This would be my second year shooting at FDR Skatepark in South Philly. As in the past, I departed, wanting just one more taste.
The Burning Itch
FDR skatepark, appropriately situated beneath i95, at the ass end of FDR park. Perfect.
This skatepark is't the place you take your children with their toy store boards and shiny helmets. Only the hardcore skate here. Dusty attire minus any protective gear.
Talk is minimal. The air is filled with the aroma of home grown and intensity.
Pounders of PBR and graffiti give the decor to the unkempt ground. It's beautiful.
Loading up my bag with the bare minimums, my heart began to race with excitement as the reality of shooting on this sacred ground would soon materialize.
Guess what? This place is raw as raw can be. Showing up with a bunch stands, Wizards, strobes and such just feels a bit, well, I don't know how to explain it. What I can say is that I feel pure when I show up with nothing but one creative mind, one coffee, one bottle of water and one camera in my sack (with three lenses).
I wasn't concerning myself with apparent light size, flash to subject distance or any of that. Ambient light would be the only means of creating an exposure. That and the truly awesome sensor that lives in Betsy's belly (Nikon D4). Shit, I keep forgetting to mention the glass. Yes, the ambient, the sensor and last but not least, fast lenses (50mm f1.4, 85mm f/1.8G, 24-70 f/2.8G ED).
Pulling away from my digs, I crank Jack White's newest album, Lazaretto. If asked who is my greatest inspiration in the world of art, the answer every time is Jack White, the musician. What he does with a guitar simply twists my brain into knots. Not only brilliant, different. The recipe for success in the creative world.
I sipped my still piping hot coffee as I made my way back to the SUV, taking in my surroundings, identifying the light and deciding which glass I would start the day with.
My friends, I'm not in any way telling you to put your life at risk but if you want to create an image that is awesome or more importantly, different, there are some lines that you'll have to cross.
I began warming up from some normal, safe positions. Eh, shit wasn't making my hair stand up by any means. I had to get freaky; low angles, high angles, tight and I mean super tight.
At one point I asked if I could lie on the ramp, on my back facing upward on the incline of the half pipe. Basically my big ass would be an obstacle. A third time I explained that if anyone would crash into me that I would not be angry.
As I sit here typing, you can deduce that I'm still alive.
The view from above was beautiful. A bird's eye view of the action below. Interestingly, even though an awesome perspective, I didn't get the shots I wanted up there. I prefer closer up and in your face.
Last but not least, I worked my way over to the "Bunker," the area of the concrete pools and the "Dome" are located.
There I discovered what was, in my opinion, a beautifully choreographed ballet of the underground.
Again, not much being said, just pure rhythmic talent, one by one, taking their turn attempting to defeat the concrete jungle.
I was in heaven.
Nerd File ::
The big lesson of this type of shoot is that there is a shit load of variety. Never would I pick and exposure, set it and forget it. That would be photographic suicide.
One option? Here comes the lynch mob. Pick an auto feature such as Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or hell, go crazy and dust off that Program mode.
People, if your shooting under a freaking highway, there are going to be some lighting changes based on where you are shooting from. You can make sure to keep an eye on your meter all day long while you tweak your settings and missing the shot or you can find some solace with one of your auto features. With that you can focus on the action around you.
Personally, I still worked in Manual mode but with ISO running automatically. In semi-full manual, I would be able to decide, creatively, the shutter and depth of field. I have the ISO locked never to dip below 100 or go beyond 12,800. I'm totally comfortable shooting at those or any ISO levels in between.