How To Photograph Wakeboarders & Waterskiing

How To Photograph Wakeboarders & Waterskiing

I had the great fortune of being invited to take photos of a friend wakeboarding.  I did a bit of research beforehand and also learned a few tricks and tips on the day……

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When we arrived I asked some questions which would help me during the shoot;

  • Where on the lake do the Wakeboarders go (the lake is used for different water sports)?
  • How many people would be Wakeboarding that required photo’s?
  • Where are the best vantage points (not having visited the lake before)?

One thing that came out of the conversation was previous difficulties that people had come across trying to get in focus shots due to the speed of the boat (and obviously the Wakeboarder!).

Once we had spoken about what they were looking for and what difficulties they had previously come across trying to get photo’s we barrelled around the perimeter of the lake at breakneck speed in an old Ford Fiesta (which has already been driven from the UK to South Africa!).  Luckily my friend lives on the lake and his friend owns the whole thing so we had free run over the whole area!

There were 3 main vantage points for the shoot;

  • Judges podiums – these were stands on the bank about 15 feet high with a great view up and down the lake.
  • The bank – great for water level shots
  • The boat – best vantage point but also the most unsteady (especialy when turning 180 degrees without warning at, what felt like, 50mph!).

I started off using the judges podiums to get the correct settings for the light and shutter speeds needed, which were high!

Equipment

I took my Canon 50d with Tamron 70-300mm lens, this allowed my a good range to get both close up shots but also track the boat as it made it’s way towards me on the lake (it also helped that the boat had heavy dance music blairing out from it’s stereo!).

I set the mode to manual, the shutter speed to 1/2500 sec, F4 and the ISO to auto to start off with which worked well as the light was still good (I did not use a flash as I did not want to put anyone off!

 

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As the boat came towards my position I steadied myself and placed my arm on the railing and cradled the camera on bent elbow to reduce camera shake as much as possible.  I then tracked the wakeboarder down the lake until they started to ‘show off’ for the camera, at which point I started to take shots, LOT’S of shots!

I made sure that I shot continuously from before they did a trick to after they had finished it, this improved the chances of a great shot, in focus and without the wakeboarder pulling a stupid face!

I tried to get different aspects of the sport into my photo’s, not just jumping in the air but also the turns, the boat and the wash caused by the boat that the wakeboarders use to perform the stunts.  I also tried to get the design of the wakeboard to become a big part of the photo as it added texture and colour to an otherwise very blue photo.

 

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Next I moved to the bank (because I was cold and had already nearly fallen off twice!).  From this position I could get some great shots of the wave of water created by the wakeboarders turning before a trick….

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I think that these shots give a slightly different perspective on the normal shots that people get (although these are great also! ;0))

Finally I jumped on the boat, at this point the light had started to fade and so I changed from auto ISO and ramped it up to 800.  The main issue with being on the boat was the movement, I tried to get the shots whilst on a straight as this was the smoothest part of the ride.

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Finally I did a bit of post processing which was basically just playing with the curves and applying a bit of sharpening to the shots.  Cropping was generous on the more distant shots but having taken over 700 in 3 hours I had plenty to play about with!

My Tips

  1. Do you research – ask about the location and the sport to find the best position and time to get shots.
  2. Change your perspective – move about the area and get shots form different angles, with different exposure etc to change the view.
  3. Take LOADS of shot’s – the more you have, the better chance one will be what your after!
  4. Pick your day - I did not have a choice abut the weather or time of day but the better the light the better the photo, if you can, go for the golden hours for the best light.
  5. Have your camera ready – set up your equipment long before you are expected to start to take photos, the boat and subject will be quick and leave no time for adjustments!
  6. Have a water proof camera bag – your near water, be safe and protect you gear!
  7. High shutter speed – Anything over 1/2000th sec and between F2 and F6 works well.

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The article I read before going can be found here.

Written by Barry Chignell

I believe that advice should be free, with this in mind FPR contains over 500 photography articles covering all aspects of the photography world, from Wedding Photography to HDR and interviews from online retailers to professional photographers. I am always interested to hear from anyone in the profession regarding new and exciting ideas and ventures and am happy to help photographers publicise their work. If you would like to discuss your photography and how FPR can help, email me at bchignell@gmail.com.

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