Tag Archives: Behind The Photo

Behind The Photo – Scotty Cranmer for Hyper Bicycles

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Behind the Photo post, but after a little encouragement from some Instagram followers, I decided to put together another one for you guys.

The photo I’m sharing today shows Scotty Cranmer doing a turndown off a wooden launch, over a gap, and onto a dirt landing near his hometown in New Jersey. We shot this this in May when I was there on a day-rate assignment shooting with him for Hyper Bicycles. This image was actually the second frame of the day—the first being a lighting test to make sure my flashes were firing.


To set up the shot I put my main flash on a tall light stand just over my left shoulder as I was crouching down with my 15mm fish eye lens. This was right at 180 degrees from where the sun was coming in from the trees and served as the only flash lighting up Scotty and his bike. The ambient light behind him gave a pretty good key light on his helmet, shoulder, and arm. I would have liked to have another key light hitting the back side of his rear tire, but I only had three flashes with me, and the other two were used to light up the under side of the take off. With that said, I set up my two fill flashes low to the ground just out of the right side of the frame pointing up at the under side of the wooden launch. Without them lighting up the take off it was very dark and shadowy with little to no detail in the wood. Since the take off was so unique in this setup it was important to me to show where he was coming from in the best way possible.

These trails are located behind John Jennings’ parents house, and on the day we were scheduled to shoot Scotty couldn’t get in touch with any of the locals to unchain the roll in, so he had to find a very creative (for lack of better words) way to get the speed for the gap. Being the boss that he is, Scotty not only got the speed, but fully clicked a turndown on his first and only go at it. One and done, in and out…off to the next spot!

Date: May 10, 2013
Location: Area 51 Trails, New Jersey
Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 15mm
Camera Settings:
ISO 100
Main Flash: Quantum Q Flash with Turbo 400 w/s battery pack (set to roughly 1/4 power)
Fill Flashes: Vivitar 285 (set to full power)
Transmitter: Pocket Wizard MiniTT1
Receivers: Pocket Wizard Receivers

I processed the photo using Photoshop CS5.1 with the most up to date Camera Raw plugin. Since I like most of my photos to look very natural, I didn’t do very much with this image in post-production.


I started out in the Raw editing window by applying my personal “stock settings”. These are settings I have calibrated to my particular version of Photoshop to my camera and reflect how I like my photos to look. These settings always seem to be a good starting point for post-production on my images when I’ve shot them at a proper exposure. By clicking one button the Sharpness amount moves up to 125 and the Masking and Noise Reduction to 50. It also moves the Contrast slider to 55, the Clarity to 15, and the Saturation to 10.


After my stock settings were applied, I clicked the radio button to remove the chromatic aberrations. This got rid of slight bands of digital color noise that were at the edges of highlight details like Scotty’s helmet and handlebars. From there I pushed the Recovery slider to 45 to get back some detail in the overexposed sky and moved the Brightness slider down just a few notches to 47 for the same reason. However, after doing this certain dark parts of the image like Scotty’s shirt were too dark, so I added a little Fill Light to bring back some of those details. The final adjustment I made was to bring the White Balance Temperature down to 4800 to get rid of the slight orange tint in the dirt and trees.

Here you can see the slight differences in the unprocessed photo along with the final edited image.


(Unprocessed image above; edited image below. Click to enlarge.)



Check out this behind the scenes video of what Scotty had to do to make this trick happen!

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.

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Behind The Photo – Morgan Long In Stolen’s 2012 Catalog

In my last post I showed you a quick sneak peek of this photo, and now I’m ready to show you the banger that is featured in Stolen BMX’s 2012 product catalog.

About a month ago Morgan Long and I met up in Downtown Long Beach just a few blocks from my house to film a trick tip video for ridebmx.com. When we were finished Morgan decided he wanted to shoot a photo of a gap that countless people have eyed up, but no one has committed to. He was fresh off a long injury hiatus and hadn’t shot any photos or really pushed himself in several months, but he felt up to the task.

Morgan Long BMX

Morgan eyeing up the gap. Trying to convey how big this setup was along with all the intricacies that made it so gnarly to jump in a single still image was my real challenge of creating this image.

