Tutorials

Skateboarder with Smoke Grenades

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broncolor recently announced HS technology for the Move 1200 L packs. This allows full flash sync at shutter speeds up to 1/8,000s.

The broncolor ad concept was to capture a skateboarder “jumping over the sun”. I decided to add another level of complexity by including a smoke grenade – more motion a little more POP!

The best way to pull this off is with a professional skater – in my case, Canadian skate legend Clement Lush. Clement is known for his big airs and smooth style.

I needed to visualize the shot so Clement showed me his line and how he anticipated hitting this hip jump for maximum air. We could predict his take-off and landing points perfectly. The consistency of a professional athlete – the ability to do the same stunt again and again within centimetres makes my job as shoot designer and photographer so much easier.

I kept my camera mounted low to the ground on a heavy tripod to minimize movement and make any future stitching that much easier. I used a cable shutter release to further minimize camera shake.

I brought two Move 1200 L packs and two mobiLED lampheads. For the sun effect, I used a P45 reflector on a tall light stand. I positioned it where I knew Clement was going to reach the most height in his jump.

Main light right was the sun – you just can’t get any brighter than that on a sunny day. Fill light was provided by a para 88HR, with the mobiLED focused in about half way. Without a Fill light, the shadows would have been very dark on Clement’s left side and the image would be too contrasty.

Freezing action this fast requires fast shutter speeds. I settled on 1/2,500s to perfectly catch Clement in action. An aperture of f/4 provided sufficient depth of field to cover the jump with the camera positioned to keep the focus plane flat. I manually focused the lens just in front of the lip of the jump so my camera wouldn’t “hunt” and miss any shots.

I found the best ISO to match my shutter speed and aperture to be ISO100 – this kept my sky dark. Now, it was a matter of matching the strobes to the camera settings to get the correct exposure.

After a few test shots, I was able to sync the power of my Move packs to the fastest Continuous High shutter release of my Nikon D810 at 5 frames per second.

It was now time to get the smoke going! We duct-taped the smoke grenade to the bottom of Clement’s board and he did a couple of test jumps to get used to the feel of the extra weight. We were now set for the “money shot”.

Smoke grenades are dangerous!! Public Safety Announcement!! Smoke grenades are dangerous!!

Smoke grenades should be treated like any other pyrotechnic – they get very hot and should NEVER BE HANDHELD!

We learned very quickly on Clement’s first jump just how careful we needed to be. The smoke grenade was right where he grabs the board resulting in singed fingertips. Also, a piece of tape that was close to the opening of the smoke grenade caught fire.

We had sand nearby just in case, but the flame went out quickly and Clement hit the hip a couple more times. With a position change for the second smoke grenade, the clouds blew in and everything worked to get the exact shot I wanted! Clement flew up the hip, with a trail of red smoke behind him, up and over the “sun” and landed perfectly.

You can see the final image in the Summer 2017 PHOTONews magazine.

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Gear used:

Extra special thanks to Clement Lush (Lush Brothers Entertainment http://lushbrothers.com/) and to my two assistants for their help and BTS images: Leif Petersen (http://leifpetersen.ca/) and Giancarlo Pawelec (http://www.pawelecphoto.com)

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