This weekend, Keith and I met up with Jennifer and James, a happily married couple who had their wedding this last summer. Keith and I had been promoting a free photo shoot on our Facebook page and Jennifer entered and won! She told us that she wanted to do a photo shoot of her and James on their motorcycles (there’s gotta be a cooler way to say it…)… er,… hogs… um,… bikes!… er, crotch rockets!
Anywho, we all met up in St Croix Falls, WI, and discussed how we would go about this shoot. We suggested some driving shots from our car, out our window on the highway. Then some still shots in a park in Taylors Falls.
1st Challenge: Taking Pictures of Moving Objects While You Yourself Are Moving
Strategy: I got in the back seat of the car while Keith drove; we told James and Jennifer to get on the highway in the lane next to us. I would gesture to them to have one come up to my window and then the other, and then both so that we could get a variety of shots.
Focusing. It would be difficult to have my camera on auto-focus while the scenery is moving so quickly. Each shot would take the camera a long time to focus and by then, I may have already lost the scene. I needed to shoot quickly and couldn’t let the camera be in charge of the focus. So I turned my camera on manual focus.
Example: Bad focus!
Smearing the Background. On our first round of highway shots, I found that things were turning out well on-screen but that the background wasn’t showing motion. My shutter speed was so fast that not only was it making my subjects nice and sharp, but it was also keeping the background sharp. I wanted pictures where you could see how the scenery was zipping by in a smear while the driver remained sharp.
Example: Background isn't smeared. Appears sharp.
So on our second round of highway shots, I slowed down my shutter speed, which means I had to open up my aperture. Then got the smear that I wanted; however, my subject became less sharp, too. I had to settle with a compromise. In the end, I got a handful of photos of both drivers that I thought were a good balance of sharp subject and smeared background.
Example: Background is smeared, showing motion
Scenery. I didn’t realize this was a challenge until I was home at the end of the night, sorting through my treasure of photos. I had assumed I would be getting smeary backgrounds for all the shots, so it wouldn’t matter what was in the background. But as I said, my first shots didn’t have smeary backgrounds; so we had shots of James happily driving past Wal-Mart, or a picture of Jennifer with an anti-abortion advertisement floating over her head. Lesson? Be aware of the background. We might have waited to do this driving shots until we were in a more forest area instead of this Wal-Mart inhabited town.
Example: Bad background
Cars. Very specific to highway driving shots, we were faced with the challenge of others motorists. These motorists got in the way in a couple of ways. First, they disrupted our synchronization of vehicles for lining up the shots. They somehow thought that the roads were for them to get places instead of us to set up a photo shoot. Self-centered turds. Secondly, they would get in the shots whether they were further up the road or behind, or just exiting on a ramp and got directly in the back of the shot. So I had to toss a few photos because of that. There was not much we could do about this except to find a quiet road which we did our best to do. And above all, nothing was worth a shot if the drivers weren’t safe. We made sure they worried more about the road then setting up the shot.
Example: Car getting in our shot
Communication. I am finding more and more that people cannot read my mind. Why? I dunno. They’re nutty, I guess. But I found that after the shoot, James and Jennifer were talking about how they weren’t really sure what to do with themselves when being photographed while driving. Should they turn and smile? Stare straight ahead? They shared with us that they just ended up doing a combination of the two. That made me realize that not everyone can envision what I’m going to do with my photos. I need to communicate with them and let them know what to expect. Or communicate my strategy at the very least and then let them have input as to what they want from the shoot. So I’m going to try to be more communicative with my clients and freely ask for any questions they have and any suggestions, too. After all, it’s their pictures. They need to look the way THEY want them to look.
2nd Challenge: Taking Pictures of 2 Giant Motorcycles and Two Human Subjects with Helmets in the Dead Fall
Strategy: Go to the park in Taylors Falls and get some still, posed shots. Eventually, we would also go to the Landing in Osceola for some more stills and panning.
Unique Perspectives, Fitting in the Frame, 10% Faces, and Heavy Bikes: So we have two 750-pound motorcycles. One is all black, the other has some yellow and blue. We have two human subjects who have helmets on their heads. How do we get unique perspectives of the two giant machines (one of which has little detail due to being black) and two humans with only 10% of their faces showing? I found it hard to choose to cut off a part of the bike because then the picture didn’t look complete. So how many angles can you come at a motorcycle while fitting it all in the frame? And what about if you have two? And what about if they’re very, very difficult to maneuver? It was challenging to think of new ways to set up the motorcycles and our subjects. We usually had them parallel to each other, at an angle with an interesting background. Then we would have the human subjects placed in different positions around the bikes. But it was difficult to search for the emotion because we couldn’t really see their faces well. But that also made editing easier since you sometimes couldn’t tell if someone was blinking or whether they were smiling! Either way, it was OK!
Example: Fitting two bikes and two subjects in a shot
Dead colors. Of course, we were doing our shots in mid-November when all leaves have died and turned brown. Skies are gray. Colors are dead and we are mourning. What to do? Well, contrast doesn’t always have to have color. We can contrast using patterns. So I tried to find situations in which, despite a lack of colors, our subjects would pop out in the frame. At the Osceola site, I had the subjects against a sunset and that turned them into silhouettes that looked fantastic against the background. Also, in post processing, I was able to raise the contrast and saturation and bring out the greens in the forests to add to the color in the final picture.
Example: The real color we were given by nature
Example: Picture with enhanced color through Lightroom
And that is my two cents on our motorcycle photo shoot. It was a lot of fun and very challenging, as you’ve seen! But Keith and I really enjoyed our time with Jennifer and James and how silly and crazy-in-love they are; what with whacking each other in the face and having slapping wars. I aspire to their level of love. Truly beautiful.
Thanks Jennifer & James!
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