Morgan cleared the gap on his first go, but didn’t tuck it properly, so he opted to do it again to get the photo to look exactly how he wanted. Unfortunately on the second attempt things didn’t work out in his favor. He got a weird pop off the bunnyhop that sent him nose heavy into the landing. He crashed and got pretty banged up so he had to call it a day.

Morgan Long BMX

This is the first photo that we shot that Morgan wasn't happy with.

Morgan Long BMX

A look at Morgan's hand after he crashed.

Several weeks went by and Morgan’s team manager at Stolen hit him up with a last minute request for a photo for their catalog. Luckily Morgan and I were both in between trips and were able to line up our busy schedules to reshoot the gap.

This time around Morgan nailed it, and within a few minutes of showing up at the spot we had the photo that Stolen needed for their catalog.

Morgan Long BMX

The final image. Click to enlarge.

Notice the difference in body language on this split screen view of both photos. The original photo on the left may look fine to some people, but that's part of what separates professional BMX photographers and riders from amateurs. What makes the photo on the right so much better is the fact that Morgan's arms are pushed straight out and his legs are tucked underneath him, which also makes him higher over the ledge. This kind of peaked position is what you always look for when shooting action photos.

Photo Information:
Lighting: Ambient / No Flashes
Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 70-200mm IS USM @ 75mm
Settings: ISO 200, 1/800, f/6.3

Since I didn’t use any off-camera lighting for this shot, it was very straightforward to shoot and to edit. Below is a screen shot of the minor changes I made in Photoshop’s RAW editing window.

Morgan Long BMX - Stolen Catalog

Here is the treatment that Stolen put on the photo in their catalog.

You can click through the entire Stolen catalog below.

If you liked this, be sure to check out my other Behind The Photo posts that go into detail about how I set up, shot, and edited specific BMX photos.

Behind The Photo – Travis Collier 2011 Flatland BMX Calendar Back Cover

I’ve always loved shooting long exposure and multiple exposure photos. Because they produce such a unique look I tend to get a ton of questions about them, so I thought this photo of Vancouver, Canada, resident Travis Collier would be a great image to break down in Behind The Photo post.

If you like this one, be sure to check out my other Behind The Photo posts, too…

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Behind The Photo – Matthias Dandois 2011 Flatland BMX Calendar Cover

For the past three years I’ve worked with a bunch of great BMX brands to put together a wall calendar featuring photos of flatland riders that is distributed for free through Flatland Fuel BMX mail order shop. So whenever I have an opportunity to set up a photo shoot with one of the world’s top flatland riders I jump at it, even if I only have a few minutes to get it done. This was exactly the case with the 2011 Flatland BMX Calendar cover shot of Matthias Dandois that I took in Barcelona, Spain. Here’s how it all went down…

atthias Dandois - Flatland BMX Photo

This is the cover for the 2011 Flatland BMX Calendar that this photo was used for. Click to enlarge.

Nike 6.0 flew me out to Barcelona in July of 2010 to cover their BCN BMX Pro for ridebmx.com. Although it wasn’t run by the same people, there was also a flatland contest going on at the same venue at the same time and Matthias Dandois happened to be there. When I arrived at the skatepark course practice hadn’t started yet so I had a few minutes to spare to meet up with Matthias and try to get a shot for the 2011 calendar. Luckily the contest was held right at the waterfront where they had a cool, scenic spot with a large space that was perfectly flat. We pedaled down to this spot together and I spent a few minutes scouting angles for the photo.

Because it was such a new location to me and it was so unique it seemed like anywhere I shot the photo from could would have produced a cool image, but after walking around a bit and taking in the whole scene I found the angle that I really wanted that gave me a slight reflection in the glassy water.

Because the composition I chose called for a lot of open space between Matthias and the left side of the frame I couldn’t put a flash to my left at all. This meant that I’d only be using one flash for the shot, which was positioned just out of frame to the right of the subject and a little in front of him. I used my Quantum Qflash because it’s the most powerful one I have and set the power to somewhere around 1/4. (I can’t recall the exact setting that was used.) The sun was coming in to my right also, so the flash was just acting as a fill light. I positioned it pretty low to get up under Matthias’ chest to make sure his entire body was fully lit.

