Shooting Outdoor Action
This is where I'm not saying portraiture can't be fun, I'm not saying that shooting people outside can't be fun with your flashes, but shooting sports and action is really fun. Especially when you're working with really great athletes who are capable and can do amazing things with their bodies in the air. So this segment here, shooting outdoor sports, shooting outdoor action. And then we also have, the final thing we'll be doing today, is shooting macro. Flowers don't move as much as athletes, parkour athletes, but still they're a lot of fun to shoot. So I wanted to make sure I give you some good tips for small, macro photography. So with that said, let's just hop right into it. We're gonna start right away with action photography. And I'm gonna show you how to do amazing work, again, with one single flash. I know when I first got into photography, I'd read the magazines, well this was before the internet, (chuckles) I'd read the magazines and the books and I'd see these amazing flash ...
setups. And I'd just be like, this is so overwhelming. It's like this level that i don't think I'm ever going to be able to achieve. But I wanna show you you can achieve it. It's quite simple actually. All the things that you've learned today, you already know what you need to know. I'm just gonna help you synthesize it and put it together. So, working with action photography you need to think through what is your goal? What is the purpose of this photograph? And what I mean by that is do you want to show some specific movement? So let's say you're photographing a dancer. Is there a specific dance move that you wanna show? Do they need to be in the air when this photo is taken? Is it on the ground when it's taken? Do you wanna freeze the action? So would this movement that you're going to do, would it look better if they were like (snaps) frozen in space? Oomph. Or would it look better if there was a little bit of motion blur to it? To imply movement throughout the scene. So thinking through ahead of time, what's my purpose here, do I wanna freeze the movement, do I want to show movement, do you wanna show power? You know, athletic muscles, strength. Do you wanna show grace? Are you shooting a ballerina? Thinking through that ahead of time will go a long ways to helping you understand what type of lighting you need. So are you gonna shoot hard flash? Are you gonna shoot through an umbrella? All the things that I've been teaching so far today still hold true. We're gonna build the exposure, just like I've been teaching. You're gonna start with the ambient exposure. How bright do you want the background to be? And then you're gonna bring in the flash for the subject. Now the difficulty here as you're gonna see, is the subject is moving. So when you're doing sports photography, you as the director, you're basically the set director, you need to help direct traffic. Like if you're photographing a bicyclist or a skateboarder, you need to say, you need to land on this mark every time. And you need to take off on that mark every time. Because if they don't, then your lighting is all off. Remember I talked about that one over distance squared thing? If your subject is one foot behind where you did your metering, you've lost like half the light sometimes. If they're two, three, four feet behind, your lighting is way off. So you're the director, make sure that they always land and start on the same position. Safety, safety, safety. Safety is super important. It's important for any level of sports and athletics that you photograph. There's so many ways to get hurt, especially with what I'm gonna show is parkour. What parkour is is basically urban athletics. So jumping off of walls, doing flips in the air, leaping between different structures. Freerunning is another term for it. My goodness, there's all sorts of ways to get hurt, broken ankles, (smack) banged up heads. So one of the things is before I ever shoot with an athlete, I talk through and I say look, no one gets hurt today. I don't care if you can do a double twist flip, you know, but if we can't do it safely, we're not even gonna go there. So I safeguard the talent, the talent meaning the actors, actresses, whoever the athletes are, and make sure they're in a place where just their movements aren't gonna hurt anything. I safeguard myself. I see a lot of photographers who photograph like motocross, or BMX racing, and they're like hanging out over the edge as this motorcycle's coming through at 120 miles per hour. Can you imagine what would happen if even a shoulder hit that camera? Of course your camera's gonna be toast, but you're gonna kill that guy and you're gonna bust your arm. So think through, am I gonna be safe where I'm at and these guys gonna be safe where they're at? And then safeguard your gear. Make sure that your gear isn't gonna fall over onto the talent. Use those sandbags, bring along other people to hold on to things if it's windy out. You just wanna make sure the stuff isn't gonna fall over. Because I guarantee you Murphy's Law is in high gear on all of these types of events. So someone's