Thursday, December 3, 2015

Nitro Circus - photographing these crazy dare devils!

A couple of weeks ago I photographed the Nitro Circus show in San Jose, Ca. I actually asked to photograph this event, since my son has been enamored with Travis Pastrana and the gang for many years, and the action looked like something that would translate well in digital pictures.

I really had no idea what lenses to bring, having never seen the show. There was no doubt about which camera body I would use, since I knew that I would rely on the fast burst rate of the Canon 1Dx. I knew that I had shooting access from pretty much anywhere except the arena floor, so I decided to bring the Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS zoom, 24-70mm, and a 16-35mm wide lens. I figured that this would cover me for almost any situation.

When entering the arena, I found a TV cameraman who worked with the show and figured that he could give me helpful information. He told me that the first performances were from the bike riders off the long ramp followed by the motorcycle stunts on the short ramp. This helped me decide on the lens choice and also where to stand for the beginning of the show. This was one of the first images I took.

And then, shortly after the bikes, the motorcycles came out. This photo is showing the brother and sister team doing one of their tricks. At this point, I had experimented with camera settings and determined that ISO 3200 and spot metering where my best options. I used servo focus combined with the back button focusing to lock in on my subjects. (For those of you who do not know about back button focusing, you can check out my short video on this topic).

I used the 70-200mm 2.8 IS lens for most of the photography, which let me get in nice and tight on the riders.

And...of course, I was shooting at 12 frames per second with the Canon 1Dx to make sure that I got the photos at the peak of action. Typically, I was aiming to get the riders completely off their bikes and at the best body position.

At one point during the show, Travis Pastrana asked for volunteers from the audience. I quickly switched to my 16-35mm lens and grabbed shots of the audience hoping for a chance to be a part of the show.

This is a photo of Bruce Cook doing a backflip on his motorcycle. What makes this so intense is that Bruce was paralyzed less than two years ago in a horrific accident and has no feeling from the waist down. He was strapped into the bike and could only use his upper body. A bit crazy if you ask me! I like this shot because you can see the reactions of Travis and others who were intently watching the stunt.

I really liked shooting photos when there were multiple motorcycles in the air at the same time.

This was one of my favorite photos of the evening. Two riders in the air at the same time, with one of them facing directly towards me. On the full resolution image, you can clearly see the intensity in his eyes through the goggles.

And some more cool stunts...

...and more...

At different points in the show, they do something called "The Train" where they have many riders all jumping at the same time. Knowing this was coming (also thanks to the information gathered from the TV cameraman) I moved down to the first row in the stands and used the Canon 16-35mm lens once again. This wide angle lens helped me get many riders all in the same shot.

This last frame is another favorite from the evening. This shows the exact peak of action in this jump with the colors and lighting perfect for the photo.

As you know, I love photographing anything new and different. This was another one of those challenges for me. I hope you enjoyed the photos from this event.


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rcortinas said...

Very nice pictures !!!
Thank you for keep posting your pictures and knowledge to our community.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,
I love your blog, as always, it is interesting and colorful.
I will post my regular comment to add some more technical information in your posts, such as EXIF for example, we are almost all of us, photography enthusiast and this information will be a good "tip" for us and good reference.