Shooting Motocross

Hi and welcome to this post about shooting Motocross in a professional way.

As you know, I’m working on a sports project this year. I started with swimming in March and proceeded to motocross in April, then to track and field in May and in fall/winter I will shoot volleyball and other indoor sports.

Today I want to show you a professional way to shoot motocross scenes.

Mostly the problem of shooting motocross is a blown out sky and black faces caused by long shutter speeds to reveal the rider from shadow caused by backlight. Also if you shoot with the light you have often these problems.

Available light shots often don’t offer the possibility to shoot with high shutter speeds to freeze the action so that especially the wheels of the motorcycle show motion blur. You will need at least a shutter speed around 1/2500s to freeze the motion. But when there is not enough available light you have to reduce the shutter speed and that results in a blown out sky and motion blur.
Finally, the typical available motocross image looks like the following.

Image 1: (Photo: GOGO Visual (Creative Commons: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)))

As a perfectionist I have a professional approach. That means that I want great images that contrast from competitors. So, I have to think about a solution to get better images than the other photographers. In the case of motocross images I have to solve the blown out sky problem, the contrast problem and the dark face problem plus the motion blur problem.
All these problems have one basis: LIGHT. If light causes these problems, it will also solve them. The point is that I just have to use it for my purposes.
I cannot adjust the sun and I cannot blind the riders by using a reflector – so, I need my own adjustable light – FLASHLIGHT.

I know that there are photographers out there who are using flash for sports coverage  no more because they got more kicks than half-pence when they used flash. Just because they weren’t able to use it in the right way. Maybe they shot straight away with an on camera flash at full power, disturbing and blinding athletes don’t knowing that there is the ability to use iTTL and off-camera flash. What a pity! Maybe they blew down athletes and therefore got beef. Finally, it’s no surprise that indoor sports are shot with ultra high ISO that causes grainy sports images and bad contrast and color. So, it’s also important to know technical details about photography.
But using flash at daytime – outdoors?! Is that possible? It is, indeed. You just need a vision, knowledge about current solutions and technology. 😉

As a “Nikonian” I’m using the NIKON SB-800 flashgun. Here I can use FP-Sync to get shutter speeds up to 1/8000s. That enables me to blend available light and flash light also at daytime. A fast sync speed takes more power so I need much more flashes. I tried four NIKON SB-800 Speedlights. Another advantage is that because I can effectively blend available light and flash light I don’t disturb or blind the athletes. That’s because I don’t need that giant flash that makes the flash light the primary light. Typical flash solutions have a maximum sync speed of 1/250s so they must be brighter than the ambient light to prevent blurring. But with FP-Sync I don’t have that requirement. Of course, it’s that easy!

Because motocross is not static I need a portable solution. So, let’s see what’s possible.
Building a portable flash solution that offers enough flash power isn’t a problem. There are already solutions on the market.
As I already said, I’m using the NIKON SB-800 Speedlight. The great thing about it is that they have plenty of power plus the NIKON Creative Lighting System (CLS). It allows you to combine as many flashes as you want and adjust their power output separately and control and trigger them wirelessly.
I trigger the Speedlights via the NIKON SU-800 Commander wirelessly over a distance of 20 meters. To get a greater distance I’m using the RadioPopper PX System. With this solution I can trigger the Speedlights from more than 400 meters away. The RadioPopper transmitter converts the infrared signal from the SU-800 to a radio signal and the RadioPopper receiver converts this radio signal back to an infrared signal for the SB-800.
For my portable flash solution I’m using  four Speedlights and put them on SuperClamps which I mounted on a Monopod. To trigger all SB-800s I’m using one RadioPopper receiver. It’s connectet with the Speedlights via a black box and optic fibre cable.

Image 3: DIY Quadlight with RadioPopper solution

On location my assistant controls the light by adjusting the DIY Quadlight into the right direction and following the motorcycle.

Image 4: DIY Quadlight in action

Using flash solves all the problems named above. Thanks to FP-Sync I can use 1/2500s to freeze the action. I also have enough light to reveal the rider from backlight and shadow. And my images are rich in contrast without post processing.

