Archive for August, 2009

Downhill

A couple of weeks ago I sent this gallery out over my Facebook and Twitter accounts…and I think you all are due for an explanation! Pictured above is an old friend of mine named Dave Kalt, who is a fire fighter in Montgomery County, MD by trade and on his days off you’ll find him bombing the hills of Gambril State Park in Fredrick. I’ve known Dave since my days working at Hard Times Cafe in Rockville where he was a regular patron and even did a few shifts behind the bar. I decided to get up with him and propose this shoot after seeing some pretty sweet shots on his Facebook page and knowing that we could do one better.

Not wanting to settle for just average pictures, I headed up to the course with a gear bag packed to its fullest and now I’m not sure where my thinking was with that call? After taking one trip up to the top of the trail, I quickly determined that it wasn’t going to happen unless there was a local Sherpa that wanted to work pro bono. I decided to cut my gear down to just one lens, two PocketWizard IIs, and a Justin Clamp andlike I always say,”travel light, travel fast.”

Initially I had imagined that this shoot would go something like this; find a good angle, wait for the guys to come screaming down, grab a bunch of frames, pack up and move to another location, rinse, wash, repeat (I know I repeat this in some of my other posts but please bare with me). BUT, when I ran this plan by Dave he graciously offered to repeat each section until I got the shot! This goes against my practices as a photojournalist… but holy smokes was it so much easier this way! The best part is that Dave has a really creative mind, so we were able to put our heads together to make many of these shots happen and I got a lot of really solid feedback from him on how to improve each grab.

I set up the image (above) with a bare flash set to about 1/16th power zoomed to 70mm. A nice thing about shooting with astrobe is that you don’t have to place too much credence in a fast shutter speed since the incoming light from the strobe is going freeze everything in its immediate path, which is why Dave is sharp from the handlebars back.

These next two shots were captured similarly, but I wanted to go for more of a dramatic effect with the one on the left which is why the incoming flash was set perpendicular to Dave’s drop off point. For the image on the right, I had my flash set high in a tree (thanks Chris (he’s tall, I’m short)) at about 1/4 power to compensate for the increased distance from the rider. We shot this a couple of times after noting the stark difference the overhead clouds made. We were very fortunate to have that little sun spot shine through towards the top right of the frame that conveniently highlighted the rest of the path.

The picture on the left was captured towards the end of the day and I really dig the punchy, dramatic light on Dave’s face and jersey. I also dig how sharp this frame turned out. The image on the right was an idea that I had and thankfully Chris was willing to sacrifice himself by running into a tree after he landed his jump! I wish I had another strobe and remote to light Dave in the back, but it’s probably better that I didn’tsince I would have had the guys out there all day trying to line up that timing.

Chris was an awesome subject to shoot as well with his “huckster” style that’s easy to see in contrast to Dave’s “racer” style when you take the time to browse through the whole gallery.

Both Dave and Chris were very patient and killer to work with. I’m incredibly happy with how the shots turned out that day and can’t wait to get outside again for another sports shoot.

One last really important note; I am now full time with photography! Yes, I gave up my day job as a defense contractor to pursue what I love, and with my unbelievably supportive girlfriend Amy I am very confident that we can make this a successful career for me. BUT, I can’t do it alone and I thank you all for your support and ask that you please continue to promote what I do since none of this would have been possible without your great referrals.

Chandler Smalley

This here is my 16 year old cousin Chandler (high res), who is the oldest out of the nine grandchildren after me and Matt. I forgot what our handshake deal was, but I do remember winning 15 minutes out of her busy adolescent time for a sunset shot since I can’t seem to find any women (aside from Amy) who will pose for me.

This shot was a little more difficult than it looks since the dock we went with had these really bright, gross sodium-vapor lamps that spat out this slime green light. Not to mention the mosquitoes were no holds barred mid summer in the Outer Banks, NC so we had to get in and out with precision.

Fortunately, I had a crack team with me consisting of my other two 15 and 11 year old cousins. The older and taller cousin held myManfrotto Nano light stand with a 43″ silver/white umbrella shot through with a Full CTO gel just high enough to block the nearest dock lamp. With the light fading fast, I equipped my younger cousin with my Sekonic L-758DR light meter and taught him how to read off aperture values to the one holding the umbrella, instructing him to move the light forward and backwards until the numbers matched up.

If I had to do it again, I would have used my 48″ reflector to block that lamp and completely eliminate the sodium-vapor bulb since too much light still came through the umbrella and made those highlights on Chandler’s face. This was one of five, and as you can tell from the background we didn’t have much time to work with but we got the shot! Just a hair of Photoshop (I’m a reformed minimalist now) and I’m very pleased with how this turned out.