The other day both Sam and I had the day off so we decided to head up to the trails for a little biking. Sam has sorta become my unofficial “talent” when it comes time to take the camera out of the bag. He’s usually a pretty good sport about it and it doesn’t hurt that he’s usually pretty good at whatever activity is happening. Anyway, yesterday was a gorgeous day. Now, you might think that’s a good thing… but you’d be slightly wrong. Those perfect bluebird days are beautiful, but the light is pretty harsh and contrasty reducing your options when taking photos. I don’t want to say that this type of light is bad… you should always be able to find something or someway to shoot. However, it is not ideal.
Below you can see an image that I took a couple of days ago on a pretty overcast day. The image itself isn’t anything special, but in my mind it should look pretty cool in black and white and the fallen trees forming an “X” add some visual interest… now we just need a rider.
In the next image you can see the light conditions we were dealing with yesterday. Things are super contrasty. Notice how in the image above there are no shadows around the trees because of the super soft light coming from almost every direction, but in the image below there are all of these almost black lines created by the shadows of the trunks. This location was very open, so what do you do… move into the woods where you have some cover.
In the next image I was shooting up the trail into the bright sky behind Sam. I exposed for Sam’s body and let the background blowout. My goal is to separate the rider from the background, and by blowing out the background we effectively put more emphasis on the rider. I also like the effect of the white helmet and white shirt blending into the background.
For the next image we found a nice high speed, swoopy section of trail. The light here was pretty good, but the spot right were I wanted the rider to be had a streak of light coming through the canopy and was making things difficult. So, here I decided to add in a little strobe. My SB-800 was set in commander mode, manual, and I think it was at 1/4 power. It was maybe 8-10 feet in front of and to the left of the rider (camera right). The sun provided a nice rim light and the backlighting on the trees really helped make the greens pop. These were definitely my favorite images from the ride.
Here is another image from the day. This one was shot with just the ambient light, and I think they ended up a little over processed due to me pushing the mid-tones to retrieve some of the detail. I do think they look pretty cool, but I wish the light had been a little softer and more diffuse.
Overall it was a lot of fun shooting, and we got a bunch of riding in on top of it. It’s always good shooting in challenging conditions, and I’m just happy to have come home with some images I don’t think are total crap. Most of the time it only took a minute or two to get everything setup, even if I decided to use strobe. I would have Sam stand where I think I wanted him to be, dial in my exposure, then start making live runs. Sometimes it would take a frame or two to find out where I had to focus and get the timing right, but after that it was smooth sailing. Every run is a little different, so in a sense it’s a little bit of a crapshoot, but we tried to control everything we could, including showing the rider the images and discussing how we wanted him to ride something, to improve our chances of getting a few keepers.
(you can click on the images to see them a little bigger 800px vs 600px… the compression makes some of them seem a little soft in the post)