Five Photography Tips: Chris Garrison

We first profiled Chris Garrison and his amazing photography in November. Since then, he’s continued his amazing photography of athletes in snow and water, or rather, typically flying above snow and water, while pushing the limits of PocketWizard Hypersync technology.

Chris offered to participate in our Five Photography Tips ongoing feature. Here’s the points he felt are important enough to share with other shooters.

©Chris Garrison

©Chris Garrison

  1. Make sure you have everything you need before you leave and everything is fully charged the night before. Athletes never like to wait on the photographer; always be the one waiting on them. Be the first one to cook that egg sandwich in the morning. Make sure you have backups of batteries, cords, cameras, fuses, maybe even an extra Pocketwizard. You never know what can happen when you are out there—always be prepared. For example, I carry 12-inch by 12-inch plastic bags to put over my flashes in case it rains or I am in super-wet snow. I keep my Elinchrom Rangers in Burton F-stop Pro bags because of padding for travel and water resistance.
  2. When shooting action there is always a delay in everything. That little bit of delay could be the difference in a printed shot and an ill Facebook profile picture for the athlete. I always work with “what the shot is about to look like.” By the time you see what the shot is going to look like, to the time you react and pull the trigger, to the time the camera reacts to fire the flashes and mirror could be a good quarter second! Know the sport and your athlete you are shooting so you know how to time the shot with the style of the trick.
  3. One of my favorite photography quotes I hear in my head every time I shoot: “Composition is so important and I feel it is really overlooked these days, especially with the digital craze. A lot of people are just essentially taking snap shots. Lie down on the ground, climb a tree, use people, fences trees, cars for foreground. Get that different perspective. Shoot some film, not only will it help you slow down and think more about composition, but it will teach you the basics of photography. Shoot a lot, but don’t forget that thing I just mentioned… composition.” —Aaron Dodds Snowboarder Magazine Senior Photographer. Okay I really don’t hear that entire quote, but mainly just the word “composition” running non-stop through my head. In action sports the untold rule of the shot is you want where the athlete is taking off from, the peak of the trick with the grab visible, and where he is going, an ill background also helps a ton. Nothing is worse than the “guy in the sky” shot in my industry that a lot of mainstream photogs think is where it’s at. You can occasionally break the rules. I always encourage doing so to get that different shot.
  4. Know your equipment better than you know your wife/girlfriend or the traffic on the highway. The biggest frustration for any athlete is waiting, especially when they are waiting all strapped in staring at the 100 foot gap and you are dialing in the flash power or trying to get that perfect angle. Know what each lens does to a shot. For example, how a fisheye makes the rider look higher and further away but almost takes away the background and gives you a rounded effect you may not want. Practice with those flashes! I used to stay up all night and day when I got my first set of Elinchrom Rangers seeing the different effects and duration of the flashes at different times of the day. Now with the new super Sync from Pocketwizard it’s a whole chapter of Redbull and sleepless nights! Number one to me is knowing your PocketWizards. How far they can transmit, what effects water, snow, rocks, trees, rain, and being low to the ground have on them. What you need to have to counter the effects; for example a longer sync cord to get them off of the ground. You need those firing 100% so you do not blow the shot. A lot of times you only have one chance to hit.
  5. Your job as a photographer is to capture and image in the way you feel it should be seen. Everyone will have a different angle on every shot, unless you are at the Olympics/X-Games. Create your own distinctive style and stay with it—it is what will define you as a photographer. Always push your rider as far as you can or help with their style a little bit to get what you are looking for. Remember they can always go just a little bit “bigger,” but style is more important. I always try to look at my shots as the progression of the sport I am shooting: bigger gaps, different locations, crazy angles and lighting.

©Chris Garrison

©Chris Garrison

Always looking to give more than expected, Chris Garrison threw in one more paragraph as a bonus to our readers. Here it is.

Always have fun, and never get frustrated, and never ever disrespect your athlete. They are the ones putting their body and lives on the line to get that epic shot you talked them into. My crew always has the same rules: “anything goes during set up,” but as soon as it’s time to shoot it’s all fun and positive attitudes.

Chris Garrison Photography
Chris Garrison blog

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5 Responses to “Five Photography Tips: Chris Garrison”

  1. bycostello says:

    Great photos…. totally agree composition is everything…

  2. Lars Daniel says:

    Wow! Chris is sooo good. Very, very inspiring.

  3. Athletes (Top to Bottom):

    Austin Hair
    The Projects – Orlando, Florida

    Nick Galotifiore
    Caloosahatchee River, Florida

    Ian Smith
    Crested Butte Backcountry, Colorado

    Pat Milbery
    Fault Lines Park – Mountain High, California

  4. Ian says:

    Looking good Chris. YELLOW GOLD!