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FAST CLASS: The Outdoor Photography Experience

Lesson 6 of 13

Pismo Beach - Shooting on the Pier

Chris Burkard

FAST CLASS: The Outdoor Photography Experience

Chris Burkard

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Lesson Info

6. Pismo Beach - Shooting on the Pier


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
2 Pismo Beach Walk Gear Duration:14:30
3 Yosemite Trip Gear Duration:08:27
4 Water Housing Photography Duration:33:39
5 Shooting in the Water Duration:08:41
7 Pismo Beach - Focus Point Duration:10:38

Lesson Info

Pismo Beach - Shooting on the Pier

If your assignment was to go out, shoot-surfing today, you probably want to utilize the closest, the closest place you could get to the surfers is usually the most dynamic. Unless you have a big telephoto or a piece of equipment that can allow you to get further. I'm guessing most of you guys, you have more wide-angle lenses. You don't really have like a 400 tucked away in your shoulder bag. So, the pier really provides that close proximity. But I think the hardest part really is to come to a location like this, shoot a photograph that feels a little different, feels a little more unique and always feels three-dimensional. I think that's one thing that we're always looking for in regards to creating good imagery. It's like what are the things that we can implement in our photographs that are gonna make them feel three-dimensional. Give them contrast, good use of foreground, background, the rule of thirds. All these things that make it stand out. Because I think so much of our imagery n...

