High Jump - KevinDeibert

High Jump

This is Jacob. I don’t know anything about the high jump but I’m told that Jacob has nice form. I took pictures for Jacob last year and wanted to include some track and field images in his gallery. I went to the shoot with two images in mind. The first was to use the bokeh monster (Canon 200mm f/2 IS USM) to create a panorama of Jacob standing in front of the high jump pit. The second was to use an angle that most photographers who shoot track and field events cannot access during the meet.


The picture above was supposed to be the panorama. It was an epic fail. I originally wanted to include 30 or so images in the panorama and stitch them together. I was hoping to frame Jacob inside the entire jumping pit and the stadium’s bleachers. That didn’t happen.

I’ve had prior success with this technique but when I tried to merge the 67 images that I had from the 200mm lens, the computer had a tough time stitching the panorama. So instead of using the original 67 files, I took only 4 images and merged them into one. They were all shot wide open at f/2. By doing this I am still able to create a look that you cannot replicate with any other lens. I get the shallow depth of field that the telephoto lens would provide along with the added bonus of a wider field of view (even if it’s a portrait orientation)

Here (above), is what individual shots at 200mm would look like from this distance. In addition to the unique appearance of the end result, the image quality when you zoom in is spectacular.


Above is a 200% crop from the first image, very sharp. You seldom get this with a normal focal length. Essentially, because of this technique any client can make an enormous print without having to worry about losing image quality. Lately I’ve been experimenting with this approach and I get mixed results. I’m finding that depending on how many images I try to merge, the software that I must use varies greatly. Six to eight image pano’s can be easily done in Photoshop while larger files require more advanced measures.

The next image was an entirely different animal. There are two thought processes that I went through before I set up for the shot. My first choice was to use only the available light. The second option was to use off camera flash.

Warning: If you are not into the techy side of photography you should stop reading now.

Option 1 Available Light: This shot was taken in mid-day sunlight. The advantage to this is that I can use a faster shutter speed to freeze the motion of the jumper. I am not limited to my max sync speed of 1/200th and I can be pretty certain of getting a sharp image without any type of motion blur. The downside to this approach is that I get an image that is flat, it doesn’t pop off the screen and has harsh shadows.  Furthermore the general consensus is that available light is just that….available to everyone. As a photographer, I’m not bringing anything to the table that my competition can’t.  Here is the shot using only available light.

Option 2 Off Camera Flash. (Mono Lights): This was my primary choice and what I wanted to do from the time I conceptualized the image. The only downside to this approach is my gear. When I first got into flash photography I didn’t really know what anything was. I assumed that better flashes came with a higher price tag. I also assumed (incorrectly ) that the more watt seconds a light has, the more powerful the light is. And the more powerful the light is, the better it freezes motion. This is incorrect. After years of trial and error what I’ve now learned is that there are 2 types of flashes; transistor driven and thyristor driven. More importantly flash duration is what freezes the motion not necessarily my max sync speed. What does this all mean if you’re still reading? My larger studio lights are transistor driven. The maximum watt seconds for these lights are 1/1000th of a second which is not enough power to freeze motion. My speed lights however are thyristor driven. While not as “powerful”, their flash duration can approach 1/8000th of a second as long as I turn them down to 1/4th power or 1/8th power. That’s right…..you must power them down to get a faster flash duration. None of this makes sense to the average person who doesn’t own a camera but I’ll explain what this means to the final image.

For this shot I knew I wanted to use more than just ambient light. I wanted to under expose the background by about 2-3 stops and I wanted to light Jacob separately from the scene. I wanted him to pop from the image. This is a pretty standard approach to flash photography, nothing that I came up with on my own. I also wanted to use my 7 foot parabolic umbrellas and I knew I would need 2 of them to light him evenly. However, because I didn’t purchase the correct type of mono lights I would not have a flash duration greater than 1/4000th of a second. Additionally, my speed lights would not be strong enough to light Jacob in broad daylight shooting into 7 foot umbrellas. This means that I would have to use my mono’s and get some motion blur. So this is the sacrifice I made for the image…..

So this is the sacrifice I made for the image…..I gave back some of the sharpness I would have had in the image if I used only natural light. This is because I wanted to use off camera flash. But in return for that sharpness I received a creative lighting option and hopefully an image that looks better than one that would have just been taken using only available light.

And lastly a screen grab of something a little different. I wanted to do a sequence of the actual jump taking place.  There was probably about 40 shots taken for the image and I narrowed it down to just a handful.  It's a painfully slow process.

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