A.J. Messier’s Damian Warner Shoot

Canadian photographer A.J. Messier is the owner of Hogtown Studios in Toronto, Ontario. His clients include Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, Hockey Hall of Fame, NHL, the Royal Ontario Museum, and Save the Children Canada. No stranger to sports photography, Messier takes us behind-the-scenes of his recent shoot of Damian Warner for Nike.

©AJ Messier-Hogtown Studios, Toronto, Canada

©AJ Messier-Hogtown Studios, Toronto, Canada

Subject:

  • Damian Warner, 23 years old, for Nike
  • Canadian Olympic Decathalete
  • 5th in 2012 Olympics in London
  • 3rd in Decathalon IAFF 2013 World Championships in Moscow

I approached Damian Warner’s team about eight weeks ago with an idea of shooting Damian in Toronto. My concept was of him being a mild-mannered urban hipster like a Clark Kent, but with his uniform on he transforms into Superman. They immediately loved the idea, and mentioned to me he had never done a professional photo shoot before they were pretty much up for anything. Damian had just signed a deal with Nike. The logical hook into him, his events, and his Nike gear became my focus. The next issue was how to show Damian doing super human feats while in all the newest and brightest Nike gear and make it look dramatic, fresh, and more importantly stand out from all the other images of athletes over the years.

I immediately came up with the concept the entire shoot had to be a HyperSync shoot. Every frame, every lighting technique, would have the end goal in mind of shooting at an extremely high shutter speed. Whether it would be to shoot directly into the sun and control the shadows, and, more importantly, the overabundance of ambient light, or to create an over-the-top dramatic style and feel to the images. Either/or, I was all-in with PocketWizard remotes and HyperSync.

I had received word a few weeks back that I had two days with Damian, all day Saturday and Sunday, rain or shine. I then sat down with my assistant, Chris Barkley, and we mapped out the creative concepts with our selected locations in Toronto for our two-day shoot. I had ten locations, starting at sunrise and ending at sunset both days. My goal was to get one great shot of Damian urban training for each one of his events at the ten different locations.

I had assembled a crew of eight, booked hotel rooms, bought and arranged shooting permits for certain locations, rented a cargo van, and arranged our shooting times around the sun (hopefully) and, of course, location availability. Somehow someway, it worked out beautifully. Our days started at about 5:45 a.m. and we were at our location no later than 6:30 a.m., which for the last week of September in Ontario, is a total crap shoot for weather. Luckily, we had one of the warmest weekends on record to start both days. It was so warm on Saturday I was lying down in Lake Ontario getting completely drenched as the waves crashed on me as Damian ran by me at around sunrise. Again, it was brilliant.

Gear:

  • 3 Elinchrom Ranger RX battery packs.
  • 3 Elinchrom Ranger S strobe heads
  • 3 PocketWizard PowerST4 remotes (on packs)
  • 1 PocketWizard FlexTT5 remote (on camera)
  • 2 Nikon d800 camera bodies
  • 1 Nikon d4 camera body
  • 3 Elinchrom Maxi Spot Reflector 40cm
  • 2 Elinchrom Extension Chords (I would have liked a 3rd but Elinchrom has since discontinued this cord for whatever reason)
  • 1 Enterprise Cargo van
  • A crew of 8 incredibly hard working professionals

 

Shot One:

  • Location: Sugar Beach, Corus Quay, Toronto
  • Event: Long Jump
  • Concept: Jumping over umbrella’s
  • Time of Day: 1 pm Sunday, Sept. 29th
  • Location of Sun: at about 7 o’clock from me facing Damian
  • Lighting: Shooting directly into Sun with 2 S heads each with Spot Reflectors over both my left and right shoulder at a 45% angle to Damian’s point in the air.
  • Shooting Angle: I was lying on the sand parallel to Damian about 8 feet away from his jumping point with my 14-24 1.4 Nikon lens and Nikon d800 camera body.
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/4000th
  • f/: 2.8

 

_AJ20267

©AJ Messier-Hogtown Studios, Toronto, Canada

 

Shot Two:

  • Location: beach at the RC Harris Water Treatment Plant, Queen Street East, Toronto
  • Event: Discus
  • Concept: Training for discus but my goal was to get the sand completely stopped and crisp as he spins as part of his rotation
  • Time of Day: 7:30 am Saturday, Sept. 28th
  • Location of Sun: Directly behind Damian, so at about 6 o’clock from me facing Damian
  • Lighting: Shooting directly into Sun with 2 S heads each with Spot Reflectors over both my left and right shoulder at a 45% angle to Damian’s point in the air.
  • Shooting Angle: I was lying on the sand parallel to Damian about 8 feet away from his jumping point with my 14-24 1.4 Nikon lens and Nikon d800 camera body.
  • ISO: 1600
  • Shutter speed: 1/8000th
  • f/: 6.3
©AJ Messier-Hogtown Studios, Toronto, Canada

©AJ Messier-Hogtown Studios, Toronto, Canada

 

My goal was to create dynamic and beautiful images capturing the motion and strength of Damian’s athletic abilities, while still incorporating some of the most picturesque landscapes the city of Toronto has to offer. Since I was only able to capture one frame per motion, my timing had to be precise, as well as my equipment. My addition of the Elinchrom extension trigger chords working with the PocketWizard PowerST4’s helped give me an edge of little or no misfires when I needed them most. This created an easy workflow and all-around happy set. No misfires, means less takes, means happy model and happy photographer.

Since I only had one shot at each action while using my Elinchrom strobes (recycle time is about 3 seconds at max) I decided I wanted the largest files possible, hence why I shot with my Nikon d800 bodies. I also had a desire to capture sequences of Damian doing some of the action, so I acquired a D4 loaner from Nikon so that we could get about eleven frames per second and just set it up on a tripod and fire away, hopefully capturing some dynamic sequences of Damian, the crew, and gear in action.

In the end, we got some incredible images. I wanted to show off Damian and Nike’s newest gear within the urban setting of Canada’s greatest metropolis. I wanted beautiful colours, (which, as you can see, HyperSync allows the photographer much more control over the ambient light), I wanted create almost superhero/comic book scenarios, and most importantly, I wanted to have fluid stop action images to make your jaw drop. I am proud to say we did exactly that.

A.J. Messier behind-the-scenes. ©Chris Barkley

A.J. Messier behind-the-scenes. ©Chris Barkley

©AJ Messier-Hogtown Studios, Toronto, Canada

©AJ Messier-Hogtown Studios, Toronto, Canada 

©AJ Messier-Hogtown Studios, Toronto, Canada

©AJ Messier-Hogtown Studios, Toronto, Canada

©AJ Messier-Hogtown Studios, Toronto, Canada

©AJ Messier-Hogtown Studios, Toronto, Canada

 

Learn more about A.J. Messier at his site. Follow him on Twitter.

 

All images and quotes in this post are used with permission and ©A.J. Messier, all rights reserved; story is ©PocketWizard. Please respect and support photographers’ rights. Feel free to link to this blog post, but please do not replicate or repost elsewhere without written permission.

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4 Responses to “A.J. Messier’s Damian Warner Shoot”

  1. Max Nadeau says:

    Very great post !! Since i started to shoot with flash i’d do a lot of research on how achive a hypersync higher than 1/1000th of a second! Wow , I saw that A.J. Messier achieve 1/8000th ?!?!?! My god i need to know. I Have two elycrom ranger quadra pack with A head and a bunch of pocketwizard plus 3. Canon 5d mark 3 and canon 1dx. I know it probably miss something , maybe i absolutly need ranger rx power pack or other kind of pocketwizard. Please let me know !!