Some time last year I wrote a blog post about photographing some guys jumping bikes in a park here in Chicago. If you want to check that out, this is the post. I had been inspired by a great book by Syl Arena on flash photography and what can be achieved to freeze fast action and to add drama to the shots. This has also got me interested in trying another sport, skating (the skateboard variety, not ice). They are a couple of skate parks along Lakeshore Drive in Chicago, one north of us and one south. I had never before managed to time it right to get to one of them but finally I have done it.
I got the park and a few people were skating around. I watched for a while to see who was a more comfortable skater before asking whether anyone would let me take their picture. One guy, Konrad, was kind of okay with the idea but seemed a bit skeptical. Most other people were not keen. Konrad had one location he had been making some good moves on so we set up there. We grabbed a few shots from different angles with me mainly using a single light triggered by cable rather than IR. This is tough stuff to do so you can’t just have them do it over again until you are happy. They get worn out.
We grabbed a few shots and then Konrad went off to skate some other parts of the park. When I got back, the shots were not too bad. The use of a single light was not ideal as, with the deck in front you get quite a shadow cast. Also, it reflected strongly which tended to limit the light on him. Two lights will definitely be better. Fortunately, a little work in Lightroom managed to enhance the balance on him a bit. A first time out and not too bad. Plenty to improve on next time though.
As has been the case a few times recently, I was down in Millennium Park recently at night. I was there to see something else but, while I was there, I took some time to watch the ice skaters. There is an ice rink beside Millennium Park that is free to the public to use. If you don’t have skates, they are available for hire. However, if you come equipped, you are free to skate!
The rink stays open relatively late each evening and I spent some time from above watching everyone having fun. Of course, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take some pictures (and also some video – I figure that all of these clips will one day be part of a larger montage of Chicago footage). Since it is dark, it is time to try other techniques.
I was surprised how well lit the rink was. I could get some quite fast shutter speeds if I wanted to. However, that wasn’t really the point. I can come during the day if that is what I want. Instead, the slow shutter speeds were actually what I was looking for. The question then becomes how slow.
I was mounting the camera to the railings with a flexible arm and clamp so my motion wasn’t a problem. If the shutter speeds got too long, the blur of the skaters became so vague, it was hard to see whether they were there or not. A slightly faster speed meant they became a bit more distinct. This was what I was after. You still needed to get the larger groups of skaters to make it show up noticeably though. The perfect combination was when someone would stay totally still (or close to it) during the shot. Then you had the juxtaposition of the movement and the lack of movement. That was my favorite.