There has always been something intriguing to me about getting some behind the scenes details on a photo. I don’t know what it is about it but I just get stoked on seeing exactly how someone shot a specific photo and get a little insight into the process. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that every photographer shoots a little differently, which in turn makes each story unique in its own way. I can remember studying photos in magazines and borderline obsessing about the way that they were shot and honestly over the years not much has changed. I still find myself getting lost in photos to this day with the same level of curiosity that I had when I first started shooting. With that said, enjoy round five of WYDK.
Every once and a while there will be a photo that stands out to me as one of my “favorites.” And honestly, it doesn’t always have to be the most technically perfect image to fall into that category. Sometimes it’s simply based off of the subject matter or the vibe the photo brings me. Other times it is based purely off of the technical aspect. For example, if I really like the composition, exposure, sharpness, colors, trick, and subject matter then of course I will have to put it in the favorite category. In this case, I especially like this photo because of the story behind it. Every image has a unique story and it’s always an amazing feeling to look at a photograph, get lost in it for a while and be brought back to the exact time and place where you shot it.
I shot this photo a while back while working on a full-length article for Soul Magazine featuring the MacNeil team which appeared in Issue 75. This happens to be my first full-length article in the magazine and I am honored to say the least. It’s always interesting to think about the fact that when I am about to shoot a photo the rider is simply putting their trust in me to come up with an interesting way to capture the essence of the trick. Sure, it can be a lot of pressure at times especially when you are working on a print article but it’s a good kind of pressure. It’s the motivating kind where you just know in the back of your head that you have to be on point with every photo you are shooting. You never know what might happen as far as each new day is concerned. In an instant someone can be hurt and off the trip leaving you without any photos of that specific rider. When I know that I am shooting for an article I definitely do my best to make every photo “useable” that way if anything crazy happens, you are covered. Also, sometimes when riders are on trips in new cities, they get hyped on specific spots or “legendary” spots so if they are only at this spot for a limited amount of time you have to make sure you are ready to get the shot. You never know when the rider might be able to have the chance to go back to it so you have to get it right while you are there.
Seeing as how it was a typical day in Southern California a.k.a warm and sunny I made the choice to shoot with available light. Sometimes when the color temperature is just right natural daylight can look so amazing. It’s one of those things where you just need to get used to noticing times of day, how light changes throughout the day and use that knowledge to your advantage when it comes time to shoot. In the beginning Andrew was actually going to tire tap on top of the bar on the fence door and kind of use it as a ledge to stall on. I kind of knew that it would be crazy if he could actually stall the bar on the fence and suggested that we try and shoot that instead of stalling on top. It was also kind of a weird set up anyways so Andrew was down to put in the work to get the photo and that’s all I can ask for as a photographer. When I originally looked for my angle I knew right away that this was the way I wanted to shoot the photo. I tried to create a scene that had some depth along with an interesting composition and the rest was up to Andrew. I sat back and did my thing and with each miss I would hope to myself that he was down to keep trying. That is one of the main things that people need to realize when shooting with pro riders. They are the ones that should decide if they want to try again or walk away. Always leave that choice up to them. It’s a shitty feeling when you are trying to get a photo and the rider gets wrecked because you weren’t ready or the timing was off. I can’t remember exactly but we worked on this photo for a while, and I think shot it maybe 30 times or so. He basically wall-slapped a two-inch bar and had to hit the perfect spot so he could pull back into the wedge. Needless to say the pressure was on for me to make sure that if he did get it, I got it too. The timing on this was the most crucial aspect of the photo. Once the planets aligned and we both did what we needed to do, the photo that we were both striving for happened and it was a rad feeling when it did. It always is, and that is a huge reason that I do what it is that I do.
Like I had mentioned before when I noticed how the sun was lighting up the scene I knew that I wanted to keep things simple and shoot long. It’s so nice to shoot with existing light sometimes because you can really move around a lot more and not worry about getting a flash in the photo or even simply a shadow from a flash. Plus, the spot was so tight that there wasn’t really a good place to put flashes to light it the way that I would have wanted to anyways. I shot at ISO 100 because there was plenty of light and whenever you have the option you should always shoot at your lowest ISO setting. I shot it with a shallow depth of field to give the background a softer look. This also allowed me to shoot with a really fast shutter speed of 1/3200 of a second. I knew that if I was going to get the timing right that I had to have a fast enough shutter so that when Andrew hit the right spot, the photo would be sharp. Editing wise, I didn’t really do anything too crazy to it. I just cleaned up the camera spots, did my normal sharpening, color balance and adjusted the levels making sure that it was “print-ready” before I submitted it for the article.
I knew that I was shooting this for the magazine but I wasn’t sure if this photo specifically was even going to make the cut but luckily it did and I couldn’t be happier about it. It is always an amazing feeling to have your vision come to life and have a photo find a home in print. I want to send out a big thanks to Andrew for being down to put in the work and hopefully he agrees that it was totally worth the work that went into it at this point.
Make sure to keep an eye out for Soul Magazine and support a group of people doing their best to give back to BMX. At the end of the day that’s what it’s all about. I have been working with them for over a year now and things have been rad. The magazine is on point and the design/layouts are always clean and aesthetically pleasing so make sure to get your hands on the next issue if you can. In the meantime…
Check out their site here SoulBMXMag.com
Follow them on Instagram @soulbmxmag
And be sure to “Like” their fan page on Facebook
That’s it for the fifth edition of WYDK. Always keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to shoot a riding photo and I hope that each and every one of you that has an interest in becoming a BMX photographer fully understands that and explores every option when it comes time to shoot. Make sure to double check angles, look for unique locations to stand, get low, get high, climb on fences, climb on roofs, and do whatever it takes to get the shot. One thing I can say is that it sucks to get a photo back home only to check it and feel “shooters remorse.” Basically that happens when you see a photo and wish that you shot it with a different lens, at a different angle or with a different lighting set up. Also, always remember that being critical of your work is absolutely essential if you want to survive in the photo world so don’t be afraid to delete some photos and don’t be afraid to re-shoot. As long as you are progressing and learning from your mistakes, you are on the right track. On that note, be sure to check back next Wednesday for the fifty-ninth edition of Through the Lens and as always feel free to leave any questions in the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will hit you back as soon as I can. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @jeremypavia.