prone to get hurt. Fortunately, in this one that we shot for this class, no one got hurt. But I will say this, and you won't see it in the video that we're gonna show, but one guy did get kicked. He got kicked in the hand, because they weren't far enough apart from each other. So we almost had an injury, but fortunately we remedied that real fast. And just changed their position. A point I wanna make before we get into this is repetition. You're not gonna get it right the first time. I'm gonna show you a ton of outtakes. You're gonna see lots of photos where I screwed up, where they screwed up, where the light didn't trigger. They were too high and I cut off the person at the neck. And another one their elbow is out. So you just have to go through this time and time again. One out of 10 is probably gonna work. So just be patient and let your actors, your athletes, know they're gonna have to do the same jump maybe five or 10 times until it all comes together. Let's watch and see. This is a lot of fun. So we're gonna shoot some parkour athletes doing some jumps and leaps here. And let me just talk through what I've got set up on the camera system. So back to building my exposure, this time around I opted for a little bit higher ISO. So I'm gonna shoot at ISO 200. The reason for that is two-fold. One is I wanna shoot with a little bit faster shutter speed. But also the flash is gonna have to work pretty hard here, they're gonna be pretty far away from the subjects. And so I want the flashes to not have pump out as much light to produce the same result. so ISO 200. I'm at f2.8 and I'm at 132 hundredth of a second for shutter speed. In the flash settings, I'm still in manual flash mode. And I've increased my flash power to about half. So I've saved myself a little bit of room to move if I have to go to one over one or full power, great. I've still got one more stop on the plus side that is open and available to me. Let's talk about the flash that I have set up here. I'll bring it down so you can see this a little better. You'll notice I'm not shooting with any modification on the front, I'm just gonna do hard, direct flash. Because I need as much light going on to the scene as possible. And then I added a very lightly colored warming gel to this, just to add a little bit of color for the guys doing the jumps. I do have the zoom setting on the flash set to 224 millimeters. That's a fairly wide coverage with the flash, because I'm gonna be shooting this action at 24 millimeters on the camera. So I just want a little bit wider coverage for this image. And we're ready. Aright guys, I think we're ready. You jump in first?
And then what move are you gonna do? Are you gonna do a flip or just--
I'm gonna do a side flip.
A side flip, okay. So, I'll give you the go ahead in a second. For the people watching at home, I'm gonna pre-focus and I'm using the back button focus feature of my camera. So I'm gonna pre-focus right there. Basically trying to figure out where he's gonna jump in the scene. And then when I take the photo, the camera won't re-focus because I've taken off the focus control from my index finger. Quick test just to make sure everything fires. (shutter clicks) And it did, I heard it go beep. So, we're ready. Ready when you are. (shutter clicks) Nice. (laughs) Alright, he jumped very high and so high that his feet are out of the frame. (laughs) so that's the way that these things work. They take a lot of trial and error. And because I am shooting with these small flashes, I can't rapid fire the photo. I can't go da, da, da, da, da. Because the flash literally will not keep up. So basically, I get one exposure per trick, or per flip. So this time I'm gonna take the picture again, and I'm gonna aim the camera up just a little bit higher so I don't cut off any appendages. Alright, when you're ready. (shutter clicks) Nice. Oh yeah, fantastic. Very good. Alright, you ready?
Okay, so we're gonna do a little bit different trick. What's your trick gonna be?
I'm gonna try a webster.
A webster, I have no idea what that means.
Are your hands gonna be high?
My feet are.
Okay, you're gonna be upside down.
Yeah. Alright, good. So before you jump, that's always a good thing to do. Is to communicate ahead of time, what's the trick gonna look like? Where does the camera need to be? Because if he does a really high trick, I gotta obviously adjust the angle that I'm shooting. We're ready when you are. (shutter clicks) Oh, excellent. Very good. And his face was turned kinda towards me on that one. Fantastic, I'm looking at the motion. Seeing if I froze in the motion and it looks like I have. And then the next thing I'm looking at is I'm looking at the background. This is going to be a fairly dramatic shot after I work on it in post processing. I wanna make sure I have detail in the clouds. And I do. I haven't blow out any of the clouds, so that makes me happy. Okay, I'm gonna increase the power of this. I was at half power. I'm gonna go to full power now. And we'll see how that works. I am ready when you are. Ready, set, go. (shutter clicks) Okay, cool. You were really high on the pike.
