W akeboarding was one of the things that was high on the list of things to do whilst in France. My cousin works at a wake park and had introduced me to the sport a few years back and now it was always something I did when I went to see her.
Being able to board every day meant that as you would expect, my cousin was pretty good at it. Well, no, not good, she was pretty amazing actually. I was more of a ‘just go around the course, enjoy the ride and enjoy the view’ kind of guy, but she was more of a ‘go round the course, take as many jumps and do as many tricks as possible’ kind of girl.
The first trip down the to wake park, I decided to just go and take some photos from the side to try a new area of photography I hadn’t really tapped into before. I had never tried doing any sort of photography on moving subjects, or in this case, fast moving subjects. Most of the photography I have ever done is landscapes or street. All subjects in these areas tend to be stationary, as you’d expect from a landscape really.
After a fairly quick last minute Google for tips and tricks I went down to the lake and set myself up on the bank next to the jumps. A couple of weeks before I came out to France, my uncle had been telling me about back button focusing in cameras which I hadn’t heard of before. He explained what it was and what he uses it for – shooting planes at airshows – so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to give it a try myself.
I got the camera set up for the back button focusing then changed to my zoom lens still I could get nice and close and hopefully get some good shots! I decided against using my tripod and just stuck to the hand held approach. Mainly because my tripod was and afterthought and currently sat on my bedroom floor or back at my cousins house.
I started off shooting using the cameras built in sports mode just to make sure I got at least 1 or 2 good shots, but they weren’t really the shots I was after. Whilst they were mostly sharp and in focus, they froze the whole shot and made the scene just a bit static and boring. I wanted to get crisp shots of my cousin, with a nice motion blurred background to at least add a sense that she was moving, not just frozen in mid air. I knew roughly how to achieve this, but I wanted to make sure that I got all the settings right.
Another quick Google later, I was now in shutter priority mode and ready for a nice helping of motion blur. I left the aperture to do its own thing along with the ISO so all I had to worry about was the shutter. I think I chose to shoot around 1/80 1/50 or something. This would give me the nice blurred background I was after whilst allowing me to keep the focus on my cousin sharp even when not using a tripod. Zooming in on a subject when your hands are shaking is not an ideal situation so I made sure the shutter wasn’t open for too long.
There were so many things to think about when trying to get a good shot. The speed she was going, how high she was jumping, which jump she was going to take, how much zoom I needed, it took me a few attempts before I started to get photos I was satisfied with. I was also playing around with the different focus options, trying to ensure the focus was only on my cousin, and that it was tracking her as she moved passed. It was all a great learning experience for me as it is something I’ve never really attempted before. I think I was having as much fun as she was, which kind of just shows how much of a geek I am really.
A couple of days later we went to a different wake park on our way to Carcassonne where again I spent a while sat on the side of the lake taking photos. It was quite nice to be in a different location, the lake was a lot smaller so it was a bit easier having the subject closer to me. The light was slightly better as well as I was facing a different direction, so it lightened the photos a bit better making them come out nice and clear although in some cases a little overexposed.
It was then my cousin’s turn to have a go behind the lens, and my turn to get a little bit of wakeboarding done. I don’t look anywhere near as chic on a wakeboard as my cousin does. I just look like a goofy man struggling to stay upright. It was quite good having my cousin there shouting things at me, trying to get me to do a couple of tricks. I managed to land a couple of 180 ollys, and then she managed to convince me to have a go on the kickers. I landed a couple of attempts, and then completely stacked it.
I thought that was probably a good time to call it a day, before I really hurt myself. Plus, this exercise business is all new to me. I was knackered! So I did what I do best. Got myself a nice cold beer and sat and enjoyed the sun, whilst my cousin had a goof around in front of the camera!