owadays is either appreciated in a digital space, meaning like it's on our phones or online or something like that. Or they're not always really printing our work nowadays too. So, figuring out how things can really jump off that screen. And that for me is, I'm not gonna really teach you guys how I shoot specifically, but I want you to more just consider all these elements of what could go into a shot. So, that being said, we're basically halfway out to the pier and we're kind of looking at the light, how it changes here. And all of a sudden, we've gotten 30 feet above the ground. And it's just, you can already see how the landscape really starts to kind of open up. All of a sudden, we've elevated and rather than everything being on this one plane like this, all of a sudden, now we're here and the whole landscape kind of peters out before us. So it's really a nice way to get some height. That's one of the best things. Like we've said before, you have a zoom lens, it's kind of a tendency to just, to wanna stand back and zoom in, but the best way you're ever gonna build a zoom is just using your legs. Elevating, trying to get on a higher perspective, trying to move closer to your subject, interact more. And, the funny thing about that is that the closer you get eventually takes you into the water. So for an objective like this, it would it would be to kind of move ultimately into the scene and be a part of it. But right now we're basically walking out toward the end of the pier so we're gonna kind of see what that perspective looks like, in terms of, getting right above the surfers or the athlete. So I think one thing that, you guys, is gonna be super important, is to really evaluate, first and foremost, where the best surfer would be. You're on a pier, you have two sides, okay? You have, the north side and the south side. Let's study these and think about, what's gonna give us the most unique and engaging shot? Well, it kind of depends on what you wanna implement into your photograph. If your goal is just to kind of walk right out to that diamond right there and shoot straight down, then it doesn't really matter. But if you wanna include a little bit of background, this way, you have the sun that rose on this side. So it's a little higher contrast, there's a little more dynamic range going on. Your whites are a little more blown out. 'cause you have the sun kind of coming in this direction. Over here, it's a bit more of a frontlet. It's bit more kind of traditional frontlet, but you have amazing mountains behind you. So if your goal was to kind of shoot a pullback perspective, that would be something really great to infuse into your shot from this location. And then, of course, you have to look at both sides, like, where's the best surf? Which side is gonna be the best surf? And like I said, this should apply to really anything. I don't care if you're gonna be shooting mountain biking, or paragliding, or whatever. These principles really apply to any location, how you approach it. On the north side, are people moving away from you. If they're moving away from you, then all you're gonna really get is their backside. And it could be cool, but it might not be as unique. On this side, are they moving away from you? Are they moving towards you? If they're moving towards you it's gonna feel a little more dynamic. Now, if we had gotten here right when the sun rose, like directly when the sun rose over the hill, right over there, this side would probably be the one that I would go to. Why? Because the light is all golden. It's really beautiful. I love shooting into that light right in the morning. And it would just give you an amazing contrast. Now, maybe the sun's been rising for about 30, 40 minutes. So, now, the other side is really, for me at least, a little more visually appealing. And it's just, to each their own. One of the things I like about this location over here is that if you wanted to approach it with a wider-angle lens, you could fill your frame better. Because you have mountains and ocean. And you have, and sky. So you have this kind of a little bit more object you could kinda fill that frame with. Over here, you have a lot of beautiful sky and you have the sea but it just kind of starts to get more one-dimensional. So this will give you a little more depth because you have that contrast and that landscape behind it. Once again, it all depends on how you wanna shoot, if you wanna shoot wide, if you want to shoot tight. I think just approaching it in any scenario would be really good. Well, let's keep on keepin' on. We're gonna walk out to this second diamond, here, and we're gonna kind of look at it from a diamond perspective. Right now, we're really in a, kind of, a really unique location because there's not a lot of places where you can be basically on a pier or right above someone performing their sport or whatever it is. Think about skiing, mountain biking, all these things, you don't really get these opportunities necessarily be right above someone while they're doing that. So, the pier is a very unique perspective. But it's also really hard to shoot something different because everyone stands right here. So, a couple things that I find that always help, shooting in the best light that you can. And I don't necessarily mean like, perfect sunrise, perfect sunset, 'cause some of my best work has always been when the conditions are really crappy, and I'm out there anyway, waiting for that little glimpse or moment of light. So if it was totally cloudy, but the waves were good, and there was maybe a little tiny, glint of potential sunlight coming through. That's where I'd wanna be at, I'd be waiting for that light. Because it could happen, it can be amazing. So, always preparing yourself and setting yourself up for an opportunity for good light to occur. This morning, we are up early, which is great. Now, if you pop over to the edge here, all we can kinda see is, you can kinda look down at the color of the water. You can see what is happening with the sun and the way that basically that sun is really lighting up the backs of these waves. So for me, in a lot of ways, that's one of the most unique perspectives on the beach because you can shoot frontlet into the pier, it's beautiful, that that's a really good, safe angle. When I say safe, I mean, like, you're gonna get you're gonna get everything. You're gonna get your athlete and the subject and the whole thing all kind of framed into one. But, sometimes it's not the most unique perspective to get. And sometimes I love this 'cause you're shooting into the sun. You have the ability to capture that beautiful green light that's coming off the back of the wave. See that light? So, looking for unique lighting scenarios, in anything that you do, in anywhere you approach. Because the easiest thing to do is just to kinda like walk out here and be like, oh, cool, well, snap, snap, snap. But if you kind of try a little harsher perspective, shooting into the sun here, nine shots out of 10 are probably gonna be terrible. You might get that one that's really unique and, maybe somebody does an air, or maybe somebody is on longboard, and they just have their, they're cruising on the back of the wave and you get this really beautiful silhouette. That's kind of what I'm always looking for. What's the unique, different perspective? And one thing I would recommend, I think, every photographer has a problem with, especially me, is when you've gone to a place and you've shot something that you like. Never go back to that same location because that's what we do. We always do that. And it's like a sickness. It's like, you're just obsessed with like, okay, I'm gonna go back to the same spot, gonna go back to the same spot. And it's always important to kinda go back, try something different. Now, today, like I said, we went to the beach, had no set plans. We didn't really, I didn't really plan and be like, great, I'm gonna come out here, I'm gnna shoot like with the necessary athlete that I set up or I'm gonna shoot landscapes. I just wanted to kind of approach the scene and see what looks good. One thing that's important, you guys, though is when you do come to your location, come with an idea, come with a concept. People always ask me, they say, "Oh, you're