I don’t consider myself a real athlete, although at 6’5” most people assume I am one. I enjoy being active, but I’m not entertained by following any sports. I have realized, however, that I do enjoy working with athletes for portraits. This project was about getting a good environmental action shot of Anouxa (uh-new-suh), who is a high school track coach.
We started shooting this one without a real specific plan. I met up with him at the bleachers, started having a look around, and asked him to try running by me at a few different parts of the track, but nothing was really grabbing my interest. As my assistant was arriving, Anouxa pointed out the long jump pit and said that it was his event. I had an intriguing mental picture of him soaring over a raked sand garden, and off we went to set up the shot.
The first image we worked out was of him jumping at the camera. He started out wearing an olympic style USA jersey, but it was blue against the blue sky. Fortunately, at my prior request, he had brought several changes of clothes. I had him put on a red jersey, which worked well against the sky, and tied in with the red on his shoes, and the red track.
To get this shot I used my 21mm lens, and held my camera down low over the sand. I had to stand slightly to the side while trying to hold the camera directly in front of him as he was jumping. Because I was pulling the camera in the direction of his jump, and then pulling it out of the way before he landed on it, I wasn’t able to use the viewfinder to frame the shot. After some trial, much error, and many great jumps, I finally got the framing right.
The lighting is pretty simple for the frontal shot: a strobe on each side with an umbrella about even with his waist just after the point of take off. The key light is the sun, which was being elusive that day behind clouds. That being said, the clouds visible in shot add to the sense of flight, and I’m glad we had them that day.
For the profile view we changed the setup by moving the light that was on his left from near the launch point to out of frame on the camera’s right. I also changed out the umbrella for the Magnum Reflector, to give a sharper rim light. You can see that light just starting to flare the lens on the right, but I like it, as it adds to the magic.
Both images were shot at 180th of a second, which allows for a little sense of movement and energy. Also, the aperture was set around f/4 or f/5.6. With the wide angle lens, this gave me enough depth of field so I could prefocus on the sand, and be able to handhold the shot without having to look trough the viewfinder.
It’s subtle, but one of my favorite things is that you can see little bits of sand flying along with him from his takeoff. I tried not to worry too much about getting sand in my equipment. Speaking of sand, a big thanks goes to my assistant for raking it so nicely after each of the 50 jumps!