Tips and tricks from the motion picture still photographer and Nikon Ambassador.
Action shot: stunts
With a stunt sequence we can usually anticipate the beginning of the action but what happens after that can be bit of a tangled mystery. What I do is follow the action as it comes towards me, pick the point to start shooting and then I hose it all down and follow through as if I’m filming the event on a cine camera. I keep everything fluid. I also shoot mostly on 3d focus.
For snow and most things ‘liquid’ I like a little movement, especially with snow, so it leaves little streaks through the frame instead of ugly sharp dots. I find anywhere from 160th to 250th works great. It’s also the shutter speed I use for capturing muzzle-flash from the end of a gun. Of course, if you are shooting fast action you will need to up the speed a little but as a general rule I use these slower speeds wherever possible.
Two rules to follow
My only two rules are patience and timing. Whether it’s an early morning landscape or an actor during a scene – try not to force things. I generally find if I don’t panic about missing something, it comes to me a little later on, and this is when timing comes into it. There’s no point in waiting all day for a shot and then missing it because you didn’t have your timing right.
The right light
As for light, I don’t pay too much attention to it. I’m a natural light kind of guy. As photographers finding the light should come natural to us. There are so many other things to worry about and this part of photography should be why we are photographers in the first place. I’m not one for big studio shoots and even when I do I don’t use massive strobe setups, I find it kind of sucks the life out of an image. I use natural or cine light wherever possible and make highlights with LumeCubes.
If you are shooting action like car racing, rallies, rodeos… remember to always have an exit! Never stand in front of a tree or solid structure, stand behind it. You may have the best driver or stuntman in the world flying towards you at 150km/h but even they can get things all tangled up. Make sure no one is blocking your way out and be prepared to run, dive or duck…
Shooting in manual
When it comes to exposure I am purely a Manual exposure guy. I know it sounds strange but you actually get a more consistent result and we can usually feel a change in the light without having to chimp too much. Obviously there are times when AE is the way to go, for example in the snow, in that case I would set my exposure compensation to +7.
Read our feature article on Jasin and his amazing work photographing Mad Max: Fury Road, or check out Brett Patman’s Lost Collective project.