And I chopped your hand off. So let's do it again.
Not so high.
It's like telling an athlete to pull back a little bit. It's hard to do.
Alright, pike number two when you're ready. (shutter clicks)
(laughs) Cool. That one worked out great, very nice. Okay, you wanna do one more?
I'm gonna do a 360.
A 360. So when you do the 360. Okay, we're ready when you are. (plane soars overheard) (shutter clicks)
(laughs) Alright, so can you do it this direction?
So we got a great butt shot, but we wanna get a face shot. And so I'm gonna have him do basically the in the same direction, but I'm gonna get it where his face is towards the camera on this one. Will that work for ya?
Yeah. Won't make a difference.
Alright, when you're ready. (shutter clicks) Alright, cool. And I'm realizing as I'm shooting these pictures, I'm cutting off a lot of appendages. I'm cutting off fingertips, I'm cutting of wrists. And I'm shooting at 24 millimeters, so there's a couple ways to solve this problem. One is to go with a wider angle lens, which is probably what I'm going to do. Or two, I can move farther away. But when I move farther away, I run the risk of getting my equipment and all that stuff into the shot. So I think the better solution is for me just to go with a 14 millimeter lens, my 14 to 24. And I'll go make that change real quick. We'll shoot maybe two or three more photos and then move to our next scenario. So I changed out my lens, I'm now using a 14 to 24 millimeter lens. This allows me to shoot wider angles so I can get a little bit closer to the action and I won't be cutting off any fingers or wrists, or feet or anything along those lines. I'm gonna end up shooting this probably around 16 to 17 millimeters. We've changed the position just ever so slightly for a different trick. Just double checking the position of my light. There we go. And I'm gonna frame this up. Again, I'm going to pre-focus. His trick will take place approximately in the middle of this pad here. So I'll pre-focus on that. And hold on one second. Got a little too close. Okay, when you're ready. (shutter clicks) Oh, that was cool. That was cool. Oh, yeah. Here, you gotta look at this.
Oh, yeah, looks good. (laughs)
So, that's fantastic.
City underneath him, his legs up high in the air. Great exposure for the background. I'm using the warming gel on him, he looks nice and warm. This'll convert to a really great shot in post processing. Do you wanna try one?
Alright, we'll do one more. Which trick are you gonna do, same thing?
Alright. When you're ready. (shutter clicks) Oh, cool. Oh yeah, very good. Mister Bruce Lee. Fantastic. Alright, so now what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna mix it up a little bit. I wanna shoot action, but I also want to induce a little bit of motion blur. And to do that, I need a longer shutter speed. I really need to get down to something like a sixtieth of a second, maybe to a thirtieth of a second. So how do I do that? Well, I do that by reducing my ISO, bringing my ISO down to 100. I wanna bring my aperture up to f8, something around that range. And then my shutter speed hopefully will be in the 1/60th, 1/30th range. Now if I'm unable to get to that point, because it's too bright outside, then I'll use a variable neutral density filter to bring down the light. But it's cloudy today so we lucked out. I don't have to bring in that vary nd. Real quick, let me talk about the flash setting I have here. I'm shooting direct flash, again. I'm probably gonna be pumping out full power, or half power, and then I have that half cut of CTO to warm that warming gel. We're gonna have our parkour athlete come through here in just a second. And we're gonna try and get him flying through the air. We'll get a little bit of motion blur behind him. The flash is going to fire and freeze him in movement. One other thing I realize I just forgot to mention, I wanna make sure that I'm in slow rear sync. So let me show you on the camera what that looks like. All cameras basically have a flash button. If you push that flash button, you'll see somewhere on the screen it tells you what the synchronization mode is. And rotating with your thumb dial, you can change the sync mode. For example, that's red eye reduction mode. This is called rear sync. And I want to use rear synchronization flash mode. What that allows me to do is take a photo where the subject is moving and causing motion blur as they fly through the air. And then pop the flash at the end of the exposure. So it looks like they've been frozen with the blur behind them. So again, that's rear curtain sync. Okay, I'm at f8, I'm at a fiftieth of a second, and my ISO is currently at 50. And in the Nikon cameras it shows low one. So it's the same thing as ISO 50. I'm going to pre-focus where the movement's gonna be. And I think I'll shoot this picture vertical orientation. And I'm all framed up here. Actually, before I do that, I just realized I want to take one picture without my flash just to see what the ambient exposure's gonna be. (shutter clicks) So I take that, I'll look at it. Good. I've got detail in the sky, the ambient light is darker. It's exactly where I wanna be. And again, my shutter speed is at a fiftieth of a second. Alright, turn my flash back on. I've got green. Alright, are you ready?