Matthias Dandois - Flatland BMX Photo

Here you can see how the flash was set up just to the right side of the rider. Click to enlarge.

After my flash was set up I did four lighting test shots and adjusted my shutter speed and aperture until I was happy with where they were both set. Since I positioned the rider more than halfway to the top of the frame I was able to set my shutter speed to 1/500 knowing that my flash wasn’t going to need to light anything any lower down in the frame. (More info at syncing a Canon 5D Mark II at 1/500 in this post.) With my ISO set to 100 and my shutter speed at 1/500 I then had to adjust my aperture accordingly for proper exposure, which ended up being f/5.

Now I was ready to have Matthias try the trick he wanted to shoot called a plastic man. This doesn’t happen too often with flatland photos, but the first shot we took worked out perfectly and I didn’t have to shoot any more. We had exactly what we were looking for on the first go.

Since everything went so quickly and smoothly I went ahead and took another few photos of the same trick from different angles just in case I wanted to use them for anything. However, until this blog post the alternate angles have just been tucked away in my hard drive.

Matthias Dandois - Flatland BMX Photo

Here is an alternate angle that I shot after getting the photo I was looking for. I don't have a medium format camera, but love how certain photos look with a square crop, so I faked this one with my own square crop then threw on some "vintage" looking effects. Click to enlarge.

Date: July 2, 2010
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 70-200mm IS USM @ 125mm
Camera Settings:
ISO 100
Flash: Quantum Q Flash with Turbo 400 w/s battery pack (set to roughly 1/4 power
Transmitter: Pocket Wizard MiniTT1
Receiver: Pocket Wizard Receiver
Light Stand: Random tripod.

Camera RAW Settings

Here are the settings I used in the Photoshop CS4 RAW editing window for this photo.

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 editing window 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. However, I still thought the image could use a little more color so bumped up the saturation to 15 bring out the colors just a bit more.

After these settings were in place I clicked the “auto” button in the RAW editor to see what Photoshop thought the image should look like. That made the recovery go up to 23, the blacks go up to 6, the brightness go down to 8, and the contrast go up to 56. This didn’t look that bad, but the image was too dark, so I moved the brightness up to 30, and voila! The image looked exactly how I wanted it to.

Since there is a defined horizon line in this photo I needed to make sure it was completely straight so the image didn’t look crooked. I used the straighten tool and drew a line across where the water meets the sky to straighten out the image before opening up the file into Photoshop.

Since the photo was going to be used for a printed piece I changed the color mode to CMYK and saved it as a TIFF and the photo was almost ready to use. The only thing left was to remove an ugly red piece of trash from the water, which was a quick and easy fix with the clone stamp tool.

Matthias Dandois - Flatland BMX Photo

Here is the original, unprocessed image. Click to enlarge.

Matthias Dandois - Flatland BMX Photo

Here is the full, final image after it was processed. Click to enlarge.

Behind The Photo – Terry Adams Dan’s Comp 2011 BMX Calendar Shot

Professional flatland BMX rider Terry Adams is the closest I’ve ever had and I love working with him on photo shoots. One day in July of 2010 we were in Downtown Los Angeles and had just finished filming a “5 Trick Fix” video for the Ride BMX Web site when we decided to set up to shoot photo for the upcoming Dan’s Comp wall calendar. (The photo also ended up being used in a print ad that ran in Ride BMX, and several online ads.) We were at a spot that has a clear view of the city in the background and the sun was just about to set, so it was an extremely picturesque location for the photo. However, the ground was really rough and anything but ideal for riding flatland. As always though, Terry came through and made it happen…here’s how we got it done.

Terry Adams BMX

This is the final photo of Terry Adams that was used in the 2011 Dan's Comp BMX wall calendar.

Calendars are free with paid orders from Dan's Comp.

For this photo I chose to use my 70-200mm telephoto lens because I feel that it produces images that are a little bit sharper than my 24-70mm lens. Also, by being able to zoom in to 200mm I can focus more accurately before zooming back out to 70mm to compose and shoot the photo.

Since I knew this photo was going to be used for the Dan’s Comp wall calendar, and I knew the calendar was a square format I set up to shoot the image horizontally and intentionally shot it with a bit of a lose composition so there would be plenty of room to work with on all sides. For the same reasons I centered Terry in the frame when setting up the shot.

