Category Archives: Adventure & Photography
I have lived in sheep sheds, tents and on boats, flown halfway around the world to land in desolate and isolated communities and chased athletes through all numbers of gruelling terrain, however a week with pro surfer Sally Fitzgibbons & champion Iron-woman Jordan Mercer is going to have to rate as one of the funnest and funniest adventure races I have been involved in.
The 2012 Mark Webber Challenge attracted some of the most experienced and hardcore of adventure athletes in the world… and the Red Bullettes.
Sally and Jordan are both athletes at the top of their game, and were willing step outside of their respective comfort zones to take on a new challenge… The mark Webber Challnge. The girls both contain a never say die attitude and competitive streak – it is a pre-requisite to pushing yourself to the top of your sport.
I was intrigued to see how the two girls would handle the arduous week of the Mark Webber Challenge and wondered whether the continuous 14 hr days would get the best of them or whether they would battle through. Would their spirit be dampened or would their competitiveness win over emotion and drive them on?
Having now returned from a chaotic week of snaparazzing the girls through whitewater, beach breaks, forrest, cliffs, extreme heat and freezing temperatures I can truly say that the Red Bullettes spirit was one of the highlights of the challenge.
There is no doubt as to the fitness of the two, however day one did raise the age old debate about the fairer sex and their map-reading skills… seeing the GPS tracking go up and down the same Gorge 3 times (even coming within 100m of the checkpoint) before finally arriving at a transition area had a few people laughing and others frustrated… fortunately the girls laughed it off as ‘teething problems’ and a ‘learning experience’
I am used to predicting where the elite adventure racers of the world might travel and leapfrogging them by whatever means to document such a journey. However this years Mark Webber Challenge held a special Mark Watson Challenge as well… Where the hell would the Red Bullettes go? The girls ability to accidentally find checkpoints and change plans on the run had me confounded… but I managed to catch them every now and then for a photo or two and their plan(or lack there-of) seemed to work for them as they feel into the routine of adventure racing.
Truth be told – by the end of the race the Bullettes were planning ahead like seasoned racers, marking maps and intended routes and collecting both compulsory and non compulsory checkpoints scattered throughout the Tasmanian wilderness.
What was evident throughout was their never-say-die attitude though. Both admitted to a few bouts of tears in the wilderness and on occasion just wanting to give up, but they drove each other on. The easiest way of tracking the girls was to venture into the wilderness and then stand still and listen… the sounds of nature would envelop you but stand long enough and you were sure to get a hint of a female voice singing over the breeze… and soon the voices and laughing and singing and jokes would grow stronger. I have never known a team to battle and entire week long race whilst all the while chatting, laughing and joking with one another non-stop and also to whomever happens to pass their way, whether it be a sole farmer, a rival team or even myself… I was often greeted on a bush track with a bit of a skip and jump and ‘Hey Watto… Whooohoo!’… The one identifying character of the Red Bullettes was their constant smile, chatter and lighter.
What a crazy week, a fun week and just one hell of a a laugh in amongst some of the most amazing scenery Oz has to offer.
So here are a few snapz
Chio fo now,
So here’s the deal… I have spent many nights on hotel room floors with My Nikon cameras and PocketWizards going through hours of trial and error, mainly for two reasons.
1. To remote trigger different Nikon cameras using a number of triggering systems, with the main objective to fire a second remote camera at the exact same time as the camera in-hand fires
2. To Hypersync a number of flashes to obtain full power flash at up to 1/2000th sec
Here in this post I am going to give one of those secrets away… how to remote trigger a Nikon camera using a ‘master camera’… and it is not a simple as many may think. I had it all figured out when I was using PocketWizard’s MultiMax transceivers, however the move to the ‘brilliant’ TT1 and TT5’s offered new challenges. On the positive side, high-speed-sync and hypersync became available and additionally I can utilise my entire Nikon creative lighting system, including full manual control of multiple off camera flashes. But on the down-side, the TTL metering seemed to create massive complications in using the ‘Mini’ radio transmitters and ‘TT5’ transceivers as simple triggers to fire remote cameras etc.