I'm all set.
Alright. I am ready when you are. (shutter clicks) (laughs) Way cool. Right on, that looked great. And I'll zoom in here. Cool, he's got a great pose on his face. He's floating through the air. I got the motion blur behind his movement. Let's shoot another one of those. This time, I know you're a parkour athlete and you guys like to flip and spin, but this one I'm just gonna have you basically like superman pose in the air, without flipping over. Is that possible?
So this is basically you're just moving left to right in kind of a plane of motion here. Alright, pre-focus. And ready, go. (shutter clicks) I shot a little bit too early on that one, I chopped his foot off, but, the key is that we got movement. We got him flying through the air. That was fantastic. You feeling all right?
You feel well enough to do that one more time?
Yeah, no problem.
Okay. (laughs) You don't have to hit the ground. (athlete laughs) If you can pull it off without hitting the ground, that's cool.
That's part of it. (shutter clicks) Yeah, perfect. That was great. Real pleased with the look of that. So we got a little bit of motion blur, got movement behind him in the flash fires to kind of freeze him in his position. Alright, we wanna try one more? You wanna do a move? Alright. What's your thought?
Do a standing back or I can do something else.
Let's do a standing back.
Facing this way?
Towards the camera so whatever orientation that we can get your face. Basically the peak of movement. That's the goal. So we'll just do a quick test and see how it works out. I'm gonna get a little bit closer to you. How high will you be jumping? This is basically a smaller core rotation?
I'm not entirely sure.
Like I won't be up here.
Okay, alright. Focus is good, I'm at f8 at a fiftieth of a second. Flashes are talkin. I'm ready when you are.
Alright. (shutter clicks)
Alright, cool. So that was great, but it's a butt shot. (laughter) So we're gonna have you do it the other way. Exactly. And everything's charged up again. That was awesome. Okay, when you're ready. (shutter clicks) Ah, just missed it. Alright, I'm gonna keep you working. Gotta shoot a little bit earlier. Ready when you are. (shutter clicks) Hm, I might have missed that one. Nope, I got it. I got your face.
I saw the flash too.
I was a little bit late, a little bit late. And you know, here's the thing, is we're trying to induce movement. And what we have, his movement is basically in plane with the camera. In other words, he's not moving left to right, he's moving basically to or from the camera. So we're not getting a lot of motion blur effect. So as cool as this move is towards the camera, I don't like it photographically. So I'm just gonna have you turn 90 degrees. Yeah, exactly. And we're gonna do the jump that way. And now we're gonna get a rotation movement. I think you'll see a lot more movement. Move back three inches.
Move forward two inches, right there. Yep. Okay, focus. Flash. Everything's ready to go. Ready when you are. (shutter clicks) Oh yeah, that's cool. We got him in the air, rotating. Fantastic. Nice work, thanks.
