Behind The Photo – Brian Hunt In Vancouver, Washington

If you like this post, be sure to check out my other Behind The Photo posts.

In mid-August of this year I went to Portland, Oregon, for the Dew Tour, and after the contest was over I had a little extra time to meet up with Brian Hunt and a few other guys for a quick skatepark session and photo shoot. We headed north on I-5 and crossed the state line into Vancouver, Washington, to hit up the city’s concrete park. The place has a massive bowl with endless lines along with a smaller, tighter bowl, and a small street section, too.

Panoramic photo of the Vancouver, Washington, skatepark made with AutoStitch on iPhone 4.

After shooting a few photos with Brian in the deeper bowl we moved to the smaller bowl to shoot a few tricks on a quarter to bubble hip. For this photo, a few thoughts went into picking a composition—I wanted the rider to be large in the frame and to be facing me, I needed to show the lip of the hip he was coming off of, I wanted to show some of the trees in the background, and finally I didn’t want the rider to get lost in the trees. In order to make all these factors come together I had to get into the bowl and crouch down to make the rider higher in the frame than the tops of the trees. My position in the bowl was critical; not only for the composition I wanted, but also because Brian had to carve around me in order to hit the hip with the right amount of speed, then he had to buzz right by me after he landed.

After picking a composition I liked, the next obstacle was to politely ask a dozen scooter kids to move out of the background so their brightly colored shark fin helmets didn’t obstruct the beauty of the Northwest evergreens. Once the kids were out of the shot it was time to set up the lights.

Here is an early test shot I did of the location before I got down into the bowl.

The sun was just setting to my right, so while there was still some nice, natural light on the trees in the background, the entire bowl was already a dark shadow, and very little ambient light was hitting the rider. In order to light up the bowl I put my largest, most powerful flash (Quantum Q Flash) at full power on the deck of the bowl to my left. The flash was pointing down at the bowl, and wasn’t intended to hit the rider at all. Because of the nature of the obstacle, I didn’t have many options of where I could put another flash to light up the rider and stop the action, so I put a smaller flash (Vivitar 285) to my right as close to the rider as I could get. The light stand was positioned on top of the deck of the bowl next to the hip. I raised the stand as high as it could go and pointed it towards where the rider would be when he was at the peak of his height and action. The flash was set to 1/4 power and the hood of the flash was pulled out into the “zoom” setting.

With the composition and lighting in place, it was time to focus on the rider and get the shot. To focus, I had Brian stand on the lip of the hip. We shot three other tricks before snapping this no-footed can-can, but one of the other tricks may end up getting used for something else, so I am not going to show all of them here. We shot the no-footed can-can three times, but the first frame actually came out the best, so that’s the one you see here. With a few keepers from the session on my memory card, we called it a day and headed back to Portland for a night of burritos and doughnuts before I flew home early the next morning.

Here's an overview of the scene when I was focusing on the rider. Notice the position of the two flashes and where they are pointing. (Click to enlarge.)

Date: August 14, 2011
Location: Vancouver, Washington
Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
Camera Settings: ISO 200, 1/250, f/5.6
Lens: Canon 70-200mm IS USM @70mm
Flashes: Quantum Q Flash with Turbo 400w/s battery pack (1/1 power), and Vivitar 285 (1/4 power)
Transmitter: Pocket Wizard MiniTT1
Receivers: Pocket Wizard Receivers

Like most of my photos, the processing on this image was pretty straightforward. And again, like most of my photos, I started out in the Photoshop CS4 RAW editor with my “personal stock settings,” as I call them. For that I set the Clarity to 25, the Saturation to 10, the Sharpening to 125, and the Masking and Luminance to 50.

Here you can see the original image, completely un-edited. (Click to enlarge.)

Click the image to see the a 100% zoom of the image before and after adjusting the sharpness in the RAW editor.

Next, I cropped in a bit from the right side of the frame. I intentionally shot the photo a little loose with some extra space on the right side, knowing I would crop in on that side in postproduction. The Canon 5D Mark II only fully syncs with flashes at 1/200, and I shot at 1/250, so I knew there would be some flash fall off to the right of my image. This didn’t affect the light on my subject at all, but it did leave a dark shadow band that was visible on the landing of the hip.
(*For more information and technical specs about this concept, I recommend looking at Rob Galbraith’s article about HyperSyncing flashes with the Canon 5D Mark II.)

Here is a screen shot showing how much I cropped in on the photo. When shooting with a camera like Canon's 5D Mark II that has such a large sensor the image will reproduce just fine when printed even after cropping it this much—and it will certainly look fine when sized for on-screen Web viewing.

Once I started to work on the look of the image, the first thing I did was bump up the contrast to 70 to give it some pop. The rider seemed a bit too bright, so I moved the Brightness slider down from the default position of 50 to 35. To bring out the trees and some detail in the rider’s bike and jeans I moved the Fill Light slider up to 15. The last few changes I made while processing the image were in the Lens Corrections tab of the RAW editor. I moved the Fix Red/Cyan Fringe slider to -15 and the Fix Blue/Yellow Fringe slider to +15. This got rid of some chromatic aberrations around certain areas like the logos on the rider’s helmet.

Notice how the chromatic aberrations changed. (Click to enlarge.)

Camera RAW settings.

Once I opened the image in Photoshop I used the clone stamp tool to remove some graffiti on the landing of the hip just to give the photo a slightly cleaner look.

The final image with and without the graffiti on the hip landing.

This photo was only processed for the purpose of this blog post, so I sized it to 72dpi at 1200px tall, and then saved it as a JPEG.

Here's the final image.

Please to leave your thoughts, comments, and questions below.

If you liked this post, be sure to check out my other Behind The Photo posts.

One thought on “Behind The Photo – Brian Hunt In Vancouver, Washington

  1. drifter

    hey Brian, amazing work, its a little difficult to compare the images, maybe post them side by side to see the differences before and after? just sayin…slayer buddy

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