Category Archives: Tech

Through The Lens: Inside BMX Media

I’m not really sure who the intended audience of this mini “documentary” actually is, but it gives you a little behind the scenes look at what its like to be a BMX photographer/filmer. Despite being severely cringeworthy at several points, there are a few bits of good information sprinkled throughout. If you’re an aspiring lensman, check out the video and read below for a little friendly advice of my own.

I’ve only been in the game for a few years now and some could make the argument that I’m no more qualified to offer advice on this subject than the people in this video, but I couldn’t just have you guys ingesting a bunch of vague pointers. In my years of paying dues and finally getting my foot and my camera bag in the door of the BMX industry, this is the best advice I could give you if you’re looking to do the same.

-Do it for the right reasons.
I feel like I read this in every interview with any BMX photographer ever, but if you’re trying to make a million dollars from shooting/filming BMX, go to the nearest pawn shop and sell all your shit because its not going to happen. Shooting BMX should be, above all else, a labor of love. You should love this shit so much to begin with that getting paid for it shouldn’t matter until you can do what you do with one arm tied behind your back and security breathing down your neck. If you get no genuine thrill from pedaling miles on end while lugging a 50lb camera bag, you’re in the wrong business, friend.

-Know your craft.
This goes beyond reading your camera’s manual cover to cover and knowing what every function does. This is about shooting so many photos or filming so many clips that you can see what its going to look like before you even pull the camera out. This is about closing the gap between what your photos/footage looks like and what you want your stuff to look like. Not by going out and buying a bunch of expensive gear, but by knowing how to squeeze every ounce of capability out of the tools and the light you’re given. Some of the best advice I’ve ever come across is, don’t practice til you get it right, practice til you can’t get it wrong.

-Its not about gear.
As much as you think having a VX1k, 1Dx and Einsteins or a Panasonic with the whale eye will miraculously make your shit look like Jeff Z or Navaz’s, you’re sadly mistaken. Unless you’ve got tens of thousands of dollars to run through B&H like Supermarket Sweep, you should be more worried about doing what you can with what you have instead of worrying about what you could do with what you don’t. Always try to keep in mind that there’s someone out there doing better with less.

-Be your own worst critic, not your number one fan.
No one likes a dude who’s feeling himself to the max. And its even worse when their photos/filming aren’t quite up to par. If you somehow think you’ve arrived or are more worried about your Instagram followers than continually improving the quality of your work, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice and you probably look like a douchebag. Don’t buy into your friends telling you you’re the shit, you gotta see the things that you could’ve done better. Its easy to let a hundred likes go to your head, but if you think that shit matters in real life, I honestly feel bad for you.

-Network, network, network.
Social media has made it easier than ever to meet and communicate with riders from your town all the way up to your favorite pros. In most industries, networking is a bunch of shaking hands and trading business cards, but in BMX it can be anything as simple as saying “whats up, let’s shoot sometime” on Instagram to just sharing a blunt at the skatepark. But be cautious of your hunger level when it comes to stuff like this though, most people can spot a weirdo from a mile away. Which brings us to our next topic…

-Don’t be a weirdo.
In the modern BMX climate, you might be surprised how far being a normal, level-headed person could take you. You could shoot the best photos ever, film the crispiest clips, but if you’re a pain in the ass, next to no one is going to want to deal with you. Don’t be the guy poaching photos/clips of people you don’t know at the skatepark. Don’t be the guy bugging your one and only local pro to shoot on every social network every day. Just try not to be “that guy”.

-Do good work and things will happen.
Same as when it comes to riding, the longer you’re out there doing you and making it look good, people will eventually notice. There’s no better feeling than being the go-to guy for riders or companies, but the only way to get there is to be consistently dialed and reliable. As soon as you start wondering why you’re not getting the recognition you deserve or why people aren’t fucking with you, your mind is in the wrong place and you should stop and re-evaluate why you’re doing what you’re doing. You shouldn’t have to speak for your work, your work should speak for you.

Troy Charlesworth Interview

Troy talks with Focalpoint about the creation of his new DVD “That’s What’s Up” which I luckily saw over the weekend and FUCK it is great. Full review to come.

Desktop Wallpaper – James Harvey by Josh McElwee

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I linked up with Josh McElwee during Texas Toast and suggested that we film a behind-the-shot feature for a desktop wallpaper. We agreed that an appropriate location would be the Five Hip ditch and that his friend James Harvey would be a perfect candidate to get the photo.

Josh has a very impressive portfolio that showcases his ample understanding of lighting. He also seems to have the optimal amount of obsessive-compulsive disorder that any photographer should have. It’s worth mentioning that this shoot was a bit rushed, with the NORA Cup party happening less than two hours after we got on location.

Download the wallpaper here:
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2048×1536
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How the photo was made:

See a full list of the gear and accessories that Josh uses in his bag check.

