It’s been a while between posts, so time for another. On Sunday I had quite a demanding photoshoot. The TOTS team ( TOTS = Top of the South – Nelson, Marlborough and the West Coast) wanted a team photo, plus individual shots of each gymnast. I got a formal one, but then managed to catch a more lively one which I prefer:
I’ll talk about the technical details later. The individual shots were so much easier than those taken in competition. It wasn’t just the light levels. I was able to ask each gymnast about their favourite element, watch them demonstrate it, agree on the camera position, set up the lighting and then run through several attempts until we had a shot the gymnast was happy with. It was fun for me, and I think they were pleased with the results.
Here are some examples:
This next one is called a ‘tick tock’ (or a ‘walkover’). (?)
Their flexibility is sometimes painful for an old guy to watch:
This next one, up on the high bar, was difficult. Not only was the placing of the lights much more constrained, but I had to catch the exact moment when Sam did this really difficult move.
For the first two or three the lighting was not right, then I missed the moment for the next two. Trouble was, this move came near the end of a difficult routine. Poor Sam was running out of steam (and I didn’t want him to injure himself by overdoing it, so close to the nationals). But the fifth one was great. With a bit more PP work, that one could be very good.
The overall result of the morning’s efforts was a montage that looked like this (but with the more serious version):
For the photographers: I used three flash units: two Nikon SB800s and a borrowed SB700. For the group photo two flashguns were pointed into one umbrella, mounted almost 3m high behind the camera, while the third was placed low down a fair way behind the group. I didn’t have much time (they were supposed to be training), or I would have played a bit more with the exposure setting and placement of that third flash.
For the individual shots the setup was a bit different. I used the two flashguns through an umbrella, often quite close to the subject at about 45 degrees. The third was often placed opposite, shooting back towards the camera to give some rim lighting. I used a homemade snoot to keep that flash out of the lens.
I set the camera on manual, 1/250s at f:11 or f:16. That effectively killed the ambient light (which is terrible, horrible, old, cycling sodium vapour lamps) and eliminated much of the very distracting backgrounds.
Thanks to the Nikon photographers on Nikonians.org who gave me advice on the various options. Thanks also to my brother for his tips ( http://ianrobertsonphotography.co.nz/ ) Most of my work is with available light, so this was an interesting learning experience for me!
That afternoon and evening I really suffered. My shins and ankles were on fire. I eventually worked out the reason: I had spent almost 4 hours, much of the time standing or kneeling on soft mats. The small, unused muscles had been working overtime and were letting me know. The gymnasts would find that hilarious, I know. I think it’s called getting old.
Postscript: At the Gymsports NZ National Championships in Hawkes Bay in October I was asked by the IT guys whether I had any images they could use as ‘fillers’ on the big screen. “Sure” I replied. “I’ve got some from the Nelson team shoot you can use, until I get some more from today’s competition.” The following morning I was approached in the foyer by girls from the Nelson team. “We’re on the big screen!” they said. “Was that OK?” I asked (forgetting how much we enjoy seeing ourselves up on the screen). “Awesome!” was the response. And of course it would be. Instead of doing the move under pressure, in competition, they had the chance to repeat it until they had it just right. Then the finished result was displayed in front of their peers. No wonder they felt good!