Each year as we approach the deadline for the Gear Guide things start to get a little hectic. Okay, they start to get a lot hectic. When you’re stuffing as much information into a single issue of a magazine as we do with the Gear Guide the proverbial poop can quickly hit the proverbial fan. Because the Gear Guide is such a different issue from all the others we publish in a year, we try to get a little more outside the box with the cover photos. A few years ago I did some light painting to highlight all the new product, two years ago photographer Jason Lee got about as close to Trevor Hansen via a chase boat as possible without running him over in order to get a new, rad angle, and last year I shot a really abstract detail shot down the rails of a stack of boards.

For 2011 we knew we wanted an action shot, but we also wanted to highlight as many new boards as possible within an action shot. The magazine staff bounced around some different ideas and we decided that somehow getting a bunch of the boards to float next to a rail while a rider slid over them could be the answer. Early one morning, way too close to the mag’s deadline (per usual), video man Patrick Wieland, test dummy Jeff McKee, and myself headed out to the Projects to try to make magic. We knew that holding the boards in place would be a problem because of the PWC rollers go through with every pass at the rail, so Jeff an Patrick broke out the fishing line and started tying boards together and then tying groups of boards to the main supports of the rail. This took longer than we expected. Okay, a lot longer.

Eventually all the boards were tied up and in place and we were ready to shoot. Almost. We still needed to get me (the photographer) up above the rail so I could look straight down on the action and the mass of floating boards. Fortunately Pat Panakos and his Wake Park Project crew had a large forklift for moving around the dismantled pieces of Wake of Fame on hand and were able to hoist me out over the water. It was a little sketchy because I wasn’t in the normal “cherry picker” basket with rails — I was just standing on a wood pallet being held up by the two forks of the forklift and looking straight down over the rail. The first time Jeff hit the rail though, I knew we had good cover shot potential. Unfortunately for Jeff he probably had to hit the rail close to 50 times in order to make sure we got things right (focus, right trick, framing for cover positioning, keeping the boards in the shot, etc). Patrick ended up not even being able to film because he had to stay in the water and be the “board control dude” to keep the wakeboards in a decent spot.

I tried a couple with the rail cutting through the frame from corner to corner

When shooting a cover you have to make sure to leave room for the text that's going to be placed on it

In the end the shot turned out to be different and pretty cool. Here are the settings from the camera:

Canon EOS 1D Mark IIn camera, Canon 16-35mm f2.8 L lens @ 27mm, ISO 400, aperture: f5, shutter: 1/2000th.

This shot ended up taking the cake

I had to use a really fast shutter speed because the camera was staying still and holding the frame and I would then fire as Jeff moved through it. So I couldn’t pan with him to “slow the action” of his movement. I also needed to keep Jeff and the boards in focus while I was fairly close to them in proximity, so I stuck with f5. The fast shutter and smaller aperture meant I needed to bump my ISO up to 400.

The final product