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Wakeboard and Waterski photography

Barry Chignell shares his wakeboard and waterski photography advice.

|  Sports and Action
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Words and images by Barry Chignell from Free Photo Resources.


  • 70-300mm lens - This allowed me a good range to get both close up shots but also track the boat as it made its way towards me on the lake.
  • If it's cold you may want a warm, waterproof jacket - visit Stealth Gear if you're in the market for one.

When we arrived I asked some questions which would help me during the shoot:
  • Where on the lake do the wakeboarders go?
  • How many people would be wakeboarding that required photos?
  • Where are the best vantage points?
I set the mode to manual, the shutter speed to 1/2500 sec, f/4 and the ISO to auto to start off with which worked well as the light was still good. We  then 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!

I found 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 (especially 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, which were high!

Next I moved to the bank.  From this position I could get some great shots of the wave of water created by the wakeboarders turning before a trick.

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 the boat was the movement, I tried to get the shots while on a straight as this was the smoothest part of the ride.

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!


Final tips:
  1. Research – ask about the location and the sport to find the best position to get shots.
  2. Change your perspective – move about the area and get shots form different angles to change the view.
  3. Take LOADS of shots – the more you have, the better chance one will be what you're after!
  4. Pick your day - I did not have a choice about the weather or time of day but the better the light the better the photo.
  5. Have your camera ready – set up your equipment long before you are expected to start as the boat and subject will be quick and leave no time for adjustments!
  6. Have a waterproof camera bag – you're near water, be safe and protect your gear!
  7. High shutter speeds – Anything over 1/2000th sec and between f/2 and f/6 works well.
Words and images by Barry Chignell from Free Photo Resources.

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I love the picture of the water in the cut!! Great photo. I just bought a house and am looking for pictures. I would love to frame this and have it in my living room. Great work, I will try to get one this summer.

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