I've been working on a few personal projects lately, including a photographing some local Parkour, Free Running talent. I love the combination of technical, physical and mental strength required to pull off the moves these guys do. The sheer power they display blows my mind. Ironically, the day we shot the following pictures started out as more of a scouting trip for a short film I'm working on, but ended up becoming the focus of the day as I just couldn't pass up the chance to photograph this stuff. Here's a quick breakdown of a few shots from the day as well as bts video below:
For the first shot, athlete, Devon Bardole, popped up on a railing and literally stayed in a handstand position for minutes (not seconds). I quickly grabbed the fisheye lens and started working a few shots telling him to hold on for just a bit longer. The fisheye lens came to mind first in order to get an "in your face" feel and to capture the intensity of the eyes, while also showing the surrounding environment (tall buildings, urban setting). The concentration is really impressive from these athletes as Parkour is an extremely technical and mental sport. As you can see in the quick behind the scenes clip, the rail drops a good six feet on one side (shooting position) and I'm working several different angles during one take. We had the sun almost directly behind the subject, so I exposed for the face and skin tones allowing the sun to blow out a bit behind and create a halo look. We could have also brought in a little fill flash (either soft or hard light), but I'm quite happy with the resulting image we got.
Second, we worked into a location with more of a back alley feel, where the athlete's (Devon, Bobby and Ellis Robinson) were picking different lines, popping, flipping and dropping off of everything imagineable. When one of the athletes (Ellis) flag-poled the side of this a old, gritty building, I quickly set-up a shot to capture the move. My thought process when I see something I want to capture is to first think about the type of light that will work best for the location and subject. In this case we had a really nice shaded light that was soft and stunning. I popped an Elinchrom Ranger at 100 w/s for just a touch of fill light (7 degree reflector from camera right), but otherwise kept the soft feel. Next, I looked at other aspects of the environment to enhance the shot and in particular for foregrounds and backgrounds that would provide either texture, interesting lines, color and sometimes a combination of all three. This is also where the choice of lens length comes into play as well as depth of field and whether you want the viewer to see a tack sharp image front to back or isolate the subjects to avoid a cluttered background. While I was drawn to elements of the foreground and background, I quickly made the choice to isolate the subject with a f/2.8 aperture at 200mm on a Canon 5D Mark II and enhanced that feel with a slight vignette in post-production.
Lastly, we worked a large gap drop that provided a another nice fisheye perspective from directly underneath the take-off zone. The drop involved a "Kong" move, (blindly I might add) over the wall and down roughly 12-15 feet onto cement, an insanely big move. Here I'm using a Ranger at near full power, 1000 w/s or so and a standard reflector to light the athlete and retaining wall as well as slightly over-power the sun by a stop or so.
The process for this shoot evolved quite quickly as I mentioned we initially wanted to shoot a few stills and scout locations for film work. That said, the on-the-fly direction worked out really. When you're shooting in a run-in-gun type fashion like this, you have to make quick decisions. First, I'll analyze the light and whether I need to add or subtract light or even whether or not I have time as often it will ruin the spontaneity of the shot. Foregrounds and backgrounds come into play next and other supporting aspects of the environment that I think will enhance the shot (include) or detract (exclude). Theses types of shoots are a balance of documentary or event type work (where "key moments" won't be repeated) and a commercial photo shoot like our recent trail running shoot for example where prior to taking a shot, we had scouted locations, diagrammed lighting scenarios, and chosen our color palette, compositions and art direction.
See more Parkour and Free Running pictures from our day in downtown Salt Lake City. Also, stay tuned for the short film we are currently in the process of making!