After many hours of trying to figure out the nuances, and with many questions still unanswered, I can now present to you a step by step guide for triggering a ‘remote camera’ using a ‘master camera’
Step 1. Adjust your settings on your remote camera to suit. I prefer to use full manual exposure if I am able and often I am using a fisheye lens and so also prefer to manually focus… this avoids the complication of the triggering system activating the remote camera AF system and therefore the camera not firing at the exact moment you require or becoming out of sync with your master camera… so ideally pre-focus the remote camera where you expect to need your focal point (BONUS TIP… gaffa tape your focus ring to avoid vibration, stray birds, clumsy athletes, stupid art directors or random bumps and knocks shifting the focus of a camera that you have placed in a stupidly-hard-to-get-to-location) Should you require an automated exposure setting and/or Auto-focus tracking etc, then this system will also work but not quite as instantaneous and affective.
Step 2. Adjust your remote camera’s continuous firing speed to match that of your ‘master camera’… (e.g. Master camera = 9 fps / then remote camera should = 9 fps) … this means you won’t end up out of sync with your firing sequence. If you only require a single frame… then your life is easy.
Step 3. Plug your PocketWizard Mini TT1 into your computer and open the PocketWizard Utility. Within the Pocket Wizard Utility, select the settings tab and then select either Configuration 1 or Configuration 2 (These settings refer to C1 and C2 on your PocketWizard Mini TT1 and so you can leave one Configuration as your default flash/strobe setting whilst setting the other as a remote camera/trigger setting.)
Step 4. Select the ‘Misc’ tab and tick the box for ‘Basic Trigger’… this will now override your TTL settings and ensure the PocketWizard Mini TT1 simply fires as a simple radio-transmitter. THIS IS IMPORTANT (Should you not choose ‘Basic Trigger, then your PocketWizard Mini TT1 will still fire your remote camera… BUT only up to your max standard flash/strobe sync speed (1/250th on Nikon D3s or D4) as the PocketWizard Mini TT1 will then transmit a high-speed-sync signal that will not fire your remote camera.)
Step 5. Select the ‘Channel’ tab and choose a channel you would like to transmit on (You will notice the Control TL Channel is greyed out… as you are using your PocketWizard Mini TT1 now as a basic trigger.
Step 6. Click on ‘Apply Changes’ at the bottom of the page and wait for the PocketWizard Utility to eject and then re-mount your PocketWizard Mini TT1
Step 7. Unplug the PocketWizard Mini TT1 and fix to the hotshoe of your ‘master camera’
Step 8. Plug you PocketWizard FlexTT5 into your computer and open the PocketWizard Utility Application.
Step 9. Select the ‘Settings’ tab and then select either ‘Configuration 1’ or ‘Configuration 2’… this should be the same Configuration as the one you adjusted on your PocketWizard MiniTT1
Step 10. Select the ‘Misc’ tab and tick the box for ‘Basic Trigger’… THIS IS IMPORTANT as your Pocket wizard will confuse itself trying to use TTL otherwise and will play funny-buggers (technical term) and your remote camera will either not fire, will fire after a few seconds delay, or will only re-fire once the camera’s metering system is turned off) … not much use of photographing sports or wildlife.
Step 11. Select the ‘Channel’ tab and choose a channel to ‘Recieve’ on (Obviously this must be the same channel as the PocketWizard Mini TT1 is transmitting on)… NOTE… make sure you adjust the ‘Receive’ channel at the bottom, not the ‘Transmit’ channel at the top. (You will notice the Control TL Channel is greyed out in both ‘Transmit’ and ‘Receive’ mode … as you are using your PocketWizard FlexTT5 now as a basic transceiver.
Step 12. IMPORTANT: Fix the PocketWizard FlexTT5 to the hotshoe of the ‘remote camera’ (I do not know why this is necessary as it should now be acting as a basic receiver with no TTL control … but trust me – DO IT! if you want the remote camera to work)
Step 13. Plug the appropriate PocketWizard camera cable (For Nikon D3s US CAT # 802-454) … 10 Pin remote cable for most modern Nikons (if you are electrically minded you can even make your own) into the P1 socket on your PocketWizard FlexTT5 (funnily enough it has a little picture of a camera next to it) and plug the other end into your camera’s 10-pin socket…. make sure your screw the cable into the camera.
