'd just be like again, again, again, until I started to see that it's getting dangerous for them or for the lighting gear or for me or something. What you didn't see in there is that he was doing this back flip off the wall and I laid down with my head about a foot from where he landed, to get this, 'cause we had the windows in there, but here because we've got all the stuff up here I don't think it would work quite as well, and I needed a wider lens which I don't have with me, but the other thing is, once you can trust your athletes, you work with them a lot, you can move in way closer and you can get shots that people are like, how did you get that shot? And that's a kind of a typical, generic sports thing.