Behind the Photo: Nick Taylor’s cover
Back in May I headed up to Nick Taylor’s private compound to do a photoshoot with him and Ben Horan. For almost a year Nick and I had been trying to find a time to meet up and take pictures, but the timing never worked out. The waiting paid off though, as the one evening and morning of shooting produced a bunch of great images that ended up being used in Alliance throughout the year, with Nick’s first cover of Alliance being the icing on the cake.
Shooting at private setups like Nick’s place, Henshaw’s Area 52, Reed Hansen’s Battle Falls, and others actually makes for fairly easy shooting, so to speak. Everything is in close proximity and you can try a bunch of different things in terms of lenses, lighting, and angles. The hardest part for me when I first got to Nick’s place was figuring out where I wanted to shoot first because there are so many options. Nick wanted to get some tricks from the top pool of his setup first, so I grabbed my fisheye lens to try some up-close shots. After getting a couple solid sequences of a switch frontside flip and a backside big spin, it started getting darker, so I set up two of my strobes. One behind me and off to the side as the main light, and one behind Nick as a rim light – mainly to light up the spray that would come off of Nick’s ollie/board. On that second light I used a blue gel to try to add a little color and something different to the photo. First shot with the lights on and Nick tried a backside flip down the gap. I immediately knew we had something special.
My first shot from that take was horizontal, but after looking at it I thought we had cover-potential and that the photo might look cooler shot vertically, so I switched up the framing and just kept working with Nick on getting the timing right. The blue gel was really adding a cool effect to the water, and the water trail coming off a backside flip had this really unique swirl look to it.
This shot was a little too low with too much sky (and I didn’t like catching the flare from the flash behind me). I also fired a bit too early and caught Nick’s board before it was fully flipped over.
This was getting closer. It was an almost identical shot to the one that made it on the cover.
This photo stood out to me amongst the rest because of a couple small details. The first was being able to see Nick’s foot as his board rotated the flip underneath. The second was the blue reflection of the water on Nick’s board, from the blue gel on the strobe. I thought it was a cool element that made the photo that much more unique. Nick and I were both stoked on the photos from that night and we ended up shooting for another hour or so using the headlights from Ben Horan’s van to light up the ledge in the bottom pool.
Camera: Canon 5D MarkIII
Lens: Sigma 15mm fisheye
Lights: AlienBees 800
Originally I thought this frame of Nick would end up in Photo Annual, which is always cool. The Alliance Photo Annual is, in my totally biased opinion, the best collection of photos from the year in a single issue of a magazine, and everybody at the mag spends hours going over submissions trying to figure out what should make it and what should be cut. It’s not an easy task, and even though I’m the Editor my photos don’t carry any more weight or favoritism than any other photographer’s. We want the Photo Annual to truly be the best photos of the year, no matter who is riding or who shot the photo. After going through a couple rounds of Photo Annual submissions, we started discussing Nick’s shot as a potential cover. There were three or four other really amazing photographs being considered for the cover, and we had a lot of debate as to which one should get the coveted spot. In the end Nick’s photo was selected and I was excited and honored to have our picture chosen. Sometimes it can be tough taking a photo in May and waiting until November for it to be seen by the public, but in this case it was more than worth it. I didn’t tell Nick about getting the cover until the mag came out, so he could get a nice surprise. I knew it was his first cover of Alliance and that he’d be stoked. After all the hard work he’s put into wakeskating, as a rider, ambassador, and builder/manager of his property, it was well deserved.