Sunday, March 11, 2012

action adventure photography

It seems that once this weather finally turns for the better, I'm going to have a very very busy shooting schedule. Lined up are numerous shoots, of many different styles and variety.

First in the lineup, is an advertising shoot for the Philadelphia cast of Bye Bye Liver. I recently shot their press photography for the Philadelphia Inquirer. You can read about part one [here] and part two [here].

Next, once the new gear arrives (yes, my friends, Nikon has put yet another month delay on the arrival of the D4 that I had ordered back in mid January), I have a couple personal projects lined up, as well as a collaborative project that I will be working on with television/ documentary producer and filmmaker, Karol Escobar.

And last but certainly not least, I have been called upon to shoot the adventures of Mikey Douthwaite. If you recognize this name it is because it has popped up in the last couple of posts about the Bye Bye Liver shoot. Mikey was one of the very helpful assistants on location. It wasn't long after that Mikey made the decision to book yours truly to shoot his far from ordinary summer adventures. Before I get down and dirty, about the summer schedule, I will just share these few words with you: Helicopters. Rocks. Buildings. Bridges.

I'm sure your brain is currently in the process of extrapolating proper sentences that these words bring to mind when speaking of action and adventure photography. The photograph posted herein is probably assisting with that process. Fear not, I will not leave you hanging in the wind. The complete thoughts will be shared.

Before unveiling what it is that will be going down, let me first share with you that I am super psyched, super pumped to be considered for the gig. Chase Jarvis, one of the world's premier commercial photographers, has been a huge inspiration of mine. The path he had chosen was not that of most photographers but that path has taken him to the top of the game. I tend to find myself walking a similar path. Chase has had absolutely no formal education in the field of photography, totally self taught. I think that this is one reason that I'm inspired by Chase. I too, am a self taught shooter. My path has been carved by reading, shooting, reading and some more shooting. This is not the only reason I've been inspired by one of the industry's best. The content that Chase Jarvis shoots is also a great motivator. I've always been drawn to his photographs of people participating in extreme type of sports.

Shooting people at their best in extreme situations has always been something that has been of huge interest to me. Thanks to Mikey Douthwaite, this opportunity will become a reality.

More after the jump...

The Awesomeness That Lies Ahead

The other day, Mikey and I had a long conversation over the phone. This was the day that a simple phone conversation caused an epinephrine rush that reminding me the times as a child when I was having a first phone conversation with the girl in class that I've had a crush on for the entire first semester. Ok, that analogy may have been a little weird but you get the point. My mind was going crazy, already contemplating ideas of how I would be shooting the awesomeness.

Almost an hour had past and the phones were hung up. Before the call, I could barely hold my eyes open, ready to count some sheep. After the hangup, I was ready to run a marathon. My heart was beating well beyond its normal range. I couldn't wait to tell, well, everyone.

So, I'm sure by now you are chomping at the bit, dying to know what is going down over the course of the next six months or so. By the way, what the hell does that even mean? Chomping at the bit? Corny as hell but it fit the mood of this paragraph. Just another reminder of my nerdiness. I digress.

First in the lineup of extreme activities is skydiving. Before I go any further, let me preface by saying that I will not, I repeat, will NOT, be jumping out of anything. Especially with over 10 G's worth of gear hanging around my neck. Even without the jumping, my State Farm agent, John Flaherty, had better make sure the pending policy has every T crossed and every I dotted. If my rig takes a 15,000 foot plunge to the earth, I'm guessing that the only surviving piece would be the strap. Funny, that's the least expensive part of the camera.

Ok, so the first adventure is skydiving but not just any ordinary skydive. No sir, that would be much to ordinary for Mikey and his crew of extremists. He has decided that he would rent a helicopter for the entire day, use and abuse it until they can jump no more. Mikey shared some ideas of how he would want to leap from the chopper. One of these jumps would require he hangs from the feet of bird and simply, let go. Other jump techniques were shared all the while I tried to envision how I would light and shoot the action.

It was explained to me that I would be securely strapped to the helicopter, allowing me to work from dangerous angles while the doors are opened. This was very reassuring.

As for shooting details, well those would be shared at the time I begin to release the photos. All I can think of thus far is that I would likely be shooting with Nikon's Nikkor 24-70 2.8 with nano coating. Yeah, this lens is supposed to rock and the added nano coating is super awesome. As for lighting, I'm sure I will be shooting a bunch of ambient only photos. Being that I'm a light junkie, I must figure a way to get some strobes in there. I can only think that I would bring about two speedlights and bungie or justin clamp them somewhere in the chopper's fuselage.

