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10 Things To Do When Photographing Parkour - Parkour Photographer Scott Bass share his top 10 tips on photographing this unusual activity.
1. MoveThe most important point to remember, is to move. Parkour is so dynamic and in many respects, very intimate. Lots of small systems and segments of practice go into the more grand movements, and the smaller ones can also be very interesting to capture. Try moving the camera around, go up high, crouch down low. Experiment with where you can be, frame with things in the way and really try to move around. The most pedestrian images I see of parkour are shot standing dead still in ‘tourism mode’. I suggest really trying to capture the textures, differences in space and the various tones you can see in the urban environment that is the canvas for Parkour.
Dressing correctly augments both the previous and next points. To get the best imagery for Parkour, you need to be able to access the environments the practitioners do. To this end, ensure you wear light, loose fitting trousers (preferably tracksuit bottoms/jogging pants), running shoes and a two strap backpack for gear. Being able to potentially climb certain objects will give a good dynamic to your photographic experience.
2. Dress Appropriately
3. Travel LightWhen shooting Parkour, you’re going to be on the move. It's fairly common to be asked to ‘move on’ in parkour, and it's part of the culture. Practitioners will kindly say thankyou and pack their stuff to move on to another spot for the day. To this end, it's unwise to be hauling tripods, lightstands etc. around. A wireless flash or two are probably the maximum level of external lighting equipment you can get away with.
4. Zoom LensFlexibility is key when shooting Parkour, so having a zoom lens instead of a prime is my general advice. Parkour is best shot during the day and sunlight will provide plenty of light so f/5.6 would be very suitable. The deeper DOF would also help when practitioners are coming toward or away from camera in respect to sharpness. More importntly, the flexibility of a zoom lens, especially as over the last few years there are very few poor zooms, give it more and more advantages.
5. Shutter Speed PriorityUsing Shutter Priority is what I often find to be the best solution for when you are starting to shoot very high action. Set your ISO over to auto and then pick a shutter around 1/1000s. Naturally, with more light you can go faster and slower for less, though I’d advise the slowest acceptable speed for frozen motion is around 1/250s.
6. AnticipateThis furthers the previous point. Try to learn the tells of a practitioner, how will you know they are going to move or where they are moving to. I’ve had experience shooting parkour competitions and having an understanding of the natural flow a practitioner has and thus judging their direction can be very important.
7. Frame and AddWhen shooting parkour, view it much like architecture photography. It's important to frame a shot first and then add in the practitioner and their movement after. The best images are when the practitioner and the environment work together, much like the actual mindset of parkour itself.
8. RawShooting raw is common practice for most serious photographers, but I think it's still important to emphasise exactly how important the benefits of RAW are to parkour photography in paticular. Simply put, the key benefit I find is headroom. A lot of the time, you’re shooting very high contrast scenes and the light is constantly changing as you recompose. Having some extra stops of data has made that difference for some of my favourite work.
If you’re simply shadowing practitioners, especially ones you aren't acquainted with, don't be shy in asking them to repeat a movement for you. Most of the time, they can and will and in these instances always follow up and send them a copy of the image. If it's difficult movement, physically tiring or a recent progression they may turn you down, which is also perfectly acceptable.
9. Ask for More
10. Autofocus is not your friendThe constant autofocus function that most DSLRs sport can be great when shooting with a very long lens, especially for wildlife or sport photography in general. However, when it comes to the very dynamic and relatively wide focal lengths that Parkour suits, prefocusing or shooting at a slightly narrower aperture is the best solution. Framing your practitioner in the central AF point isn't great for composition either.
Article and images by Scott Bass from Ampisound Photography
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