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FAST CLASS: The Outdoor Photography Experience

Lesson 13 of 13

Yosemite Hang Gliding Shoot

Chris Burkard

FAST CLASS: The Outdoor Photography Experience

Chris Burkard

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Lesson Info

13. Yosemite Hang Gliding Shoot


  Class Trailer
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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

Yosemite Hang Gliding Shoot

Kind of a perfect example, 'cause what we were talking about earlier, you know, you come here with these preconceived ideas and notions of like, great, this is what I wanna shoot, I wanna get this and this and this. But then some of the best stuff that you might see just kind of happens, right? So, how do you approach that scenario? Well, in this scenario right here, a couple things to think about, first of all, you know, it's not just free terrain, you can't just like run around obviously. So you can't really necessarily get like the best angle, which might be like way down, in sort of like an unsafe area, you know. But I think that being said, it's really cool to kind of look around at your surroundings, see what is available. See what lenses you might use, okay, you know. What's the light doing well? One of the harshest things we have here is just a really poorly, you know, a lot of blown out highlights, right? The sky is just kind of heinous. It's like 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning, you...

know, like bright sky. And so for that I, I apply the graduated neutral-density filter, which basically just darkened my sky and allowed me to have a little more even, let me have a little more even frame basically so that my exposure was was even from top to bottom. So, it wasn't, I didn't have to, you know, underexpose the sky so much that I could bring them out later, right? So in post, I'll be able to get some detail out of that sky as well. Now, I think for a scene like this, anytime you'd approach something especially something that just all of a sudden happens, you don't really have all the time to scout or whatever. So you're just kind of a lot of times you're running around taking pictures aimlessly. But to slow it down and to kind of think about this scene in and apply some of those elements we talked about earlier, making your image feel three-dimensional, applying some something to your photograph that makes it feel timeless, applying something to your photograph that gives it depth and it's gonna give it some leading lines, some foreground, some background, all these elements that apply and help an image feel, I guess, more three-dimensional I think that's kind of where I'm always at I don't know how else to say it. There's probably a more eloquent way to say it but I think that's what I'm always looking for. Something that gives it that. So for me at least, it's always great to have an anchor, right? And I would say the the ultimate anchor here is gonna be Half Dome. You know, it sits probably in the middle of this entire amazing, you know, field of granite and as beautiful as the waterfalls are and as some of the other features, this is really what's the most prominent. So for me, I'm kind of exposing and I'm also like keeping that in my like, kind of keystone frame, you know, not necessarily dead center but upright or up left, right? And I'm trying to work not so much focus on the hang gliders, paragliders, whatever. (laughs) Which one? Hang gliders as the focus, but more so focus on that as my kind of focus and let them just sort of move around that. Does that kind of make sense? I think sometimes it's really easy for us to get caught up in like, okay, where's the action happening? Where's this person happening? And we're like, following them tracking them and what happens is like, they end up being dead center, right? And our kind of our, what our eyes naturally led to, which is probably that, ends up kind of being in some random part of the frame. So, letting go of that thought process and being like, okay, well, we know that they're gonna move in between us and Half Dome at some point. So framing it up so that Half Dome is really your focus, it's really your, your, your biggest feature in the frame, right? And allowing them to kind of move through it, you know. You're kind of doing the backwards approach, right? But in a lot of ways, I think that that's a way to, to sort of celebrate this idea of people kind of, like small person in the big landscape, you know. Or someone you know, celebrating this really amazing, vast, you know, landscape area. So, for me, you know, I use a 24 to 70. And I just, you know, didn't really have the opportunity to run around because obviously it wasn't my shoot. I wasn't, I'm not here to to do anything. I'm just a bystander, right? But I wanna get a great image. So you know, I obviously tried to pick a couple different locations maybe there was about four or five people going. So every single time, I tried to pick a different spot to be. I shot overhead, I shot low, I shot, I tried to go to as far as I could forward so that I could show the ground fall away and get a little wider perspective. I shot, my battery died, I couldn't shoot anymore. So, biggest rule is probably not to walk far away from your camera bag or bring it with you when the best things are happening. But that being said, you know, just doing a quick survey of the surroundings, okay? What are some things that are gonna help to kind of bring some depth into here? Well, you have a lot of really cool trees that sort of lead your eye down