After we found a spot of ground that was flat enough for Terry to do the trick on I picked an angle that would give me a good view of the city in the background and some dramatic natural sunlight coming into frame. I took off my lens hood to catch more of a glare on the lens, which created the light orbs in the bottom left corner the image. This is something I usually try to avoid, but in this case I thought it added some a cool element to the image.

Terry Adams BMX Photo

Terry standing in place while setting up the shot.

I set the camera’s ISO to 100 to ensure a photo with as little grain as possible. Then I set my shutter speed to 1/200. This is fairly slow for a BMX action shot, but since Terry wasn’t moving very fast during this trick it still stopped the action enough so there wasn’t a lot of motion blur. Next, I set my aperture f/9 to make sure the sky wouldn’t be completely blown out and white. With my camera settings in place it was time to set up the flashes.

The sun was coming in from the back of my subject and to my right so I positioned the more powerful Qflash exactly opposite of the ambient light—pointing directly at the subject from my left. It was on a tripod just at the edge of the frame of this photo; as close to Terry as possible without creeping into the shot. I can’t recall exactly, but I suspect the flash was set to around 1/4 power. Anything less than that would have probably not been enough to counterbalance the exposure I had set for the sun. I then positioned another flash on the right side of the subject, again just out of view of the frame. This was a smaller Vivitar flash set to 1/4 power to help fill in other darker areas of the subject.

I had Terry stand in the spot where he was going to be doing the trick, zoomed all the way in on him, focused on his T-shirt, then zoomed back out too compose my shot.

Although we got a total of nine photos of the trick, we ended up using the second shot because we liked how his legs were positioned the best.

Date: July 20, 2010
Location: Los Angeles, California
Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 70-200mm IS USM @ 70mm
Camera Settings:
ISO 100
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 Receivers
Light Stands: Random, inexpensive tripods.

The settings for this photo in the Photoshop CS4 RAW editor.

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. Because the sun had washed out a lot of color in the image I then bumped up the saturation to 25 bring out the colors more.

From there the only other thing I had to do was to bump up the blacks to 10 and the contrast to 70. These adjustments helped bring out the detail in everything and made the image pop really well since the harsh backlighting had washed out most of the subject.

Still in the RAW editor I used the cropping tool and made a square crop on the photo, then, using the straighten tool I drew a line across the outline railroad tracks just behind Terry to make sure the image didn’t look crooked. Tilted horizon lines are a huge pet peeve of mine in photography, and if the train tracks looked straight, the whole photo looks straight. Then I moved around the crop tool and cropped in a little to select a tighter square composition that worked for the image.

After these minor things were tweaked I opened up the image and converted it to CMYK color mode (since it was going to be used for a printed piece) and saved it as a .tiff.

I’m never one to do a lot of post production to my images, but this one had a few nagging distractions that I just couldn’t leave in there. The antenna sticking up in the background just behind Terry’s rear wheel and the power lines overhead had to go. I took them out using the clone stamp tool in Photoshop. This was a very quick, easy, and effective fix since they were all against the monochromatic sky.

Terry Adams BMX Photo

Here is the original, unprocessed file.

Terry Adams BMX Photo

This is the processed file at full frame and before the distracting objects were removed with the clone stamp tool.

Terry Adams Dan's Comp Online Ad

This is one of the various online ads and banners that the photo was used in.

Behind The Photo – S&M’s Chad Johnston Full-Page Ad

Chad Johnston is an amazing flaltand rider with deep roots in BMX. He has been riding pegless for about four years now, which is a pretty new concept, and shooting photos of it can be tricky. However, when Chad hit me up with a one-day deadline for a full-page S&M Bikes magazine ad I was up to the challenge.

Chad Johnston S&M BMX Ad by Fat Tony

S&M's art director Mark Lepper did a great job laying out this ad. The layout works great with Chad's minimalist style, which corresponds with S&M's straight-forward Intrikat flatland product range.

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Behind The Photo – Francisco “Coco” Zurita Vans Autograph Card

Since I attend several major BMX contests throughout the year like the Dew Tour and X Games, shooting vert riding is something I do on a pretty regular basis. However shooting an outdoor vert ramp at dusk outside of a contest environment was a pretty rare opportunity for me, so I was really excited to shoot with Coco Zurita at Woodward West in July of 2009.

