Nikon D4 on Dirt bike Shoot


So I have had the go ahead from Australasian Dirt Bike Mag to throw out one of the new D4 photos from a recent shoot out.

The photo has recently been posted on My Nikon Life and had a few comments about HDR etc etc and so I am throwing up a few details here to appease some critics, explain some technique and generally waffle a little.

So here is:

Firstly… I must briefly mention the absolutely b/s focussing on the new D4. I will follow up soon with some crazy D4 auto-focus imagery but the general deal is the D4 somehow managed to track some of Australia’s best Enduro MX riders on singletrack, through trees, on a constantly changing trail… and all in 3D focus mode (I often only use single point focus to ensure no photo is dropped but the D4 might just change this)

I regularly argue that Enduro MX and Mountain Biking, whilst not the fastest sports… are possibly some of the best AF test around as the subject is erratic, fast moving, and constantly appearing and disappearing behind natural terrain, dust, trees etc etc. … the D4 excels.

I will not waffle further as I have not approved these AF photos through my client yet, but as soon as I get the go-ahead… you guys will see them.

As for the above photo I will let you in on a few details:

Nikon D4

Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 lens @ 14mm


1/250 sec (Although FYI there is a trick to sync high power flash up to 1/2000 sec but you can figure that one out)


-1/3 EV

1x SU800

2x SB800

1 x pocket wizard mini

2 x pocket wizard tt5

As with all images I shoot RAW and flat. Exposure is determined to ensure highlights are retained, sharpness, colour, etc etc are kept at minimal so I retain a digital negative with the most detail possible… I can always push contrast and colour at a later date in post.

The lighting is a combination of ambient light and strobe.

I exposed to enhance colour in the dusk sky and therefore would have produced a silhouette had I not lit the photo. I then introduced 2x slave flashes, one from left and behind (you can see on rear tyre), and one from right and slightly in front of rider (you can see on his helmet)… this cross-flash ensured the rider wasn’t blinded from a direct flash or one in front of him. Remote flashes were commanded by a Nikon SU800 and pocket wizard mini which allows me to use the entire Nikon Creative Lighting system (Complete TTL and Manual control over all my remote flashes) whilst using the reliability of radio triggers.

In the end the flashes lit and froze the subject whilst the ambient light created the colour in the sky. A side effect of using this technique with a slow shutter speed (1/250th is relatively slow for MX action) is the shadow evident outlining the rider against the sky… however this is a photographic anomaly, not post production anomaly and does not detract from the image whatsoever… the same would have occurred on film had you shot it old school style.

So there ya have it.

A pretty damned cool photo, and the shooting technique behind it.

Hope this taught you something and I reckon that’s enough giving away of my secrets for now… so check in at a later date for more…

below is before and after post…

Before enhancing colour, detail and clarity for web

After enhancing colour and detail and clarity for web














About inciteimages

A magazine recently profiled my life and pretty much hit the nail on the head: Australian adventure photographer (and occasional journalist) Mark Watson is a liar. He suggests his job is “not so glamorous,” but drop him an email and his ‘out of office auto response’ will inform he’s heli-skiing New Zealand or trekking Patagonia. In downtime he surfs and mountain bikes Sydney’s Northern Beaches or can be spied drinking café latte’s on the beachfront when he should be editing photos. He’s a Nikon Ambassador and Red Bull Australia’s No.1 photographer, and after a few Corona’s, admits, “I photograph cool people, in cool places, doing cool things!” Quickly followed by the disclaimer “It’s not always exciting…” But always said with a mischievous grin. View all posts by inciteimages

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