These days it seems like everyone had a digital SLR. And if you know what a digital SLR is, then this story is for you. But just owning a nice camera isn?t going to make you good at shooting photos of wakeskating. As action sports go, it?s actually one of the hardest. Between the speed, its penchant towards tech vs. air and of course, all that splashing, capturing a good image of wakeskating, is well, hard. Truly great photos are a combination of having a good eye, being in the right place at the right time, being able to compose the shot, focus, and of course know what settings to have your camera on. Of course this takes practice and reading this will not really give you any of those things, but hopefully these tips will point you in the right direction. And if you get really good, all I ask is you send Alliance Wakeskate the photos first!
1. FOCUS. Getting the focus right is probably the single more important thing in digital photography. If your exposure is off, composition needs work, or colors don?t pop you can fix it in photoshop, but if the rider is soft, you are S.O.L. And don?t try and claim it?s artsy either. Trust me, magazine editors throw around the word ?soft? more than Randy Jackson says ?pitchy.? One thing that can help your focus are using focus points, especially when shooting on auto focus (those little red squares that show in your viewfinder.) Select the one where you want the rider to be in your shot and keep it on them. When you hit the shutter, the rider should be focused. If you are shooting from the tow boat, or can set your focus before hand, because you know where the rider will be hitting (such as winching) it?s often easier to get a sharp shot if you focus manually.
2. COMPOSITION. You don?t want to center your action, since that is the focus of your shot. Putting it slightly off center or towards the top will help move your eye around the shot and it will be much more effective. Also, pay attention to your background. If possible get the rider in the sky. And make sure there are no trees or flagpoles sticking out of their heads!
3. TIMING. No one wants to see the rider taking off or landing. Train yourself to shoot right at the peak of the trick. This is much harder than it sounds, and takes a lot of practice.
4. SHUTTER SPEED. Since wakeskating is fast, you?ll need a fast shutter speed. As a rule I try to never shoot below 500th of a second (unless you are using flash.) Use the shutter priority function on your camera if you don?t feel comfortable doing everything manually.
5. SHOOT RAW. The files are bigger and can be a pain to deal with, but you can change just about anything that?s wrong with the photo in Camera Raw. That said:
6. LEARN TO USE PHOTOSHOP. It?s almost as important being able to hit the shutter these days. At least get down the basics such as levels, shadow/highlight and brightness/contrast and you can do a lot with a little when it comes to photos.
7. THINK OF YOUR PERSONAL SAFETY. As I type this I have rope burn on my legs, so just be aware of your surroundings. Don?t stand where the rider will land on you (sometimes in the event of rider error it happens, but you should never be where they are trying to land, if you are not sure, ask.) Watch out for the rope, especially winching. That thing has a mind of it?s own, so if you are trying to shoot wide angle, stay back until the rope tightens and the rider is controlling it. Then you can move in and get the shot.
8. WORK WITH THE RIDER. If you have a good rapport with your subject you can get much better photos. Then you will be able to tell them which direction a trick looks better, or ask them to try something if you know if will make a great shot. Don?t force them into anything they are not comfortable with, and feel out the scene before you jump in and start shooting. If people aren?t into it, don?t be the guy who keeps shooting anyway. And even if you are not feeling a shot, if someone wants to try something, you might as well try it to. Maybe it will turn out cool. And after you take photos, but before you send them out, if possible, make sure the rider is ok with their body position, etc. You will learn what looks good and what doesn?t, but when starting out it?s ok to ask.
Well, I think that should get you started. Remember photography takes practice and even the super pros throw away most of their shots. But digital is awesome, you can make instant adjustments and do a lot after the fact. And it?s fun, so please don?t take my job.