Garth Milan Overcomes Bright Midday Sun with HyperSync
For years we’ve been drawn to what photographer Garth Milan continues to do. Sponsored by Red Bull, among other corporations, Milan is a master at freezing the action of extreme sports of all kinds. We recently caught up with him again, and he was kind enough to explain how he overpowered the Southern California sun and stopped motion at the same time. Here is his account of his most recent shoot.
This particular shoot with Red Bull athlete Curtis Keene posed two fairly large problems. One was the bright Santa Monica midday sun, and the other was the fact the trails we shot on were miles away from the nearest parking spot, which meant we had to hike up the normally “downhill” trails with any and all gear needed for the shoot.
All that being said, my assistant and I started our blister-inducing hike up with a camera body and several lenses, along with an Elinchrom Ranger, equipped with the PowerST4 to enable my PocketWizard to HyperSync® at any and all speeds. After one of the most intense hikes of my life (considering how much gear we had), we arrived at our destination to find, just as I thought, the lighting was less than ideal for shooting with the natural, ambient light.
Our first shot was a small jump with the Santa Monica coastline in the backdrop, which was very nice, but also was positioned so as to make Curtis completely shadowed when catching the beach in the background. It was time to bring in the big guns, and because of the very harsh midday sun that we were up against, I wanted the extra power of the Elinchrom Ranger versus ordinary speedlights. With a couple of test fires to make sure that we were popping, I had Curtis hit the jump a few times at full speed (25-plus m.p.h.). I hate to make the athlete keep pushing his or her bike up the steep slopes for shot after shot, so I try to get things as close to perfect as possible with regards to light settings, and then try to really be on my game with framing the shot, etc. so as not to wear the athlete out with too many attempts.
After a handful of jumps, I was satisfied we had our shot on the card and it was not going to get any better, so we moved on to a nearby berm. Again, the direction of the outlet of the berm had Curtis in full shade, so the Ranger was perfect for filling these unwanted shadows in. Having the HyperSync-powered PocketWizard PowerST4s allowed me to fire away at speeds of over 2000th of a second, so I didn’t have to worry about parts of the subject having unwanted motion when attempting to overpower the sun.
I once again placed the Ranger (with an Elinchrom sports reflector attached) close to me, with the sun opposite to the Ranger and me. By doing this, the sun then acts as a powerful backlight, meaning I can get away with only bringing one single, but powerful, light. We shot a few other obstacles before the sun went down, and then began the long hike back. Even though it was not easy getting the small amount of lighting we used for this project back to where we needed it, the Ranger really saved the day, and having the power of HyperSync with it was the final ingredient needed to ensure we could freeze the fast action.
Garth’s gear for this shoot
- Canon EOS-1Dx
- Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens
- Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 lens
- PocketWizard PowerST4
- PocketWizard MiniTT1
- Elinchrom Ranger pack and head, with Elinchrom sports reflector attached to S head
The following shot by Garth Milan is currently featured on the main page of the PocketWizard site.
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