Thursday, July 15, 2010

Coming down the mountain

Just before I headed up to Alaska for the summer we took a trip up to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic Mountains/N.P. Our mission was to shoot cyclist Jimmy Anderson hoooning down the mountain with gorgeous scenery behind him - pace, energy and a bit of motion blur! If you are ever in Washington State, Hurricane Ridge should definitely be on your "to visit" list, beautiful place.

A few key objectives for the shoot:
1. High energy, which means I needed to be shooting some where around 1/80th-1/100th to get that lovely ground rush. Which reminds me of a quick note. Jimmy is such a powerful and uber fit cyclist that we were able to get ground rush in the images even when he was cycling UPHILL!!! Amazing!

2. Lighting Jimmy with a 27" beauty dish from above camera left and a bare profoto strobe behind Jimmy on a boom for some back light. See the sketch. 30mph means lots of drag and we ran into a few technical issues with the set-up, broke a magic-arm and bent some aluminium. Luckily nothing a bit of creative thinking and duct tape couldn't fix...Phew!

Sorry about the scribble above! I do my best.

3. Probably the two most important things for me to consider were composition and ambient light. Traveling at 30 mph down a mountain with winding roads meant the direction of the sun was constantly changing, as was my background scenery and the shape of the road. The sun was also going in and out of the clouds. So with this many variables to manage I needed to be pretty organised.

We limited our run to just a two mile stretch of the road. That way Jimmy, our cyclist could familiarise himself with the road and its bends. It also meant that we could get set up for specific points along the route where we knew we had good scenery, a nice bend and the sun would be in the right place. Jimmy was able to position himself a mere two feet from the back of our pace car at times making working a specific shot a breeze. We then systematically worked through a series of compositions and lighting adjustments until we found shots that worked.

I think it is important to go into a shoot like this with loads of fine-tuned ideas. Over the weeks even months leading up to this shoot I sketched dozens of image ideas and compostions as part of my preproduction. These ideas/sketches provided me with a visual backbone from which to explore. Previsualising definitely helps me to quickly and efficiently shoot the images I'm looking for. It also gives me the comfort level I need to then start experimenting and that's the best thing about being can confidently explore the unknown.

All postproduction by the ever impressive Janko Williams

Related posting: Urban Triathlete

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