into this valley. If you were just shooting an image straight of this valley right here, and didn't have any trees in it, it would be kind of hard to tell how far that is away. But you see a tree in there and you're like, great, I can kind of judge the scale on the size of that. I can kind of see like, what that tree is, you know, 80 90 feet. Wow, that valley must be thousands of feet below and it really starts to give you some scale, some perspective. And you add the subject in there and wow, even more. Then it becomes like rad because you have this little tiny person, this little tiny wing floating throughout and you're like this is incredible. So, for me that's that's kind of the image that spoke to me the most. Maybe for somebody else, it was shooting a telephoto really compressed, where they're just flying towards after them. That could have been amazing too. I didn't have that on me. But that's probably an angle that I would have had an assistant or somebody else shoot if I was if this was my shoot, right? But what a cool example of like coming here, kind of having an idea of what we wanted to capture, but then all of a sudden just happening upon something rad. Something that doesn't happen all the time. And I think that they have a pretty limited window of time, they can actually fly. Also, you know, we're limited to pretty harsh light, which, you know, for me I guess if I could, I would always shoot everything, you know, within that window of like early a.m. like couple minutes after the sun rises or a couple of minutes before the sun sets. But oftentimes, that's not always the case. You're forced into jobs and assignments and projects where you have to shoot any time of the day. So being prepared for that, you know, bringing things like a polarizer. People often think that polarizers are only useful for really, really bright blue skies and puffy clouds. Well, not true. Polarizers also work really well when you have reflection. And any surface can give you a reflection. Even something like this, that has like a shiny surface on top. When the sun hits this it reflects, right? And when it reflects, you can't actually see the true greens in this. So if you use a polarizer then you're cutting the reflection out of the granite, especially this granite. This is glacially polished, or using a polarizer and you're cutting the reflection of leaves on the trees, you're gonna get more green on you, it's gonna actually be a bit more vibrant, right? So, that's another tool that I would use. And I would test it see how it looks. Maybe use it, maybe not. But just kind of being prepared for these sort of harsh lighting conditions and what it might be like. Yeah, other than that, yeah, please. When you're shooting like an action sport like this, like hang gliding in Yosemite, as far as framing goes, you would, you would frame and you'd focus on the environment and the landscape rather than focusing. I would. I think it depends on like anyone's approach. Like, for me, this is personal work, you know, I'm not here for any other reason than just to be here and take photos. So, my goal is really to frame it up with this beautiful landscape. But if the, if you are getting hired by like that company, who like you know, the hang gliding company who's like, hey, we need photographs of our logos in this, you might have to shoot a little bit tighter, right? You might still wanna infuse their product into the landscape and show that you're in Yosemite, but you could really necessarily shoot as wide or maybe you need a different angle where like, you have a GoPro underneath it, you know, and they can see it lit up or like you're working with the athlete communicating with them. I think it's just it's a matter of like, you know what's, what is the assignment? Well, if the assignment is just personal work, then shoot whatever speaks to you. I always kind of think of like, what's the image I would want to put on my wall? Well, it wouldn't really be a photo where I can like see the guy's face and expression. It's like really tight and probably be the one where like, you can see this incredible Vista, you know. So you reckon like letting them blend in the environment? And let the magic happen now. My goal is always like, I love it when the subject blends in the environment, but I want them to stand out still. That's why I'm kind of like, I'm like the whole entire time I'm shooting, I know where the best angle is, because everybody's standing on that one spot. And that's pretty much like everybody shot there. I've shot here before, so I kind of that's the spot, right? But I'm testing out some of these other locations. And while I'm doing that, I'm kind of looking at who's flying, right? And each one of those things like one of them is not really colorful, one of them super white and shiny. And so I'm kind of waiting to be like, this one's gonna pop. This guy, this guy's is red, it's gonna be really beautiful. So I know that when I get his or say if he had a yellow one for example, you know, okay, wow, this one's really bright I can pull back and it's still gonna register in the frame. So, working with athletes and working with color to always enhance the image especially when you have a pretty dull sky like this, that's huge. Like I can't tell you in how many trips I've been on on surf trips or you know kayaking trips or it's like do you have a yellow kayak? Do you have a yellow surfboard? Do you have you know this or that? Like those things will make the most massive difference and even to the point where like, that color board made the difference between the cover