The photo was first used as a downloadable BMX desktop wallpaper on ridebmx.com, then later used as an autograph postcard for Coco’s shoe sponsor, Vans.

Coco Zurita - Vans Shoes Autograph Card - Photo by Fat Tony.

Coco is an extremely talented rider who goes insanely high and rides with an unbelievable amount of style. He specifically wanted to shoot in shorts and a T-shirt with no pads (besides his helmet) to show that you don’t have to be dressed like a football player to ride vert. After we shot two tricks from the same angle with a telephoto lens he asked if I wanted to shoot another trick from the deck of the ramp with my fisheye lens. He wanted to shoot a toboggan, and I was more than happy to oblige, as it’s one of my favorite tricks to shoot. My initial instinct as a BMX photographer is to never shoot from behind the rider in fear of the dreaded “ass shot,” but Coco insisted it was a good angle for the trick, so I set up my gear to shoot from behind him.

This nac-nac is one of the two tricks we shot from this angle before setting up to shoot the toboggan from on deck. Click to enlarge.

We were losing daylight so I had to set up quickly. I put my Qflash on my tallest light stand and put it behind my back pointed up around the area that I thought Coco would be at the peak of his trick. It was positioned to light him directly in front of me where I’d see him most. Then I put a Vivitar flash in front of me and to my right, just out of the frame of view to help act as a fill light. Since the tripod it was on isn’t very tall it was a bit under him and pointing up, which is why the right side of his front tire is brighter than the rest of the tire. After Coco was properly lit, the ramp in the background was really dark and it was difficult to put the obstacle he was riding into perspective. So to remedy this I put another Vivitar flash behind me (at full power) pointing directly across at the opposing wall of the ramp.

After shooting the trick four times Coco was happy with how he dipped the toboggan and how high he was, and I was happy with my lighting and composition. Mission accomplished…just in the nick of time before it was too dark to continue riding outside.

The final image that was used for the Vans autograph card. Click to enlarge.

Date: July 18, 2009
Location: Woodward West – Tehachapi, California
Camera: Canon 20D
Lens: 15mm f/2.8
Camera Settings:
ISO 100
Flashes: Quantum Q Flash with Turbo 400 w/s battery pack (Probably set somewhere around +1/8 power.), Vivitar 285 (Probably set to full power.), and Vivitar 285 (Probably set to 1/4 power.).
Transmitter: Pocket Wizard Transmitter
Receivers: Pocket Wizard Receiver
Light Stands: Random, inexpensive tripods, and random, inexpensive light stand.

Raw settings in Photoshop.

If you’ve kept up with my blog thus far and have seen my other “Behind The Photo” posts, then you probably already know where I started out when processing this image…that’s right, with my “personal stock settings,” as I call them. I set the clarity to 25, the saturation to 10, the sharpening to 125, and the masking and luminance to 50.

After my go-to settings were in place I pushed up the contrast to 55 to help the image pop a bit more. But it still didn’t pop enough, so I bumped up the blacks to 8. After that, the image was a bit dark, so I moved the brightness up to 60. It still was a little too dark, so I pushed the fill light to 15. From there, everything looked pretty good, but Coco’s white bike was a little too blown out, so I moved the recovery up to 30. Bingo! That’s where I was happy with the image.

Well, almost happy…there was a lot of dead space at the top of the photo, so I cropped in a bit. With a fisheye lens, usually cropping a photo will make it look really awkward, but because I was shooting with a Canon 20D (that has a 1.6 crop factor), I didn’t have a true fisheye look to begin with, so cropping didn’t make the photo look weird at all.

From the Camera Raw editing screen I made sure the image was set at 300dpi, then I opened the photo, switched it to CMYK color mode, saved it as a .tiff, and sent it off to Vans for them to use on the autograph postcard.

A before and after low-res look at the original untouched image, and how the photo looked after I processed it.

Behind The Photo – Seth Klinger At Camp Woodward

It seems like a lot of people liked the first “Behind The Photo” post I made here on my blog, so figured I would turn it into a reoccurring theme. The image I’m going to break down today comes from Camp Woodard and features Haro Bike’s Seth Klinger.

