So the background image on blog.techforpeace.com is a picture my little brother took of me riding through a stream in the rocky mountains. I love this picture. He has very little photography experience and has basically been using a very inexpensive cell phone (that I gave him) for the few pictures he has taken. We were out riding and we finally came across a great stream for getting some action shots. I handed him my beastly black DSLR with circular polarizing filter and petal shade and told him the steps I’ve used in the past to take a stream crossing picture that I think really looks cool. Here is roughly what I described:
Step 1) Find a stream crossing where the you have enough room to stand off to the side of the path at about the motorcycle rider level. It needs to have fairly intense sunlight so the water droplets will “light up”. If there is something dark or shady in the background that will really help the water show up and look good. Make sure the rider can go through at a good enough speed to get a decent splash! 🙂
Step 2) Put the camera in auto everything mode. You don’t have to do this but seriously we are out dirtbiking and blasting up trails. We don’t have time to mess with “settings”.
Step 3) On all the digital cameras I’ve used, from the really cheap ones to the honking DSLR (in auto mode), you push the photo button halfway to focus and set the exposure. Everyone already knows this. So in auto-everything mode, bro, stand on the side of the stream that will be at least sort of facing the sun. The idea is the light should shine through the water of the splash. Stand exactly where you want to take the picture from, and half-way push to get the exposure. Do this by aiming the camera at a shiny part of the water at the distance where the bike shot should occur. If you focus on the water, but in a darker place instead of where the light is reflecting, the exposure will come out too light at the critical moment. It needs to be at the right distance so the rider comes out in focus.
Step 4) Now WITHOUT releasing the shutter button, rotate the camera to the awaiting rider and give him/her the thumbs up to let them know to blast through the water and make the best splash possible.
Step 5) Follow the rider with the camera. Hopefully they really get moving and you have lightning reflexes. The shutter is already primed, and all the camera has to do is cycle the shutter and take the picture, but depending on the camera there can still be quite a delay. The DSLR is of course fast. It is still NOT fast enough to do the autofocus and whole bit for a really good picture on the fly, which is why we need to prime it. Regardless of the camera, you sweep the camera along with the rider for two primary reasons. If you sweep with them you will get a proper picture regardless of how fast your camera is. The other reason is the shutter speed might not be super fast, and so if you sweep, the rider will be sharp and the background droplets will be streaked with the motion of the camera. IE, it should look cool.
Step 6) Take the picture. My DSLR does have a fast burst mode, which can be useful, but my little brother nailed this with a sniper like shot. I feel that just choosing the right moment works best, instead of the shotgun approach. Also he plays a lot of twitch games on his pc at home. Basic photo rules apply, subject off center is more interesting, proper exposure important, hold it level, etc. One key factor I would point out is the purpose, reason for being, of this picture is the gigantic awesome splash that makes (shows) that we were having a blast. Yes we were in the mountains, surrounded by beautiful scenery on an epic-ly nice summer day. We did take scenery pictures too. But I told my brother to fill up the frame with the bike and the splash, because extra scenery and background would just be noise for the kind of photo I wanted him to produce. A+ on his following instructions this time 🙂
Step 7) Repeat as needed (until you want to ride somewhere else). Don’t be afraid to get wet if your camera can take it. I’ve taken some photos from almost directly in my motorcycle buddy’s path. Standing in the river. Be sure you trust such a person, getting hit by a dirt bike probably would hurt…
Step Always) Have fun.
This is the biggest resolution wordpress will let me upload so far. WordPress appears to have auto shrunk it on upload. Not sure why it is altering my images, but I guess I have to figure that out later. If you “view image” or download it is still a usable size I guess…