So what I'm gonna do now is I'm going to photograph two parkour athletes together. And whenever you photograph two people using flash photography, you have to be very careful about the positioning of the flash with respect to the positioning of your subjects. And if you have your subjects, like one really close to the flash, and one far away from the flash, you're gonna get dissimilar lighting. The person in front's gonna be very bright and the person in back is gonna be very dim. So this is gonna be a little bit dicey, trying to set this up. Because these guys are gonna be moving and I'm going to have to position the flash so I try to get equal lighting for the person here and the person there. So we've been working this out, we're doing a double flip. And we're gonna try and time it so they're both in the air, upside down, at the same time. I'm not trying to induce any motion blur in this photo, so I'm back up, I'm at a fast shutter speed. I'm at a little bit higher ISO. And I'm at about a half power on the flash. So let's go ahead and give it a whirl. We'll try one experiment here, see if it works. And if not, we'll do it again until it works. Alrighty. So just for the camera, I'm at f3. and I'm at 1/800th of a second. And my ISO is at 100. Here we go, I'm gonna pre-focus. Gonna get down low. And when you're ready. (shutter clicks) Alright, cool. So the first shot, I missed the height. I've got them with both of their landing feet on the ground, I really wanted to get them when they were in the air. Also, I realize my position is off a little bit. So I'm gonna move the whole kit this way. Actually, I'm gonna leave my flash there. Just gonna move my body this way a little bit to get a better composition. Alright, ready again. Three, two, one, go. (shutter clicks) Alright, almost got it. Their timing was off a little bit and that's my fault. I didn't give them a good countdown. In fact, this time I won't do the countdown, I'll let you guys kind of do your own timing. Alright, when you're ready. (shutter clicks) Alright, cool. So, I'm looking at this image, and realizing that he is very close to the camera and you're pretty far away. But that's okay, because I've positioned my light over there, kind of anticipating this. Notice the angle of the light is, When I take this image, it's kind of in plane or in orientation with their layout when they're doing the trick. So I'm gonna have you do one more. One more time. And I'm gonna shoot from a higher perspective this time. When you're ready. (shutter clicks) Cool. Way cool. Ah, I know I say one more time, famous last words. How about one more time, again. (laughter) I cut off his foot, so I realized I need to move back just a little bit. When you're ready. (shutter clicks) Awesome, I think that was it. Yeah, that was cool. Alright guys. Nice job. Way to go, thank you. That was a lot of fun to shoot. It's kind of a stressful thing to shoot too, though, because you've got these guys working hard for you and you wanna perform just as much as they wanna perform. And so make sure you've got your stuff figure out before you ever try to do something like that. Practice. If you've got a little kid, have your kid jump off the stool a number of times until you get it nailed. But you can see that there wasn't anything there really too technical, right? We're still at ISO, I forget what my ISO is, but all of the things that we're using are well within the bounds of any camera from anyone in this room. We're at f2.8, maybe you don't have an f2.8 lens, so shoot at f3.5 or f4. You're gonna be fine. Bare bulb flash, I use the CTO or a warming gel. And I built the exposure, just like I built any other exposure. One of the most important things is having a little bit faster shutter speed when you wanna freeze the motion. And a little bit longer shutter speed when you want to have the motion blur. Let me show you some outtakes, because the outtakes a lot of times are just as fun as the actual photos. So the first image on the left, chopped his head off. Bummer, that was during testing. Then we had, I forget, the pike. Sometimes I missed the position of the pike or he's too high. The third one over to the right, I shot too early. So I shot before he even leapt. And then then the last one on the right, his head's turned away from the camera. And as cool as the move is, he's in the air, he looks interesting, but you lose the power because you don't see his face. So that brings up a point. And the point I wanna make is that this type of small flash photography you cannot shoot burst mode on your camera. You can't shoot high frame rates, because your flashes will not keep up. They just won't do it. You can buy some higher end battery pack flashes from like Broncolor, Speedotron, Profoto, that will allow you to do that fast pulsing. In fact, I think wasn't it Chase Jarvis who did like a 10 frame per second snowboard leap a few years back? I remember him on a snow slope doing something like that. You can do that, but it requires a lot more tech and a lot more gear to pull something like that off. For these small flashes, you get one shot. So you have to work hard to time it just right. And keep in mind, every camera has a slight delay. Every camera has like a 30 second or 30 millisecond, or hundred millisecond delay. So even when you think you shot it, you heard me, a few times I took the picture and go, ah, I