One of the next adventures are not set in stone as of yet (no pun intended). During the hour long conversation, there was discussion of BASE jumping. For those not familiar with the term, BASE is an acronym for Buildings, Antennae, Spans, Earth. As my mind was spinning with excitement, I think I missed which letter of the acronym would be the next jump. If I'm not mistaken, I believe he mentioned jumping from some rocks, really really big rocks. The difficult part of this shoot would not be lighting against the sun or which lens to choose. No sir, this would be a logistical difficulty. Not entirely sure how my out of shape ass would get me and the gear to the top of those rocks. I'm hoping I misheard what was said and that he actually meant Span, which stands for bridges. Bridges are meant for lazy guys such as myself to cross with little difficulty. So little that I would hope it is a bridge that I could drive me and the gear load right to the jump location. Yep, I'm always trying to plan how to make my job much more efficient (a.k.a. easy). Ah, if all else fails, that's what assistants are for.

Finally and probably one of the most exciting would be the planned BASE jump from the first letter of the acronym, the B. Yup, buildings.

I'm not quite sure how people come up with these ideas and decide they are good ideas but hey, who am I to judge. The tricky part of leaping off of tall buildings is not only getting into the skyscraper and past security. Not only is it tricky to find a place to land in a large urban area, the trickiest of parts is not to get caught. You see, this type of jumping and most BASE jumps are highly illegal in most American cities.

I discussed the legalities of the jump with Douthwaite. I mean, it's got to be somewhat difficult to be floating down to earth in a large city, with a enormous parachute and go unnoticed. I was assured that he would nail down the specifics before making the leap of faith. Included in the plans are a very savvy getaway driver, one that has this type of experience and can be at the exact location of the landing ready to sweep up any jumpers and speed away. I, on the other hand will simply take the elevator to safer grounds. Not as exciting but I will get just enough adrenaline from doing the shoot.

As for lighting this insanity, I'm hoping that it takes place in the evening, dawn or dusk, when the sky is full of awesome colors. As for trying to light the action, I'd probably opt for a softbox or bare strobe as an umbrella would catch too much wind and likely leave the building before the jumper.

Due to the legality of the situation, I am neither able to disclose the date, building nor the city that this is to take place. Once completed, I will gladly be sharing the best of the best photographs. By then, if Mikey escapes the scene of the crime, legality will no longer be an issue. I hope.

Should be interesting to say the least.

Expanding The Adventure Portfolio

I mentioned earlier how I've been wanting to shoot extreme sports enthusiasts. I decided to look through my archives to see if I had anything that came close to action adventure shots. As expected, I had not really traveled down that road, yet. It should and will be a game changer nonetheless. Besides shooting the jumps, I have also planned some other extremist shooting for my own personal projects. Just going to have to squeeze in that personal work when I'm not high up on a rock, God knows where.

The photo above is one that I had taken a few months back at a Philly street festival. I was working on shooting some editorial style street photography. You can read about that [here]. Although not as extreme as what will be on the summer agenda, I thought it would work well with today's post.

The woman, who I do not know, was doing some bungie jumping. Actually, I don't think it's called bungie jumping but it's somewhat similar. This is the type that you are shot from the ground, upward. It strangely resembles a slingshot firing a human in the vertical direction. Even this is a bit too much excitement for my constitution.

When shooting fast action such as this there are a couple of ways that you can freeze the motion. If shooting pure ambient, the fix is pretty basic. Shoot at a fast shutter speed. On this particular day, the sun was blazing hot and there wasn't a cloud in sight. This would allow me to set the camera at a very fast shutter speed. The settings for this particular shot were ISO 100, wide open at f/1.4 on 50mm glass and with a shutter of 1/2000 of a second. By the way, at 1.4 I was able to blow out the background nicely.

Another way that motion/action can be frozen is by using strobes. Strobes fire their flash at such a fast duration that even with a longer shutter speed, the motion will be frozen. I won't get into that today but feel free to check out that concept and how it works in a post I did [here], all about high speed photography.

Not going to get super nerdilicious today so I will give you the quick recap of how the photo was processed. I first did some RAW edits with Adobe's RAW editor and then opened in Photoshop for some tweaking and black and white conversion. Feel free to comment with any questions or shoot me an email at I'm open to any technical or other questions for that matter.


I have only one thought for this section today. I have a busy schedule ahead and Nikon better ship my new gear soon. Tired of hearing every excuse in the book for their delays. Tsunamis, firmware, shortages, over orders, you name it and I've read it on Nikon rumor sites and other sites for that matter, for their delay reasons. Come on, are you telling me they haven't shipped a single unit after putting out the prototypes and press release. Hard to believe.

Until next time...