AdamBarkerPhotography Bio Video (revised edit)

Just in case you missed it the first time around, here’s a revised edit on a bio video done by the boys over at HIP Visual Arts. I can’t forget to mention my wonderful partners and sponsors that help me to do what I do! Special thanks to Gitzo tripods, Clikelite Backpacks, Arc’teryx, Mountain Khakis, Singh Ray Filters and the Manfrotto School of Xcellence.

Adam Barker Profile from HIP VISUAL ARTS on Vimeo.

Seven Tips for Better Cityscapes

Christmas Lights at Temple Square. A Salt Lake City must see!

Every year, during the month of December in downtown Salt Lake City, visitors and locals alike delight in the luminary display at Temple Square. For many, this is a must see (and rightly so).

It also serves as the perfect location to work on urban shooting at dusk. It seems one of the most frequent questions I get is how to get those glowing cityscape images that just sing with life.

The answer really is a matter of timing more than anything else. The key is to be shooting at the time when the ambient (existing) light balances with the artificial light in your scene. Most commonly, this artificial light is displayed in building windows or street lights. At Temple Square, however, this is displayed in thousands upon thousand of Christmas lights.

Below are a couple of tips that will help you in your quest for that dusk/dawn city keeper.

1. Be prepared and ready once the magic moment arrives. This period of time when all the light balances goes very quickly. Shoot too early and the sky is pale an uninteresting. Shoot too late and the sky is black and…uninteresting. The indigo sky is what sets everything else off. It’s what gives the artificial lights their special glow as it contrasts heavily in color and tone.

2. Decide whether you’ll be shooting into or away from the horizon. This makes a huge difference in timing. The part of the sky opposite the setting sun horizon will hold much less light, and will go dark much sooner.

3. Take your tripod. These are often times very lengthy exposures given the fact that there is little in the way of ambient light. The image in this post is a 5 sec. exposure.

4. Bump up your ISO. Woah there! No need to send it through the roof, but I routinely bump it up to ISO 400 or so. This simply allows me to capture more images during this fleeting time, while sacrificing little in the way of image quality.

5. Don’t forget your Grad ND filters. They are particularly handy when shooting the western sky (where the sun has just set), as this will still be a good deal brighter than your foregrounds during all but the last moments of dusk. I used a 2-stop hard step Grad ND in this image.

6. Don’t forget composition! Colors and shapes and new times of day to shoot are all super cool, but it still doesn’t negate the need to put it all together in a manner that engages the viewer. I chose to create a frame of sorts around the main subject (Salt Lake Temple) in this image with the prolific Christmas lights on either side of the image area.

7. Use live view to check focus. Many times your camera will struggle to attain focus when there’s little light out. Take advantage of live view on your camera’s LCD screen and zoom in to check your focus and make sure you don’t end up with a soft image.

Hopefully, these tips will help you in your efforts to shoot dynamic cityscapes!

The Wasatch is Raging!

Forrest Coots sampling zee powdah at Deer Valley.

With 100+ inch bases before Christmas at many of the area resorts, winter is officially on like donkey kong here along the Wasatch Front. I get many questions from people wondering as to whether ski photography is simply a matter of lugging your camera up on the mountain and shooting random skiers as they shred by. This may come as a shock, but what many consider to be the best job in the world really is quite a good deal of work that comes with its own unique challenges and obstacles.

So the big question is, how does it all come together? In a nutshell, it goes something like this:

Check weather. Check snowfall. Text athletes. Check snowfall. Check weather. Charge batteries. Text athletes. Field bro-brah calls. Dismiss the guy down the street who says he loves to “get rad” and do “extreme skiing”. Check in with resort personnel for early chair or early tram. Finalize athletes. Have athlete bail. Text more athletes. Check snowfall. Check weather. Check avie report. Backcountry? Sidecountry? Resort? Hmm….

Hayden Price "getting rad" at Alta.

Get pack ready. Check batteries. Lay out gear so you don’t wake the kids when you wake up. Fill giant bag o’ stuff with apparel to throw on athletes. Check snowfall. Check weather. Set alarm clock. Hit the sack.

Wake up early. Throw gear on while still in a sleepy haze. Drive to resort. Pit stop at 7-11. Down breakfast of champions: Red Bull & Sausage McMuffin. Let recurring regret settle in after breakfast of champions. Arrive at resort. Bro-brah with bros. High five. Yell at token late athlete. Make him feel stupid for being late. Hug it out. Throw on more layers than you should. Check in with patrol. Get on lift. Freeze until sun hits you. Wish you had thrown on yet one more layer. Head to promised land of fresh snow, good light and milk and honey. Pull out camera. Watch athletes get rad like the guy down the street. Click away annnnnnd…voila! You’ve just captured one of your best images born to a life of sitting on a hard drive before being sent out to an editor who will call dibs, hold onto it for a couple of months, and release it back to you just in time to NOT submit it anywhere else for the season. Congratulations!

Drew Stoecklein at Alta, UT

Raise your hand if you want to be a ski photographer.

Oh. I forgot one more thing to add to the list. SKI POW. That seems to happen here and there as well…(but don’t tell my wife).

Photographer Adam Barker, product testing at Alta, UT.

Ski Utah Powder Lounge: Video Interview

Check out this vid for a look inside my ski photography pack. I also share a couple of solid ski shooting pointers at the end. Thanks to Ski Utah, and enjoy the vid!

Breakdown: The what, why and how of a successful ski image

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We all know that quality ski images don’t simply fall into one’s lap. They require vision (pun intended!) communication and cooperation. Read on to get an inside look at what went into creating this keeper of athlete Jamey Parks at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort.

1. Skier Position

I’m referring to two things here—where I’ve placed the skier in the frame, and the actual body position of the skier. The most important part of ski photography really is communicating with the athlete. They need to know what your vision for the image is. They need to know where they should be dialed in. I made it clear to Parks that “the shot” was going to be primarily from his transition between turns and into his right hand turn. This makes all the difference in skier position.

I wanted to capture lot of action/energy in this shot and thus directed him to really push his left hand turn, which would send up a big cloud of snow and make for an engaging background. I manually selected one of my AF points in the mid to lower RH third of my camera viewfinder, and kept it on him through the entire sequence. Why down there? Check #3.

2. Texture/Separating Elements

I purposely set up in a location that had me shooting “through” this chunky snow, lying on my stomach. I asked the skier to flirt with the edge of this chunky snow section, knowing it would add lots of texture to the image. It also serves as a good separator between a secondary FG focus and the main subject in our mid ground.

3. Open Space/Contextual Background

For me, this is the element that makes the image. The image I had in my head before actually clicking the shutter was one of a skier ripping a turn back through a cloud of snow from a previous turn. This does two things: it infuses the images with energy and gives the viewer a great sense of the speed the skier is carrying (context). It also provides me with a clean background. The sharp skier really pops against this soft cloud of snow. As a heavy AF user for shots like this, it was imperative to pre-visualize where the skier needed to be in the frame to make this image work, and select the AF zone accordingly.

Lastly, this cloud of snow really fills the open space in this image with “value added content”. Not only is it giving us space to see where the skier is going (also contributing to the overall balance of the image), it tells us much more about where he’s been and what he is doing (as mentioned above).

4. Tack Sharp Clarity

I wanted definition in every last little chunk, ripple or speck of snow with this image. It’s amazing what the camera can pick up in a fraction of a second that the human eye doesn’t have time to process. To do this, you must shoot at high enough shutter speeds to freeze the action. This image was shot at 1/3200 sec. at f 4.5.