Slalom Storytelling

A collection of waterskiing images from AdamBarkerPhotography

Photographers (myself included) talk a lot about visual storytelling. Like it or not, with a camera in your hand, you are an author. The question is, what story are you telling?

Personal projects make for fantastic opportunities to work on any number of things from a photographic standpoint. I recently joined some friends at a private lake for a little slalom course action. Being an avid skier myself, I’ve had countless waterski shots floating around in my head for years. All I needed was some water to myself and a couple of skiers skilled enough to leave with me with juuuust enough confidence to shadow a buoy with them screaming by just feet from my head at 34 mph.

Ideally, your visual story will connect with those both familiar and unfamiliar with the subject matter. Those familiar might connect with it on an emotional level, and those unfamiliar with it might connect on a photographic level. The sign of a well told visual story is when one entirely unfamiliar with the subject matter walks away with a FEELING of familiarity. You give them all the pieces to the puzzle, and they put it together. If that doesn’t make sense, read it again. If it still doesn’t make sense, I’m either that brilliant, or that ignorant (very possible the latter!)

Does this smattering of images move you in any way? Is it because you love water skiing, or do you connect with it for some other reason? Or…do you not connect with it at all? Would love to hear from the collective.

Image Breakdown: Mountain Biking for Commercial Client

Image breakdown of mountain biker at Deer Valley Resort, UT

Happy Tuesday! Perfect day for an image breakdown if I do say so myself. This image was shot during a commissioned shoot for Deer Valley Resort several weeks ago and serves as a pretty good template for a standard action/active lifestyle image designed for client promotional/collateral use. Sit back and have a read…

1. Focus! Focus in an image like this should always be on the eyes of the athlete. Tack sharp is key here in order give proper separation from the background. On this shot, I pre-selected my focus zone in camera and began tracking the athlete about 2 seconds before actually clicking the first frame, thus allowing my camera to grab proper focus before the athlete hit the sweet spot.

2. Blurred foreground serves two purposes– a) takes the viewer directly to the subject with the soft/sharp contrast and b) provides usable negative space for the client for copy, logos, etc.

3. More negative space for the client to work with. When shooting imagery for marketing collateral, it’s important to think beyond simple image dynamics. You have to keep client needs in mind. This is a frame filling image without filling every part of the frame.

4. Direction. The athlete is moving IN to the frame, keeping the viewer IN the frame. Were the athlete moving out of the frame, it would, in fact, take the viewer out of the frame. That’s the kind of tension we don’t want. We want people hanging out at our party. Keep them in the frame.

5. Blurred background. This helps to further draw the eye to the subject of the image and give that separation between subject and background (refer back to #1). This is achieved by shooting at a moderate focal length, coupled with a large aperture of f3.5. Additionally, note that we’ve given adequate space above the subject for logos, masthead or anything else the client sees fit to throw up there.

6. Fill light. It’s important to see faces in these images. Fill light can be achieved with flash or reflectors. I’m not much of flash guy, especially when moving light and fast. Given the light source (behind and to the right of the athlete), fill was crucial to capturing a complete image. This was accomplished with my assistant holding a reflector and following the athlete as he came around the banked corner. Requires a skilled assistant (thanks Nate!)

Change–More than Just a Campaign Slogan

A man and woman on mountain bikes enjoy early morning light and fresh mountain air at Deer Valley Resort

This is an excerpt from the  February 2009 ABP In Focus Newsletter

It seems “change” is the word of the day. Every day. Whether it’s the historical inauguration of an African American president, or an anticipated drop in the mercury, change seems to be on people’s minds.
My mind, although quite stubborn and cluttered, has not been spared by this wave of change either. I have noticed a great change in the way fellow photographers speak of this industry that many of us fight for from the inside, or appreciate from the outside.
Put bluntly, photography is changing. Whereas skilled photographers used to be veritable needles in a creative haystack, they are now found at every family reunion, weekend wedding, and sporting event. The advent of digital imaging has made it easier than ever before to achieve levels of photography previously reserved for the studied and scholarly.
I welcome this change, and this influx of imagery with open arms. There are certainly pros and cons to the current state of the photography industry, but as a glass-half-full type of guy, I feel that creative boundaries, work ethic and marketing prowess are being pushed as never before. Competition breeds excellence, and true excellence is all that will stand out and survive.
I tip my hat to the photographers that have inspired me with their words and imagery. May the strong survive, and the weak get day jobs.