Behind The Photo – Stolen BMX’s John Hicks Advert

Back in August of this year Dave Wooten from Stolen BMX emailed to ask if I could shoot a photo of one of his flow team riders John Hicks for their 2011 product catalog. I’ve always been a fan of John and was stoked to get the chance to shoot with him. John took a bus from where he lives in North Long Beach and I pedaled just a few blocks from my house to meet him behind the LBC Courthouse where he already knew what trick he wanted to do.

It was a fairly quick setup for me—two flashes and a low fisheye angle. I set up the more powerful Quantum Q flash to my left just behind my shoulder to make sure John’s face and the side of his bike were properly lit. I put it as close to the action as possible to help eliminate as much motion blur as possible. Then I put my smaller Vivitar 285 flash on the other side of the handrail in the grass, kind of over my right shoulder, to act as an additional fill light.

John had to hop onto the white concrete block before jumping over the handrail and landing in the grass. He jumped over the rail once or twice, then he did a straight barspin over the rail a few times, and then he did a 180 over the rail a few times; all as feelers for the 180 barspin that he ultimately wanted to do.

After the first straight jump I noticed a little more motion blur in the image than I cared for, so I bumped up my ISO from 100 to 125 to compensate for bumping up my shutter speed from 1/400 to 1/500. From the test shots I did on his feeler runs I was able to set up and compose the perfect shot and watch for how he throws his barspins. By the time he attempted the 180 barspin (and pulled it on the first try) I nailed the photo exactly how I wanted it.

The image was used as the closing double page spread in Stolen’s 2011 product catalog (embedded at the bottom of this post), and more recently it was used as a full-page ad in Ride BMX Magazine.

Below is all the information about the photo and the equipment used, as well as some explanations about how I processed the image in Photoshop CS4.

Photo Information:
August 19, 2010
Location: Long Beach Courthouse – Long Beach, CA
Camera: Canon 5D MKII
Lens: Canon 15mm
Camera Settings:
ISO 125
Flashes: Quantum Q Flash with Turbo 400 w/s battery pack (set to roughly -1/4 power) & Vivitar 285 set to 1/4 power
Transmitter: Pocket Wizard MiniTT1
Receivers: Pocket Wizard Receiver
Light Stands: Random, inexpensive tripods.

One of John's first feeler runs, throwing the bars as a warm up. Click to enlarge.

John Hicks Stolen BMX Ad

The final, edited image that was submitted to Stolen. Click to enlarge.

Since John was wearing a white shirt that got a little overexposed I dropped the exposure a half stop and bumped up the recovery by 30 in the Photoshop CS4 RAW settings menu. By doing those to things, it made my dark areas a little too dark, so I added some fill light. Then, to get the blacks more rich, I bumped those up to 10. To dial in the brightness and contrast, I moved the brightness down to 20 and the contrast up to 60. Moving the clarity level to 25 and the saturation level to 10 is something I do on every one of my images. It’s kind of my personal “stock” setting.

In the Detail area I set the image to my other “stock” settings that I process all of my images with—125 on the amount of sharpening, and 50 on the luminance noise reduction.

In the Lens Correction area of the RAW processor I moved the “fix red” slider to -20 to remove some of the chromatic aberrations from around the edge of John’s shirt and handlebars.

John Hicks Stolen BMX Ad

Detail of the photo, blown up to 100%. Click to enlarge.

This photo was really straight forward in its creation and processing. After processing the RAW file, the only things I had to do to finish off the image were change the file from RGB to CMYK color mode and save it as a TIFF before sending the photo over to Stolen for use in their catalog and advertisement.

John Hicks Stolen BMX Ad

Stolen's finished magazine ad.

And finally, here is Stolen’s catalog that the photo was in…

2 thoughts on “Behind The Photo – Stolen BMX’s John Hicks Advert

  1. Noah

    Great article.

    I’m hoping this is going to be a regular topic because I’d like to learn how to use multiple flashes and possibly do some BMX photography in the future.

  2. Bryce Packham

    How in the Sam Hill did you sync a 5D MKII at 1/500??

    Unless… you knew you didn’t need to sync the bottom half of the frame so only the top half is actually being lit by the flashes? Well played sir…

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