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.
Keep reading to see how this photo was created, from start to finish.
SETTING UP THE SHOT
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
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.
PROCESSING THE IMAGE
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.
Once again, here is the completed photograph of Seth Klinger doing a 360 tuck no-hander at Camp Woodward.