Image 5: The high-quality result

Finally, I can create high-quality images without time-consuming post processing, plus: I contrast from my competitors that just have the typical motocross images that maybe need some time-consuming post processing. While they are sitting in front of the computer editing their images, I have already sent my images of the motocross race to the newspapers and sold some images to the riders and fans on location. The early bird gets the worm. 😉

Bye!
Chris


Shooting Car Interiors – In An Improvised Studio

Hi and welcome to this blog post about how to shoot a commercial-like car interior photo in an improvised studio.

! Before I will come to the topic, I want to note that I will publish blog posts in a regular basis from now on – every 1st and 3rd Sunday of a month.

Okay, lets start.

A few month ago, I made my first try on car photography in a more professional and commercial-like way.
Except that I love to drive cars and think that tuning them discreetly is necessary I’m not a real car fan. However, my interest on this field of photography grew because of my ambition to shoot portraits of people in a context to their interests. I started with my grandpa and his 1956 BMW motorcycle and when my cousin Anna-Lena will get her drivers license I also want to take a photo of her and her first car etc. I don’t just want to take an usual photo but something special. To me that “something special” is a commercial-like looking image – shot with professional techniques and camera systems to get high-quality. That’s my approach in all fields of photography that I’m active in. I just love that commercial look and the high-quality.

After I shot an Audi A4 from outside a few months ago, I wanted to take an interior shot this time. Therefor I used a 5er BMW.

At the Audi shoot I recognized that I would need a much bigger white surface to bounce off the flash to flood the car with 5000K warm light.
For the interior shot I built an improvised studio in the garage. The garage was renovated a few years ago and is shiny white now. Because I only wanted to shoot the cockpit of the BMW I would only need three white walls that surround it. I hung up a white plastic blanket to hide the work bench and to have also a plain white surface in front of the car.


Finally, I had three white walls to bounce off the flash to illuminate the car interior with diffuse light.
The wrinkles on the blanket don’t matter because the flash will lighten it up so strong that you won’t see any of the wrinkles in the final image.
Then I drove in the car and began to mount the Nikon Speedlights. I mounted one Speedlight on every roof rail and adjusted it so that its light would bounce off the ceiling and wall. A third Speedlight I just set in the middle of the car roof – it would illuminate the ceiling and blanket in front of the car. Finally, the cockpit would be illuminated from all three sides by a diffuse light.


In the next step, I set up the camera inside the car on the back seat. To have more working space I expanded the trunk by turning down the back seats.
I used a small tripod and arranged it in the right position – in the middle of the car.
To control the Speedlights I used the Nikon SB-800 Commander and set them to manual power. The Speedlights on the left and right were set to group A and the one in the middle to group B – all with an power output of 1/1 and zoomed to 14mm to spread the light as much as possible to flood the cockpit with soft 5000K warm light.
My Nikon D3 was also set to manual mode and I used a Tamron 10-24mm/4.5-5.6 lens.


I thought it would take a bit more of lighting arrangement but right after the second shot the whole shoot was done. Here’s the result:


Very commercial-like.
The white windows an mirrors are easy to select with the Photoshop “Magic Wand Tool” to insert a scenery or whatever.

I gave it a try and inserted the Skyline of Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


However, the next time I will create a 100% realistic car interior image without photoshopping the windows and mirrors …
So, maybe you want to turn your garage into a car studio now, too … Have fun!

Bye!
Chris


Going Commercial

Hi everybody and welcome to this short posting!

I just wanted to give you another tip: If you are interested in commercial photography and you want to go deeper into it maybe Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) is what you have been looking for. Well, today commercial photography becomes more and more post-processing and computer. So, CGI could be the next step to a still more computer based photography.

If you are a student, Autodesk Software offers you a wide product range of their professional software for free! That’s pretty cool. I love these services. Also Microsoft offers this through its Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance (MSDN AA).
Just join the Autodesk Education Community. Autodesk will check your data because you need to be a student and enrolled.

For professional CGI use Autodesk 3ds Max.

Bye!
Chris