Time / Date:
19:55 / January 22, 2011
Camera Body: Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L
Lighting: Alien Bees AB1600
Lighting: Canon 580EX Speedlite
Lighting: LumoPro LP180
Flash Trigger: Paul C. Buff CyberSyncs
Shutter Speed: 1/200
Focal Length: 24mm
In 2010 I moved to Portland, a town full of rippers and a booming skate culture, eager to shoot some skateboarding, but didn’t yet have the right connections with the locals. Eventually, sufficient time spent loitering at a local skate shop earned me an intro to a filmer named Jordan Hutori, who regularly films his buddy Jamie throwing down at the local parks.
One day Jordan called me: “Dude, you gotta meet up with Jamie at Vancouver Park; he’s gonna try it barefoot.”
This was the in I’d been waiting for.
Jamie Jacobson’s a one speed kinda guy: fast – and as big as possible. The stuff he does while messing around during a warm-up is the stuff dreams are made of for aspiring skateboarders like myself. This was gonna be good.
Since speed was Jamie’s thing, it wasn’t a surprise to see him set up a line that could carve over the loop. He had pulled it off a couple weeks prior at a local contest, so he seemed to have a bit of comfort during his warm-ups. That was enough of a shot, and now he was gonna do it barefoot.
Now listen, the idea of bailing at the top of that thing even fully padded-up could still end in broken bones on top of concussions on top of the impending feeling of doom that comes with the wind being knocked out of you at full speed. For Jamie to do it without any sort of safety equipment, especially shoes (goodbye toes) was something that needed to be documented, pass or fail.
After trying an array of angles, I ended up deciding to get into the deep end of the bowl with Jamie and my 24-70mm f2.8. I experimented with the 15mm fisheye, but it was giving a bit too much of the bowl which wasn’t making the skater stand out enough.
To help fill the bowl with light, I placed a bare AB1600 camera right. Jamie also needed an additional light on him (preferably something with a shorter flash duration – a common problem when trying to shoot action shots with larger lights), so I added a 580ex out on the edge of the bowl pointed directly at him. Lastly, I needed to fill in the shadow and add some shaping into the loop, so I hid a Lumipro pointed at the ceiling deep in the back.
Making the Shot:
The largest problem during this shoot was actually the sun. The clouds in the sky were small and sparse so a majority of my test shots had a large line of shadow in them from the lowish sun on the edge of the bowl. Even an additional AB1600 added to the scene couldn’t quite fill and smooth out the shadow.
It all came down to waiting about 30-45 minutes once the setup was ready for a duration of cloud cover to pull off the shot. As soon as the clouds covered the sun just enough, we went for it..On my signal Jamie took off his shoes and rolled into the bowl on his pre-planned line and carved over the loop like it was something he had done as part of his morning routine his entire life. A quick chimp over my shoulder and he said ‘Oops! Let me try one with my hat on backwards’. He nailed it again and I flash a thumbs-up of approval.
Editing & Processing:
So for the most part I try to leave skate shots as is besides color and contrast. In my opinion, doing an in-depth dodge and burn job on a skate photo adds practically nothing to the show. People are looking for the trick, composition, and the timing.
Since the sun wasn’t present for this shot, the bowl ended up coming out a bit cold. I added a subtle amount of warmth and contrast to the concrete in Lightroom and sharpened the image overall in Photoshop.
I’ve shot Jamie a ton since this shoot, but this image is still my favorite; I even have a large framed print of it in my living room. I’m sure now that I have a 16-35mm I’d favor using that lens, but I don’t think I could improve this shot much with a reshoot.
Through my years of shooting skating, the most important thing is always composition. The goal may be to document the trick, but you really have to think about how to make the overall shot the best it possibly could be. I spent years getting as close to my subjects as possible, taking boards to the body/camera, making the fisheye do all the work for me. Since then, I’ve learned to back up and look around to see what else could be added to the scene. While this doesn’t really show in transition or skate park photography due to the almost clinical setting, the streets are really where you can let your artistic eye go crazy.
Lurking the magazine aisle, deconstructing pages of Thrasher.
About the Photographer
Dabe Alan is a 27 year old midwestern transplant living in Portland, OR who favors a mix of commercial composite and action sports photography. His new portfolio should be ready sometime in spring 2014.
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