Step 14. Turn both cameras on and fire your ‘master camera’…. your ‘remote camera’ should fire at exactly the same time.
Now go and have fun.
PHOTO ASSIGNMENT BLOG:
I was fortunate to recently photograph Olympic Gold Medallist and World Champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker at a then yet to be announced secret training facility in Perth, Western Australia.
Following Steve’s huge successes in recent years, his story resurfaced in the media over past months questioning his ability to defend his Olympic title following a sever case of ‘the yips’ that had Hooker doubting himself and his ability to compete on the world circuit.
The secret training facility was purpose-built to allow Hooker to ‘re-boot’ his psyche and get back on track for his Olympic Challenge in London 2012.
Flying into Perth, I knew the challenges to this project would not only involve low-light but also the limited potential to shoot action. Unlike many other sports where a training day may involve many multiple repetitions of a key activity, the impact on the body of a pole vaulter from each attempt ensures only limited vaults per session. combine this with an indoor setup in an old warehouse that offered a unique ‘but visually extremely busy’ location and I had a task ahead of me.
My brief was to capture dynamic action imagery of both the facility and Steve Hooker’s training, whilst also securing background imagery to tell a story.
Immediately I began thinking slave flashes and dramatic atmosphere, but a few meetings later and it was clear this was not a reality…. instead the only real option was to go to the other extreme and shoot available light only (and there wasn’t much), in a real photo-doco style to compile ‘a day in-the-life of Steve Hooker on his comeback trail’ essay.
As the only photographer selected visit the facility before it’s announcement, the pressure was on to secure enough lifestyle, documentary and action footage for the imminent global press release of the secret training facility and Hookers intentions to rejoin the athletics circuit and defend his Olympic title in London 2012.
Being the only shooter ensured I entered the project with a little trepidation, simply wanting to secure the goods as soon as possible … just in case! (In my world people injure themselves, others throw tantrums, agents get in the way, security try to stop you for no reason, the weather creates chaos… and a thousand other variables) ! …but fortunately the day ended up being fun. It certainly was a challenge and my ISO hardly dropped below ISO3200 for the duration of the session, but we nailed some great results.
Upon conclusion of the shoot, as expected, ‘secret op’ mode was instigated with embargoes on all imagery and video footage until the announcement… it is these time when you hope your secure transfer of photos and footage are in fact ‘very secure’.
With some great results I walked away content and was nicely surprised to find Hooker a super amicable and laid back guy, with a flexibility to help achieve our results outside of his training. Additionally, he unselfishly opened up his purpose-built facility to fellow athletes, allowing them to also enhance their abilities to achieve their best results possible.
Tomorrow I fly out to once again revisit Hooker and his facility, but this time in a competition scenario – at night… so I expect even more challenges, even less light and to add to the pressure, Hooker may qualify for the Olympics with one of his three jumps.
What does this mean: Three vaults to tell the story, and of these one may just be a qualifying jump… so I have to get ‘the shot’ and it better be damned sharp and well exposed (Thankfully I own a Nikon D4 which as fellow ambassador Jasin Boland states “sees like a cat full of carrots” – or else I would be up a certain creek)…. oh the fun of shooting sports, indoors, at night, in a warehouse! …
High ISO shooting is now becoming more and more available across the board… but there is no doubt Nikon have been leaders in pioneering the technology in their top-end DSLR camera’s.
The D4 is no exception… I am a huge fan!
No more really needs to be said (and this was ‘only’ ISO 12800)
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:
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 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…
Nitro Girl and all round awesome chick Jolene Van Vugt has been hanging in Sydney lately and I managed to catch up with her for a feature for Australasian Dirt Bike Magazine.
We had wind and rain but scored when we found a sneaky little location away from it all in Sydney’s rocks area
And the results were pretty damned nice…
but you can decide on whether you like or not: