Caught in Action : Photographer Onkar Singh

Exhibit: What exactly is action photography?\n\nOnkar: Action Photography – is basically capturing details of objects in motion, it could be anything from breaking glass, water splashes to automobiles, birds, animals, humans in motion also sports photography etc.\n\n \n\nExhibit: Which are the camera and lens best suited for action photography?\n\nOnkar: I Mainly use a 35mm format camera, they suits best with faster Frame per second capturing ability, and fast lenses with image stabilizer.\n\n \n\nExhibit: What are the techniques used by you in this type of photography?\n\nOnkar: I normally use higher ISO speeds, depending on action speed, for example for F1 car on straight run I will probably use 800-1600 ISO, and camera shutter speeds from 200-400 approx. same car on a tight slower hairpin bends I will use 400 ISO or less and so does lesser shutter speeds. I normally use shutter speed priority, but for advertisements and print work where action is not candid it is created for camera, one can always experiment with various shutter speed and aperture as per clients requirement for motion intensity and depth needed in the pictures. One can also use various rigs and grips available now days with rental companies. I prefer normally to work with hand held cameras for panning the action, or taking cars to follow the planed action.\n\n \n\nExhibit: Precautions if any?\n\nOnkar: In case of racing specially F1 and rallying etc. always maintain safe distance as you can get caught by fast moving cars/bikes or sometime even accidents which is quite a possibility, and if you are using a tracking car, be sure to use a safety harnest to hold yourself back. At times one gets so involved that one doesn’t realize he’s going to fall out of the vehicle. So maintain distance, and you can use zoom or tele-lenses to reach closer to subject.\n\n \n\nExhibit: What according to you is the biggest challenge an action photographer faces?\n\nOnkar: The biggest challenge is to take better pictures than others out there, but yes to get backgrounds as blur as possible but the subject as sharp as possible in one shot.\n

Based near Old Street, East London, Jonathan Lucas is an award winning photographer specializing in shooting action, freerunning, Parkour and urban sports. His photographs have been featured in The Times, The Guardian and The Independent, as well as being displayed at The National Theatre. He regularly collaborates with Sébastien Foucan, one of the founders of Parkour and creator of freerunning, who has appeared in a number of films including James Bond’s Casino Royale as well as leading traceur Daniel Ilabaca. Jonathan is also a creative director at a graphic design agency in Shoreditch.    

\n \n\nExhibit: What exactly is action photography?\n\nJonathan: It’s what you want it to be. Ok, that’s fudge, but I wouldn’t like to prescribe how it should be. However, it should do justice to the endeavor of your subject. Getting close enhances the sense of viewer involvement too. Surfing and snowboarding/ski photography are good examples of how wide-angle shots can get a viewer up close and personal. It’s good to show in a split second what the eye seldom picks up at normal speeds. Impacts, hair, clothing, water, etc. can all add to the visual stimulation of an image.\n\n \n\nExhibit: Which are the camera and lens best suited for action photography?\n\nJonathan: I often use my 24-105mm L which is ideal for most conditions where the subject is fairly close. For longer shots a 28-300mm zoom is good but for football I would suggest the latter with extension tubes or a 500mm upwards as backgrounds can get busy. Prior to having an expensive prime I got some great, sharp images from my 10-22mm EFS on my old Canon EOS 20D. For close-up action such as parkour and BMX I like to use my 15mm Fisheye which is fast and allows for dynamic angles and great exposures.\n\n \n\nExhibit: What are the techniques used by you in this type of photography?\n\nJonathan: I like to experiment with long exposures with an aim to present movement in its entirety, fluidly and engagingly. Having shot freerunning and parkour in the usual way as multi-burst series’, freeze-frames, etc. I wanted to show the journey as well as one single moment within it. By attaching lights to the limbs and extremities of my subjects I am able to shoot them over time, punctuating the motion with manual flash, and creating a landscape with interest alongside the motion. Multi-burst compositions are fairly commonplace and can be planned by pre-composing the shot and ensuring you have the start and finish of the action in the frame. A steady hand or tripod will make the post-processing of masks a lot easier.\n\n \n\nExhibit: Precautions if any?\n\nJonathan: 1. Protect your equipment. It’s easy to turn your back leaving your gear for a thief. Better still have an assistant or friend to watch over it. 2. It’s only a photo not worth dying for (although some war photographers have done exactly that) stay safe but have fun. 3. Carry a spare camera and/or lens if a shoot is crucial. They can fail. 4. Carry spare batteries! 5. Charge your phone – emergencies can arise! 6. Travel light where possible excess gear is a drag. 7. Check your lens caps and equipment before you move from a site especially if it’s dark it’s easy to leave things behind. 8. Carry a first aid kit. 9. Make sure you have memory cards. I use a camera strap with pouches for these so my spares are always attached to my camera.\n\n \n\nExhibit: What according to you is the biggest challenge an action photographer faces?\n\nJonathan: Light and weather can spoil any well laid plans. Aim to have a contingency, but sometimes good things happen unexpectedly. Many of my shots are unplanned. Subjects can get tired so make sure you know what you want them to do, and what they are capable of.\n\n \n\nExhibit: What are your preferred settings in a camera for action photography?\n\nJonathan: Where possible work to retain consistent exposures, so manual settings are good for making things balanced. If you want to freeze your action then you’ll need good light for starters. Without good, strong light your shutter speeds will not be fast enough to catch the action. With a high powered flash though you can achieve some great effects in low light conditions. If you have enough spare dosh then invest in a good, fast lens. There are many high-end lenses but I can’t recommend the Canon 10-22mm EFS highly enough for action – it’s sharp and fast. If in strong sunlight I tend to shoot at f8 to f11 at ISO400 if I want to retain background context. Shooting into the sun can yield a great vibe too if using a fill flash. In lower light then I’ll go as fast as possible (f4.5 on many lenses), ISO800, pre-focus and use flash at 2nd curtain (or high speed if you have the option). Panning shots can also be very successful in duller conditions.\n\n \n\nA few more pointers from the expert: Try to get to know your subject ahead of a shoot. It helps when you know who you’re dealing with and what they may want to do. Show them your plan as they may have suggestions on how to improve things. Take pictures of any venues and sites you discover, as well as lighting setups for future use and reference. If you have GPS then use it to tag any destinations you want to return to.

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