I recently had great fun photographing a local skate boarder who was up for a bit of a challenge – to skate in the middle of Valence town center wearing a suit! Here’s a quick run down of the whole creative process.
The concept was a simple one – the guy who’s so passionate about his sport that he even skates to his day job.
The shot that I really wanted in the bag was very straight forwards – the skateboarder would be skating very casually through the town, perhaps dealing with a client on his mobile phone. The concept dictated that the control of the skate board had to be completely second nature – as if this is the character’s main form of transport.
Although this shoot is considerably simpler than the tennis player composition that I detailed previously, it still required planning and forethought.
The first problem was to find a model in the right age range who was willing and able to skate through the town wearing a suit. This would obviously draw attention from onlookers so the talent would need to be at lease a little extravert.
I found a specialist skateboarding shop and explained my project to the owner; he immediately thought of an ideal candidate and offered to pass on my business card and explain my request. Within half an hour my model had called me back, willing and able! The cherry on the cake is that the model was an ex-salesmen so he already had a suit that would fit. If only it was always this easy…
Using competent sportsmen and women is essential for my work. The fact that they are often not professional models doesn’t tend to be an issue since they’ll be concentrating so much on what they’ll be doing that they’ll look natural on camera. This is very different from asking a non-professional to take a static pose.
We set a date for the shoot and I crossed my fingers that that weather would hold out. Since this is my home town location scouting was a fairly painless process. With the help of my assistant, Matt, we chose a couple of interesting locations. I knew that I wanted to shoot with a wide angle lens to get the context of the town into the photo, so the major considerations were the position of the sun, the look of the backdrop and a smooth surface for the skateboard.
The “cool dude” shot
This is the shot that I wanted in the bag. I shot with a fisheye from low down, pre-focussing at the point at which I wanted to take the shot. The fisheye would allow me to have the skater take a predominate position in the frame – thanks to his close position – while still allowing me to capture the surrounding context. I chose to use a fisheye for aesthetic reasons, I don’t like the way the edges of the frame look disproportionally large when shooting with a rectilinear lens under these types of conditions. In post I would remove just some of the fisheye look.
I then asked the model to pass in front of the camera lots of times, varying the poses – hands free, in pockets, using phone, etc.
The sun was back lighting the subject so Matt provided fill using a Sunbounce Pro. The entire spectacle drew attention from the people in the café for a few minutes, but they soon got bored and started to ignore us.
The “jump” shot
Once I was happy that I had a keeper we moved onto the second location. The model was keen to try something more dynamic and by this point I was more than happy to start expanding the limits that I had originally defined.
This time he would be skating into the sun – a compromise forced on us by the fact that he needed to put his right foot forwards.
The key technical difficulty was the focussing – even with a very wide angle lens with a small aperture the photos were totally unacceptable if the focus point wasn’t near enough to the model’s head at the moment that I took the shot. Since the jump was never in exactly the same spot each time this reduced the number of keepers significantly.
During the whole shoot my model was just great. He was incredibly enthusiastic and tirelessly devoted to getting the best image. He would even offer his discerning eye over the results, explaining what was right and wrong about a shot from a skateboarder’s perspective.
Back at the studio I made my selects using Lightroom and then processed the images using a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop. The post-processing phase is really the point at which I get to express my personal style. You can see the before and after shots for the jump here.