and not, you know. Because it just popped out much more. And especially for me, like someone who likes to shoot pullback, I can express to you like when you're shooting climbing, you know, and it's like Yosemite middle of the day. They need to have on bright yellows or reds or blues like those are like the primary like stock colors but also just in terms of letting the images register, right? Last thing you wanna do is like being like. <v Man's Voice>Granite-colored clothes. Granite-colored clothes. That would suck. But it would also be unsafe too. So, this like a lot of reasons why they wear those bright colors so they can register on the wall, right? So then, color but what else could we think is a key element to making an image pop or image like, standout? I mean, all those subjects we talked about. Having good light, you know, having leading lines, having stuff where if your subject is like, if your subject is going to be in a certain spot where you wanna get them, if you if you can picture them being in a location, setting yourself up so that you have something that draws your eye there already. Whether that's a line of trees, whether that's a succession of trees in the shot or some foreground, right? Like, you know, people oftentimes like they'll go into Photoshop and like vignette something and it brings all the attention to the center, darkens the edges. Well, that's a heinous thing to do. But basically, I think, if you can, if you can do that naturally, you know, find elements of your frame that can do that. I mean, say it's a terrible day and you know, it's super bright and whatever and you really wanna frame your subject, you could maybe shoot between that tree, those branches that tree. So you have these dark little frame around your image and it's gonna allow you to like really focus in on what you're getting. But the reality is we don't have all those elements right now. We don't have epic, epic light. We don't have a lot of these things. We don't necessarily have control over the colors they use. So you deal with what you've been given and you hope for the best, right? But if it's your shoot, you think of all the things that you can do to make that person stand out. I mean, the first thing I would do is I'd be like, can we launch at sunrise? Well, probably not. But that would be an amazing thing. Can we get a bright? If it was a dream scenario it would be like launching at sunrise, bright, you know, red or yellow, like translucent, you know, paraglider. And, and then basically just, you know, I'd be able to come here and scout and look for the best angle, right? And I would have a couple setups. So I mean, every scenario is different. For me to answer a question and say, yeah, this is the one thing you need to make your image pop like that's, it's such a broad question that makes really no sense. So I have to kind of think about, okay, well every assignment you do, or I do, we have to think about it in a way that like, what is the goal? Is the goal to you know, capture these like photos for a brand or a logo? Or is the goal to kind of like show the landscape? Which in that case, like maybe it's not so much about them, maybe it's about this bigger picture, which it might change the time that you go and shoot, right? Yeah, thoughts, questions? Or anything? Yeah, what's that? Agreed. It's always tough. You know, I think when you when you come to a place where like, the beauty of shooting action sports is that you have this ability to be outside. But the hardest thing about the action sports, is that you're outside, you know, you have the ability to have the most incredible light you've ever seen in your entire life. Like stuff that you could never create in a studio ever. But with that, with that, you also get times where it is really harsh, and the conditions don't line up and everything looks like garbage, you know. And that's kind of when you still have to perform like you're asking, you know, like, how do you make that stuff work? Well, you know, you're in Iceland. It's super gray outside and the condition are just not working well, you make sure that the person you're shooting has bright colors. So at least they can have a little contrast, you know, you still look for framing elements, you look for all those things that you can bring to the shot. There's simple things you know, we talked yesterday, my work my, my, at the beach. One of the things we talked about in terms of creating three-dimensional images. What is something that people do in in traditional wedding photography to create an image that stands out? Taking a photo of the bride and groom, they're about to go into their first kiss, you look behind them and there's their big uncle, you know, shoving his face for a cake, and you're like, oh my gosh, I don't wanna get this guy in the background. So what do you do? Take a different angle? What's that? Change the focus, just deep it up. Exactly, shoot at 85 F1 2, you could care less if some people are making faces or doing whatever 'cause that's what happens. In weddings, you know, you have this or portraiture, you have this ability to be in a studio controlled environment. One of the things you do is you're gonna basically set your subject apart from the background by giving it shallow depth of the field. It's one of the most simple things you can do. Well, it's not as easy in nature, right? Maybe you're shooting climbing and you can get really close and you can give it a broad depth of field but oftentimes, you don't really have that opportunity 'cause you're shooting wide angles and wide angles don't always have that