going to Iceland or you're going somewhere. "How do you plan out your shots?" Well, two things; I do as much research as I can on the place. Because I really am a firm believer in this idea that the more you know, the less you need. So, if you come places with concepts or ideas, like, if your goal was to shoot this pier, and know how to shoot all these perspectives, what would you want? Well, you might wanna have somebody, planned out surfing, so you could go and shoot them surfing. Or you might wanna have somebody on the beach over there riding a bike so you can shoot them. You plan out some of these shots. And then the second thing is, you kind of prepare yourself for the unexpected, meaning you allow yourself to be open for things that could just happen. Like running into a friend who's gonna drop off the pier. How are you gonna shoot that? Well, luckily, I've got my wide angle here. And I have a camera that I know I could shoot this with. And I think it's gonna look really cool. So, let's shoot it then. So for me, I'm gonna grab my 87, my 86,000 'cause of it's fast frame rate, 11 frames a second. I'm gonna shoot it with my wide angle lens on there. And I'm probably gonna shoot into the sun. The reason being is 'cause that's gonna provide me the most contrast when his, dark object, black body's gonna be jumping with his wetsuit on. Jumping off the pier right here. And I can get this totally wide perspective. I love the fact that I can show the pier because if he's just jumping off into space, I mean, it could be a diving board, it could be a cliff, who knows? But, I wanna give some perspective from where I am. Remember if my objective is to document this location, this pier, then I wanna give you hints of what it's like to be there, why would a subject jump off here? Those things. So this is really kind of, more of a study of how do we infuse this landscape, bits and elements of our location into the shot? So I'm gonna go through my settings really quick. I'm gonna put it on burst mode. I'm gonna make sure that I've actually got my autofocus on. So, what are some ways we could shoot this? Well, just for your guys' perspective, I might approach this and shoot a higher f-stop. Because, if I'm gonna get the sun in this shot, if that's the angle I want to get, I could make the sun into a star by shooting an f-16 or higher. Are you guys familiar with that method? Yes. Yeah, if you, exactly. Sunny 16. So, the wider angle will give you, will make it easier for you to. So I'm shooting a almost a fisheye here. It's like a 18 millimeter. And James, what I might do is, maybe can you set up right here? Like, right-- You want me to jump off, right? No, I just wanted you to jump off with your board, but maybe set up right here. And then, if, like, on top of this thing, and then I'm gonna have you wait. I'm gonna have you jump out like this, James. Like, if you stand on this, jump out this way. Yeah, and then as soon as a set comes I'll have you, I'm gonna have you go. Stoner, don't eat crap. (camera snaps) Alright, here's this wave, so, as soon as this wave comes, just jump out. And when you jump out, don't toss your board right away. Yeah, yeah. So, as soon as this wave kinda passes underneath us, I'm gonna have you go. All right. One, two, jump out. (camera snaps) So that's that. I'm not sure if you guys can actually see my camera or how I shot it, but you're welcome to try (laughs briefly). But check this out. So, what I really liked about this was, so I've got a little star where the sun is. I shot a really wide perspective and what I do is I elevate it a little bit. Because I knew that he's not gonna jump above me,. And I can't, the problem is if I got low, so I would approach this in two ways. I want him to be kind of a silhouette. I want him to really be identifiable. So there's only two ways to do that. It's either get him in the skyline Or get him contrasted against the ocean because if he is, if I have hills behind him or the city behind him, it's just gonna look really busy. And it's gonna, kinda, take away from the simpleness, and sort of the coolness of the shot. So, what I decided to do is elevate myself a little bit by getting up on the pier, so that once he jumped, he was gonna be contrasted in this pool, this pool of light over here. Like where the sun is pushing this big glare. He's kind of contrasted in that big pool of light. Now, this probably goes against 90% of photography rules, like, don't shoot into the sun. Your photos'll be blown out. To be honest, I could care less about those things. Really, I think that the goal, for me, is about always creating images that feel engaging and accessible and attainable. And I really love this idea of shooting kind of attainable adventure. And this is one of those perfect examples of how you can capture that and a good photograph is really meant to break all the rules. You're not really needing to shoot perfect light or into the sun or, just not. We have a classic, just, Chris Brown vibe going on right now. Yeah, but, if you wanted to kinda, if there's anything else you want to, like, look into this shot, you can see once it's pulled onto the computer, two, you'll be able to see like, his body's kinda contrasted against so it'll have the pier sort of leaning off in this direction. Yeah it's right in th-- Yeah the sun's in a star, and I saw it had that kind of green cool light. And one thing that's nice about these camera is you can look into here and see it, so if you wanna check out this little piece it gives you a-- Absolutely. Yeah. And I underexposed it just slightly because I, mainly because I know that imposed, I can just, I can rework that. But I didn't wanna lose the detail of the sun-star. I think one big thing for me in terms of, and I'll talk about this later in the workshop, is just when it comes to post processing as well as shooting, always knowing what your cameras can give you. Meaning like, understanding how much, if this camera has 14 stops dynamic range, using those stops, meaning that I know what I can bring back what I can bring out, so that I can better capture my scene. I'm always aiming to push my gear to the limit, as far as I can go. 'Cause I wanna really make sure it is, I'm maximizing the potential of these cameras. Whether that means shooting it super late, hand-holding maybe when I shouldn't be, shooting into the sun, doing things like that, be a rebel. I'll always tell you, be a rebel. Break the rules. There's no set rules. I don't care what you read in books or this and that, I think that the most important thing is that, when you're shooting photos, if the images and the content feels engaging to you, then it's usually gonna feel engaging to the viewer. And if it's the moment that feels exciting and stuff like that, then that's really the key. Just finding ways to kind of better articulate that and I think when we dive into this chapter of social media, of all things, you'll actually learn a lot quicker how those things really apply. Because what we're able to do is use social media as a tool to really understand and aggregate information for ourselves as to what images people are responding to what and they aren't. Which is really great, because that should be the tell all of what is really the content we should be shooting. Is what is kind of, what our fan base is interacting with.

Class Description


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Shooting outdoor photography is a powerful way to commune with nature and experience the fullness of life. Learn how to train your eye on incredible shots and convey the energy of the outdoors in The Outdoor Photography Experience with Chris Burkard.

Chris’s beloved images of life on the world’s coasts are alive with action and emotion. In this class, he’ll share the tools and techniques he uses to capture the photographs he sells to magazines, brands, collectors, and publishers.

You’ll learn about his shooting style and the gear he brings on his global adventures. He’ll also talk about the business of photography and share tips on marketing and selling your work.

If you want insights on how to create rich, dramatic images that let you enjoy more time outdoors, don’t miss your chance to learn from Chris Burkard in The Outdoor Photography Experience.