Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Bikes in Flight

with 10 comments


Canon 5D MkII + 35mm f1.4L | 1/60 sec, f/11, ISO 100

I’ve switched to Canon! Just kidding. The Nikon D7000 I carried with me up the mountain here lacks a sync port, so I couldn’t connect it to the lighting equipment we were using. So for the first time I got to play with a 5D mkII and every sort of red-ringed beauty you could possibly dream of using from photographer Jasmine Lee’s gear bag. She was nice enough to invite Team Suki along to collaborate on a pretty special photo shoot.

The athlete you see in these photos is Joe Lee, Jasmine’s brother. Watching him take these jumps was just incredible, and our job was to attempt to keep up with him with the camera as he flew through the air.


Canon 5D MkII + 35mm f1.4L | 1/60 sec, f/11, ISO 100

The goal for these images was implied movement. Watching a mountain biker shred through a trail and fly through the air feels like observing controlled chaos at its finest. There’s so much speed and energy behind this sport, so the last thing we wanted to do is freeze the entire frame and make Joe look like he was hanging from strings in the air. Instead we wanted to express movement by using motion blur, so we dragged the shutter and panned the camera as Joe flew by, smearing the background. The lower shutter speed also blurred the bike’s wheels enough to show wheel spin (he was really haulin’).


Canon 5D MkII + 35mm f1.4L | 1/80 sec, f/11, ISO 100

We brought in an Elinchrom Quadra lighting unit to get some light on Joe. The Quadra has a good amount of power considering how small and light it is, and we used it to give us some subject to background separation as well as to make sure important elements of our subject weren’t too blurry from all the movement. These shots were taken with a single unit, bare bulb at full power, and we took turns being the shooter and the voice activated light stand.


Canon 5D MkII + 15mm f/2.8 Fish | 1/100 sec, f/8, ISO 100

Yes, Suki was there. We had to keep her on leash because if we didn’t, she’d chase Joe down the trail. Quite a hilarious sight to see actually =)


Canon 5D MkII + 15mm f/2.8 Fish | 1/60 sec, f/9, ISO 100

Of course, another way to imply movement is for the background to be sharp and the subject to be slightly blurred by motion:


Canon 5D MkII + 15mm f/2.8 Fish | 1/160 sec, f/8, ISO 100

Special thanks to Jasmine for inviting us out to help with the shoot and get our hands on some really cool gear, and to Joe for being such an awesome sport. It was a ton of fun, even for Suki, who would never pass on a hike or a chance to chase a cyclist down a dirt hill. Please make sure you have a look at Jasmine Lee’s photography website!

Written by Jonathan

February 27, 2012 at 10:03 am

10 Responses

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  1. amazing shots! i love panning, but it seems hit-or-miss on whether or not it works for me. do you have any tricks you could share?

    vegg1estar

    February 27, 2012 at 10:08 am

    • Thank you! It really depends on the situation, and you have to experiment with your shutter speed and panning technique to get it right. Don’t worry, it’s hit and miss for me too. One trick is to pick a shutter speed that’s not so slow that you can’t keep your subject sharp as you pan but slow enough to blur the background. Also, try to pan as smoothly as possible, following your subject through his or her entire movement. Practice is key!

      Jonathan

      February 27, 2012 at 3:03 pm

  2. Really liked the first photo! How did you like the 5d? Did you have to use a high amount of dof to get it in focus or is it just to get that cool effect on the background?

    Mikael

    February 27, 2012 at 11:15 am

    • Mikael,

      The 5D is a great camera. Really easy to shoot with, great RAW files, lots of pixels. We used smaller apertures for both reasons you described in fact. We needed some wiggle room with the focus as well as getting the shutter speeds low enough to blur the background as we panned with the athlete.

      Jonathan

      February 27, 2012 at 3:06 pm

  3. Our images turned out great, didn’t it?! Really pleased with the results we got. Thanks again for coming out!

    Jasmine Lee

    February 27, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    • Yes indeed! I must admit I’m a little sore from hauling the C-stand up and down the mountain, haha. You did a great job getting some fantastic frames. Almost wish we could have done a few more!

      Jonathan

      February 27, 2012 at 3:13 pm

  4. Very good work…..I have done similar with motocross.

    Jim Dell

    February 27, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    • Thank you Jim! I’d love to have a look at some of those motocross shots some day.

      Jonathan

      February 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm

  5. dude this pics are SICK! how incredibly difficult it must’ve been, but you rocked it.

    Jacqueline

    February 28, 2012 at 9:11 pm

  6. Amazing action shots! Great job!

    John

    March 4, 2012 at 11:54 pm


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