Craig Kolesky has few peers when it comes action and adventure sports photography. Here are some of his key tips on how to take great action shots on your travels.
How to take great … Action Images
1 PLAN AHEAD!
Planning ahead is key to a great action images. Know you what you want out of the shot. Angles are very important and for 99% of the action shoots I do, I know the locations or scout them in advance. Know sunrise and sunset time … which leads to the next tip.
2 THE GOLDEN HOUR
It’s a common tip for most photography. The best light is either first light (if you’re a morning person) or last night, at sunset. In Cape Town, for example, I’ll always make sure summer shoots are done by 10am latest. I’ll come back again at around 3.30pm for ultimate light.
3 KNOW YOUR SUBJECT & SPORT
To get a great sports photo, you should understand what the sport you are shooting is about. Ask the athlete(s) questions, show them the images you’re getting as you shoot and get their feedback. This will help you to quickly learn about the athletes’ style and give you insight into the perfect position to shoot the particular move they are doing.
4 COMPOSE YOUR SHOT: THE RULE OF THIRDS
I almost always shoot with this in mind. The rule of thirds involves mentally dividing an image down into thirds using two horizontal lines and two vertical lines so that you have nine parts. Position key elements along the lines and at the intersections. An off-centre composition looks more natural than one where the subject is placed right in the middle of the frame. It also encourages you to make creative use of the negative space (the empty areas around your subject).
A sharp image is the best image. You can pre-focus – in other words set the focus to a point exactly where the subject will. My Nikon has a Continuous-servo (AF-C) mode where, by pressing the shutter-release button halfway, the camera continues to automatically adjusts focus so a moving subject is always in focus. That’s basically my go-to mode when shooting.
6 FAST MEMORY CARDS
They might cost a bit more, but they’re well worth it. When shooting in full-burst mode, a fast memory card will help you get more images in each burst. Fast cards also help you load images quicker to your computer, meaning you can edit quicker.
7 TAG AS YOU SHOOT
While shooting, I always lock the images I like. I use this as an image-tag system and later it helps me quickly edit and select the best images. Plus, if you also accidentally format the card, your best images will still be safe.
WORDS & IMAGES Craig Kolesky
Shooting professionally since 2001, this Cape Town-based Nikon ambassador has seen his images appear on many a magazine cover and counts brands like Red Bull and Oakley among his clients. His passion for extreme sports photography is borne out of participating in the sports himself – from skating, to surfing, kiteboarding and mountain biking.