Josh McElwee Bag Check

JoshMcElwee.com

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Main bag contains the following:

Canon 5D MK II
Canon 15 f/2.8
Canon 50 f1.8
Canon 70-200 f/4
Sekonic L-358 Incident Meter
Four (4) Pocket Wizard transceivers w/ corresponding sync cords for each flash
Einstein 640 watt second strobe w/ 8.5 in. reflector (45 degrees)
Two Vivitar 285 hot shoe flashes

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In the smaller compartments, the odds and ends are as follows:

Ball bungees
Clothespins
Gaffers tape
Super glue
Velcro
Small gels for hot shoe flashes
Black cinefoil snoot
Extra sync cords
AA batteries
Extra CF card
Lens cloth
Rocket air blower
Battery chargers

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The second bag (black Animal backpack) contains the following:

Two (2) Vagabond Mini Lithium Battery Packs

Alien bee 800 (320 watt second) strobe w/8.5 inch reflector

Large sheets of cinefoil put together with gaffers tape. Used to flag excess light when using the reflectors on the strobes.

15 degree honeycomb grid

Lee Gel Pack – I mostly use the color correction gels (CTO, CTB, and fluorescent) in various strengths. There are also sheets of diffusion material and theatrical color gels that I use occasionally.

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Long Lens Shot Contest Winners

The first-ever Push It A Stop video contest was judged by Mike Mastroni, Charlie Crumlish, Ryan Navazio and myself.

Thanks to everyone who entered- all of your shots were damn good. In the end we chose the shots with the smoothest tracking and zoom, the more striking light, use of unconventional angles and all-around cleanliness. The gear used was not taken into consideration, nor was the trick being executed. Remember that cameras don’t film people, people film people. You can make a beautiful shot with cameras of any price range and a little bit of work.

Honorable mention #1: Anthony Loconte – A very smooth tracking glidecam shot with a gorgeous blue sky, a pleasing depth-of-field and bonus points for the use of a graduated ND filter.

Honorable mention #2: Eddie Olschansky – Even though there’s another filmer in the shot, that shadow cast on the wall is super powerful and the overall lighting is very dramatic. I guess I never said there was no slow-motion or editing allowed, so I’ll allow it. Bonus points for hand-zooming with the 24-70mm f/2.8L.

Honorable mention #3: Jacob Hope – I find it hard to believe but Jacob says this was filmed on his first day using the GL2. I’m usually not a fan of foreground objects but it works for this skatepark shot of Morgan Wade. Bonus points for Oasis playing in the background.

Third place: Dylan Thompson – Despite the not-quiet skateboard wheels, this shot uses zoom nicely- going from wide to open and give context, zooming slowly on the rising action and isolating the trick and the rider towards the end. The rolling dynamics are beautiful- the way the rider is moving opposite the camera in the beginning adds an illusion of high speed. Then as soon as the rider’s direction switches, the shot becomes super fluid with the action moving in sync with the camera, making the nose manual look so much more majestic. The lighting throughout the shot is also on point.

Second place: Justin Browne – Nazaz said it best- “I hate that trick but the way it was filmed made me like it.” Personally my favorite part of the clip is how the rider emerges from shadow into golden light as soon as he hops up those stairs, about to hit the rail. The color of the rails complement the warm ambiance as well. The angle is choice (except for how it understates the height of the rail- although it doesn’t look to be too tall in the first place). The zoom is super smooth throughout and the rider’s exit is very graceful while the camera slowly comes to a still shot of the warm ground.

First place: Jeremie Infelise – This was the only shot that was on everyone’s top three list. I am partial to any tailwhip shot from above because of the way the bike looks spinning around under the rider- almost a point-of-view angle. Jeremie chose the most difficult way to film this trick- by climbing a tree- and it definitely paid off. Much like in the second place clip, the vantage point might make the rail look a bit shorter, but let’s be real for a minute- Jared Swafford is like 7 foot-a-million so any rail is baby to him. The shot opens with just a still shot, tree limbs in view, with no rider in sight. You can’t even see the rail yet. Much drama. Then here comes Jared, with a smooth track, hopping onto the rail. As soon as he’s on the rail there are no longer any obstructing tree limbs in the shot- just rider and obstacle (the angle further isolates this relationship- there is nothing else in frame to be distracted by. He launches off the rail and kicks a near-flawless tailwhip (the dynamics of which I previously explained)- all the while the camera zooms ever-so-slightly, keeping rider almost perfectly framed in a clearing of branches. He lands, obviously not directly to pedals (we aren’t judging the trick, remember that) but here’s the kicker- you can’t see him fix his footing because of the branches in our line-of-sight. Either Jeremie ingeniously foresaw this situation or it happened serendipitously… It doesn’t matter. It worked perfectly. Jared rolls out of frame and the camera swiftly tilts and zooms to the ground, the sure sign of a successful clip.

Look out for the next contest in the coming weeks.