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  1. #1
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    Last minute tips needed for shooting riders in action!

    Going to try my first mountain biking action photo shoot tomorrow morning! Hopefully there will be some action on some CT single track. Nothing special just an amateur giving shooting mountain biking a try with some friends, non-event, non-competition, non-pros. And hopefully I will get something worth posting. Or at least some profile pics for these guys on Facebook and Strava, ha!

    I will be carrying my F-Stop Lokia backpack with my gripped Canon 7D, 16-35L / 2.8, 24-70L / 2.8, 2 x Canon 580EXIIs, Pocketwizards and portable stands. After I see how this goes, maybe next time I can play with some other lenses like fisheyes and what not.

    Any advice / tips for a first time try at shooting riders in action?

    Trying to build a portfolio for activities I love: Ben-Exposed Photography (flash based)

  2. #2
    gran jefe
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    have the camera down low
    sit somewhere that the riders are doing something interesting, like the inside of the entrance a fast turn
    but dont get in the way.
    consider using a flash for fill
    don't set up on a climb. ugh.
    put up posters or just sheets of paper at the registration/checkin telling ppl where to go see race photos. or leave business cards if you have them.
    take other pics too, like people unloading their bikes, people at vendors booths, families together, etc

    good luck!

  3. #3
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    Thanks Bill! This first try is just me and some friends out riding.

  4. #4
    gran jefe
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    oops, i am bad at reading...

  5. #5
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    So, I took my first ever mountain biking action shots Saturday morning. They did not come out anywhere near as well as I was hoping. I think they could have used (1) much more exciting terrain/features/scenery, as what we rode was fun to ride and had some technical/rocky/challenging sections. But it certainly doesn't look very exciting in my pictures. And (2) I should have used the flashes I brought with me to make the guys "pop" in the pictures. Lazy me didn't set them up. I would definitely carry the gear again on a ride if we find a place with some terrain/features that will look better in pictures. I was surprised how much a 35+ pound pack can take out of you while riding, let alone going down some steep slick rock with the pack pulling you forward (out and over the bars). Made my ride much more of a workout that's for sure.

    Anyway, here are a few of the results (with more in the gallery here):




  6. #6
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    Hey I think those turned out pretty good!

    I feel like its hard to compete with all the extreme sports media we see everyday. But its fun to see "real" people out and about!

    I dont know where you are, but maybe some steeper/ more technical terrain would be good for your next shoot?

  7. #7
    gran jefe
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    looks like a fun time!

    see the top right and bottom left photos? if you got down lower, and had a little fill flash, those would be super.

    on the bottom right one, i'd use editing software to bump up the contrast a bit, and maybe bump up the color. maybe its just my monitor, but it looks a little washed out or hazy. add enough contrast to get the shaded part of his shirt to be black, and see what you think.

    it's an art. i'm looking forward to seeing the next round!

  8. #8
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    How did those f2.8 lenses work for you? Any focus issues? Here in western Washington it's very dark in the woods and my f3.5 and f4 lenses couldn't autofocus on the riders. I bought a Tamron f2.8 28-75mm lenses buy haven't been able to test it yet in the woods here. My first time using it I was in a clear cut and had sunny conditions.

    The strobes would have really helped. Good shots otherwise.

  9. #9
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    Thanks all, and great advice!

    olyvtx, I love my L glass, these 2.8s didn't have a problem focusing.

  10. #10
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    For your first time shooting MTB ; I would say that these are excellent shots.

    The elements for bumping them to great shots are all there.

    You obviously have an eye for composition since you don't need help in that area.

    I hope that anything I say here comes across objectively and I hope I can do my best to make it come across that way.

    Looking at your photos; it gives me the impression that your friends were the main subject of the photos. As opposed to MTB-ing in general. You could (maybe you have) mix it up a bit by vantage point and zooming out showing more of a relationship between rider and environment?

    Sounds like you knew once you looked at your images that flash would have added another dimension to your images.
    Having the sun available; a strobe could have been used as "fill" flash. Testing the output by -1/2 and lower would nicely add a "kiss" of light into shadows. On that note, if you have another strobe working off a slave; it could be positioned (by means of these mini-clamp/tripods type that can grab branches or rocks) behind your subject creating backlighting (rim lighting)which would isolate and separate your subject from the background even further.

    Keep these images on hand; print them out and then get a pen and start taking notes. Mark them with notes; "add flash to fill here"; "watch for dark background there"; " shutter speed too fast/too slow"; "create more space for rider to ride into" and so on.
    Use these notes to create your next shot in that instance in your mind so to continuously improve. It's the chase that's the thrill.

    With fast moving subjects; having a mental image of the shot you want helps greatly. It's then a matter of connecting the dots to get there.

    Keep shooting; start with less equipment in the beginning and build it up. I realize there is that "what if" syndrome and the feeling of need to bring everything in case.... But this is where knowing what you want to shoot will dictate what need s to be brought.
    You could keep spare equipment in the car and use that as a base to come back if you need other stuff.

    I hope this wasnt too much but somewhat helpful :-).

  11. #11
    saddlemeat
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    Some great advice here... my crumb to contribute would be to consider finding a spot where the rider's calf and arm muscles are tight.
    A Useful Bear is a handy thing.

  12. #12
    ganginwood
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    Not bad for a first time. Here's a few suggestions...
    2.8 isn't going to cut it with where you are in relation to the subject. its too shallow a depth of field. I'd try and keep the aperture at or above 11 and your shutter speed above 1/500. Shutter speed is a little more important here than your choice of aperture. This means you must bump up the ISO.

    also with that flash set up....you should probably be shooting manual everything.
    1. find your ambient light and shoot at about 1-2 stops underexposed. keep it there
    2. add your flash to the subject only so it pops off the screen. adjust the flash to get the look you want. you need to separate the 2 different exposures (background and subject) because you need to control them individually.

    3. try some shots were you drag the shutter speed to get some panning in there. keep the shutter at 1/30th-1/60th. This blurs the bg with motion and keeps the subject sharp to imply speed.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Aswell
    the 5th poster, ganginwoods, is correct

  13. #13
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    What great pics

  14. #14
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    nice pan

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