missed it. I was a little bit too late. Here's a shot that is almost great, right? Everything about it is pretty good, I got the framing of the concrete blocks there, I processed it in Lightroom to add a little more drama to the clouds, but I cut his hand off. And that matters, it matters to the photo. The photo, in my opinion, is not usable because I chopped the hand off. Which is a bummer. But this one, and I think this one is actually my favorite one of the day, it's cool. Looks like he's just falling from the sky and I added a little bit more drama in the sky in Lightroom. I think I just used clarity in a brush, so I brushed in some clarity there in the sky. I also changed the color of the sky slightly blue and then I just let the warming gel, the warming filter, warm up the athlete. Pretty fun. And the light, you'll see the shadows are just fine. I don't have any shadows falling onto his face. So overall, the full execution of this I'm super happy with. That's one of my favorite shots of the whole sequence. So freezing the motion. You need lots of light, so shoot bare bulb. Don't use an umbrella, don't use a soft box. If you want, well I shouldn't say don't. If you do wanna use an umbrella or soft box, put multiple flashes in there. One of the easiest way to do that, remember that little bar that I brought earlier today? You can mount multiple flashes on there. Or, some of us just tape the flashes together. Literally, just tape them one on top of the other and that'll work just fine. If they're all radio triggered, they'll all trigger just fine. And then use that fast shutter speed. Fast shutter speed like a thousandth of a second. And here's just one more cool shot of him, the other athlete, upside down. Almost perfect, but I got a little bit of shadow on his face. Ahh, so close. That's alright. If I was doing this for a real job, in other words, I was getting paid to do these photos, I'd have him do it three or four more times. And I'd work with him on his arm position so we got a full light on his face. But you know, for I dunno how long we were there, we weren't there very long, for 10, 15 minutes of work, we got some really nice looking shots. Also, I would've gotten a little bit lower, or I would have had him jump a little higher. I would've liked him to be above the city skyline, but again, I'm nitpicking. That's what we do, we're nitpickers. Us photographers. (laughs) How about blurring the motion? You know a lot of photography is about making sure everything's tack sharp. But the truth is, sometimes motion blur is a good thing. You asked the question earlier, Xavier, you were talking about what is shutter speed? How does that impact the creative side? Well, I like longer shutter speed sometimes when things are moving. And then you use flash to kinda freeze the movement. So I use rear shutter sync, that's important. You have to use rear curtain sync or rear shutter sync. And then your shutter speed for any of this type of movement should be in the fifteenth of a second to a sixtieth of a second. So let me explain with this photo, let me describe what's happening. So this was our superman move (chuckles) as he was leaping across. So here's how rear curtain works. The shutter opens up, the movement happens, and then the ambient light basically exposes him and you can see the ambient light as he's moving across the screen. Then the flash fires at the end of the exposure. The rear curtain. Then the rear curtain closes. So that's it. Opens up, movement happens, blur, blur, blur, flash fires, then the rear curtain closes. It would look funny if you used front curtain sync. Because then what happens is the motion blur is in front of his movement. And that never looks right. If someone's running this way, it just looks funny for the blur to go out in front of their face. So always use rear curtain sync. I always use rear curtain sync, it's just my default. I just use it all the time. Because if there ever is any movement, I like it to be behind the action. So it is a great photo? Well the truth is, I'm not super, super pleased with these images. Just because they don't quite have the oomph or the pinache that I generally would like. but I approve the concept. And the concept is you can see the flash fired and we sharp photos in his eyes and on his clothes, and a little bit of blur behind. You want the movement to move from left to right, or from right to left. You don't want the movement to be in the direction of your lens, right? Because we saw how when they were jumping, as long as they're moving this way, or that way, we get the blur because it's tracking across the screen. Whereas when he rotated towards the camera, you can't really tell there's motion blur in this photo, right? But this one where he's rotating against the lens, or along the film plane, that's where you actually get the motion blur. Back to this photo, back up one slide. The reason why we get the nice motion blur? He is moving left to right. So what do you think? Overall, do you like the frozen shots better? do you like the blurry shots better? Do you have a preference? Who likes the frozen, like rock solid photos? Most of y'all. And what do you think, blur? You're liking the blur. Okay, cool. Well you all now know what it takes to produce those types of images. Either one. And it's really all about shutter speed and getting that ambient light into the camera.