Capturing photographs of extreme sports is an extreme sport itself. Each extreme sport has its own set of rules and unique technicalities that allowed it to be considered extreme. These stunts and technicalities are what also influence individuals to give them a try and maybe even turn professionals at what they do. In the Island of Jamaica where I’m from, there weren’t many extreme sports to be seen other than your occasional dirt bikes or even a few jeeps driving through some mud. As I moved to North America, I became introduced to this kind of sport and even more so decided to learn how to photograph the sport itself extremely well, no pun intended. In this article, I will be sharing some of the tips I had to learn very quickly as a beginner to successfully capture great moments in the world of Extreme Sports.
The first step I took towards becoming a good photographer at extreme sports was to do my research as to what is considered extreme sports as well as get an understand as to what the rules and technicalities of these extreme sports are. Having a handle on these things will better help you understand how the sport works and maybe even develop an appreciation for it. Not knowing what you’re getting yourself into can be extremely dangerous as you don’t know what exactly to expect. Not only will this knowledge help you to understand and appreciate the sport more but it will also prepare you physically and mentally for what’s to come.
By mental preparedness, I mean being aware of the dangers that come with the sport, especially if you’re going to be very close by the action as well as being aware of your surroundings because in a split second anything can happen. By physical preparedness, it speaks to dressing appropriately for the event you’re attending. You don’t want to be the only photographer in jeans and button-up shirt when everyone else is in a t-shirt and some sneakers at a dirt bike event. Also be physically aware as well in the event that anything unfortunate is to happen.
Sports Photography itself is fast and spontaneous in nature so you can definitely apply the same concept to sports photography. The only thing is, things might be a bit more spontaneous and not as predictable as sports photography especially as a beginner. If you’re a fan of always shooting in manual mode then I can only give you props for doing the same thing when it comes to photographing extreme sports. Reason being is that most if not all subjects in extreme sports are either moving fast or are unpredictable in their movement. This means your subject will be in a constant state of different lighting situations which might be a bit difficult to adjust and get used to in manual mode.
The time it might take you to readjust settings, the possibilities of you missing a key shot is very high.
I recommend switching your camera mode to shutter priority. This helps as it is always easier to adjust your shutter speed while you’re shooting than it is to adjust your aperture and ISO. Try starting off with a shutter speed with at least 1/500. If this is too fast then you can gradually work your way down to a minimum of at least 1/250 as anything lower than that is more than likely going to give you motion blur. A high shutter speed will ensure your subject is captured in a freeze frame with that crisp sharpness you will need.
Try not to stay in one position for too long. Depending on the sport I know you might feel safe in one spot but I do recommend you move around and try to capture the subject or subjects from different angles. Different angles or perspectives can bring life to a shot very easily if you give it a try. The trick is to shoot in different spots until you find yourself in a position where you are getting some amazing frames. Even when you’ve found this sweet spot, try not to stay there for too long because as photographers I know we can get comfortable in a sweet spot and neglect the other possibilities around.
Last but not least I recommend you be very careful and stay aware of your surrounds as I mentioned earlier. Some of these extreme sporting events can go from amazing to bad very quickly and you don’t want to be a victim of that.
Depending on the sport, if protective gear is available then I do advise you wear it as it is always better to be safe than sorry. Your safety comes first and then you can get your shots after but never compromise your safety too much for a single shot.