This is one of my favorite photos I shot in all of 2010, and I ended up using it in an interview with Seth for ridebmx.com.

Seth Klinger - BMX - 360 Tuck No-Hander - Camp Woodward

Keep reading to see how this photo was created, from start to finish.

In August of 2010 I went to Camp Woodward in Pennsylvania where had the opportunity to shoot a short dirt jumping session with a few of the locals. It was late in the afternoon, the sunlight was perfect, and the clouds were just begging to be photographed. I set up a few flashes on the last jump and started shooting at random while the riders made their way through the section. I didn’t know what tricks the riders were going to do, so I had to be on my toes when trying to time each trick properly.

The sun was to my back and slightly to my left. I don’t remember this specifically, but you can see the natural shadow of my tripod holding a Vivitar flash near the bottom left corner of the frame. I had the Vivitar flash on the left side of the rider because the sun was doing most of the work for me on that side, which meant I only needed a smaller fill flash to the left. I put my more powerful Quantum Qflash on the right side of the rider on a taller light stand and raised it up as high as I could in order to have it as close to the rider as possible. However, since I didn’t want the light stand and flash to be in the photo I had to move it several feet to the right side of the jump and crouch behind the landing that you see in the foreground of this photo to help block it from my lens’ view.

I had my camera set to f/5.6 and 1/500, which is a pretty ideal scenario for a photo, but the frame I shot before this one seemed to have a bit more motion blur than I wanted. Since the Qflash was so far to the right, and the rider was so high in the air, it was taking the light longer to reach the subject, which meant it couldn’t stop the action as quickly, which resulted in motion blur. To remedy this I switched the shutter speed to 1/640, and the aperture to f/5 to balance it out.

Now, some of you may be wondering how I could get a Canon 5D Mark II to sync at 1/640, when it normally only syncs at 1/200… Well, I was able to get it to “HyperSync” at 1/250 by using the Pocketwizard MiniTT1 transmitter. Then, after reading Rob Galbraith’s blog post about this exact topic I knew about how much fall off I would get when shooting at different shutter speeds. And I knew that at 1/500 I still had more than half of the frame that was able to be lit by the flashes. Since the rider in this scenario was at the top third of the frame I figured I could shoot at 1/640 and still catch the flashes hitting the rider…and obviously I was right. It paid off in my favor because the image is sharp as a tack and doesn’t have any motion blur, even in the rider’s fingertips.

A screen shot from Rob Galbraith's blog post showing the Canon 5D Mark II syncing at 1/500 with differnt transmitters.

A view of the rider at 100% showing the lack of motion blur. Click to see full-size.

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.

Date: August 26, 2010
Location: Camp Woodward – Woodward, Pennsylvania
Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM @ 73mm
Camera Settings:
ISO 100
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 tripod, and random, inexpensive light stand.

A side by side view of how the image looked before it was processed, and how it looked after it was processed.

Once I started processing the RAW image, I went straight to a few of my personal “stock settings” that I use for almost all of my photos. The clarity went up to 25, and the saturation went up to 10. Then on the detail tab, the sharpening went up from the default setting of 25 to my personal setting of 125. Masking and luminance both went up to 50.

From there I clicked the “Auto” button just to see what Photoshop’s auto settings would do to the image. It bumped the exposure up to +30, and the brightness down from the default setting at 50 to 7. I was pretty happy with this (which doesn’t happen often when using the auto button), but the image was still really flat and muddy.

So from there I bumped up the contrast from the default setting of 25 to 70, and the blacks from 5 to 7. I don’t like to go past 70 on the contrast slider because even though I’ve never researched the topic, I just don’t think you should ever push things “too far” when processing a digital image. Maybe it’s an OCD thing, or maybe somewhere over the years I’ve stumbled upon reasons to believe it’s true…

There weren’t any chromatic aberrations that needed to be fixed, and the white balance already looked great, so this image was ready to be opened and used.

Seth Klinger - BMX - 360 Tuck No-Hander - Camp Woodward

Once again, here is the completed photograph of Seth Klinger doing a 360 tuck no-hander at Camp Woodward.

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…