good depth of field. So you kinda have to find other things. So there's ways to create that. That feeling, but, but I think it's always a matter of like understanding what your tools are. If your tools are, you know, it's it's color, it's light, it's clothing, it's depth of field, it's your lenses, all these things. How can they work for you? How does each scenario, you know, really apply and work for you? So like, and that's why I think understanding your cameras and what they can do is so crucial, right? Like thinking of it like a, like a you're a craftsman and these are your tools and okay, every job has a different tool. And this is why like, you know, I'll have a series of, of lenses and cameras, you know, that I'll bring but every job kind of has a different application. The lens that I might bring on a job where I'm shooting climbing top down would be different than the lens or the product that bring on a job or I'm shooting like night exposures, right? So I think it's a matter of kind of understanding and people always like, well, what's the best lens to use? I'm like, guys, like I don't know what to tell you. Like I've used them all, sold them all, rebought them, you know, I don't know, like, you go through phases in your career, maybe you're really into shooting night exposures, well, then there's kind of a specific setup that's better for that. But if, if your job and your work is taking you to all different types of stuff, then you kind of need to be prepared for everything in some way, shape or form. Is there thoughts or questions especially on this idea of like, creating three-dimensional images and how do we get this timelessness you know, in our in our imagery? What do you, what do you guys think about that? Is that sort of registering at all? Yeah, the three-dimensional aspects registering really well, as far as like the timeless aspect of like say hang gliding like what how would you other than using like, Half Dome as a way to create that like repetition? What would you like how would you find timelessness in that? Well, it's, it's like I said, you have a lot more control over that timeless aspect of imagery when it's like your personal work. So like, so for me, this is timeless, right here. Like, it doesn't get any more, right? So, I think that the one thing I would consider is like, you know, if there's somebody, hang hang glide, I'm still forgetting which is hang gliding, like you're hang gliding hanging hang gliding okay. If in saying like I would wanna shoot the person who has the least amount of logos and stuff on their suit, right? If it says like, blah, blah, blah, you know, on their suit then it's like, I don't really wanna shoot that one necessarily because it might just kind of like, you know I'm gonna be like, I'm trying to read that thing as opposed to like, letting your eyes fall on this crazy landscape, right? So to me, that's kind of like the first and foremost thing that I would I would consider here. And then also having like a really cool classic colorway that might like really pop, you know. There's really, it's really an easy thing to kind of shoot in the timeless way, you know, I think what becomes a lot harder is when you're closer up on a subject. Shooting climbing, you know, or something like that or shooting, shooting the athletes, you know, riding. Like everything kind of dates itself, right? Like surfboards, they've changed over the years. So you can kind of figure out what their, what year it is based on what kind of board they're riding. Climbing, you know, you guys aren't climbing in freaking like wool army knickers anymore, you know. And like, you know, men sleeping in like. Spandex. Yes, spandex and stuff like, it's not the '80s or the '60s, you know, so you kind of know, but there's still like, there's things that are always gonna be rad. And that's like, you know, it might be a solid color red shorts or, you know, or like a yellow top or whatever it is. And, and those things really could help a photograph. So, I think it's just about like, what I love to do is if I've got a sport that I'm gonna go shoot, especially one that I don't know. I love to like, do my research, study it, you know. If you're gonna be thrust into a situation that's new, make sure you know as much as you possibly can about it so that you go into the situation with a little bit of knowledge, you know. It's really easy when we kind of have assignments where we understand it and we get it right away. But what about the ones when we're kind of just like, okay, I've never shot this before. I know nothing about this sport. I know nothing about these athletes. I wanna be able to speak their language and I also wanna be able to direct things so that they kind of apply and make sense. And they are gonna ideally come back to your portfolio, 'cause the one thing that you guys should always be trying to do, is create images that you wanna put back in your portfolio. And I say that because I want you guys to know, I've shot images that I would never wanna show you. They're like so lame. And, you know, there may be photos people using like tablets for, you know, big tech companies, they are paid well and they're great and they furthered my career, but they aren't images that I'm putting out into the world, because that's not the work I wanna bring back. So the work that you put out there, is really the work that you want to be bringing back. Always keep that in mind.

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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.

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