Photographer Michael Clark recently completed another great shoot in Arizona with the Red Bull Air Force. Shooting B.A.S.E. jumping, skydiving and wingsuit flying is notoriously difficult even for top photographers – so Red Bull Illume caught up with Clark to discuss some pro tips. Enjoy five great tips from the adventure sports photographer below:
#1 Use a high framing rate
The athletes are falling away from you at 9.81 m/s2, which means within a second they are moving at over 160 km/h. Hence, it helps massively to have a camera with a fast framing rate. I’d say 8 frames per second (fps) minimum, 10-12 fps or more is a much better option.
#2 Work with the athletes to set up the shot
Before they jump off the cliff or exit the airplane, have a discussion with the athletes so that you know what they are going to do and you can position yourself accordingly. When working with B.A.S.E. jumpers get as close to the take off positions as possible or move to the side so you can get a figure-in-a-landscape type image showing part of the huge cliff and the exposure. If you are mounting a camera on a skydiver’s helmet, explain what type of images you would like to get. It will usually take several jumps to help get things dialed in if you are directing the athlete.
#3 Use remote cameras to get additional images
Since the athletes become a dot in the sky so quickly, the only way to get images in the air is with a camera mounted on a helmet that is either remotely triggered or constantly shooting via an intervalometer. My Nikon D4 can shoot raw images at 4 fps until it fills up the card. Hence, I can mount it on a helmet and just let it rip for the entire descent. Andy Farrington, of the Red Bull Air Force team, uses a mouth trigger to take images with his Canon 5D Mark III. He bites down on the trigger while flying to shoot images and composes them with a custom made eye-sight.
#4 For B.A.S.E. jumping use PocketWizards to trigger multiple cameras
When shooting B.A.S.E. jumping I use multiple cameras set up on tripods to shoot the action from a few different angles. To trigger the cameras, I use PocketWizard radio transceivers. I mount one on the camera I am shooting with and then attach one to each of the other cameras so that every time I take a photo the remote cameras are also firing.
#5 Crank your ISO up to gain Depth of Field
Because the athletes are moving so fast, the autofocus on even the best pro DSLRs will have a hard time keeping up and you won’t really have any idea of where they are going to be in the frame until they jump. In some cases just keeping the athlete in the frame can be difficult. Hence, I recommend cranking up the ISO settings and using a smaller aperture like f/8 or f/11 if possible. Doing so will give you an extra cushion with the autofocus, making sure that the athletes are in focus no matter what the composition.
Be sure to check out more of Michael’s work on his website.