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Get Lit: Photos in the Field

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Earlier this year, we caught up with Brazilian action sports photographer Andre Magarao to talk shop. We asked about his inspiration, his gear, and about getting that perfect shot. And we thought there might be a photophile or two who’d be interested in reading what we learned. 

What makes a generally well-exposed kiteboarding image good vs. really exceptional? What elements are critical?

Whenever you shoot with the top riders, they have a very clear idea of how their tricks should look. So, in general, we work a lot on getting the best possible trick, getting the grab in the right place (and really grabbed), getting the kite in the right spot and so on. I think getting a good photo is harder than a good clip because you usually are more critical about the stills.

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What’s your set-up like? For example, what would someone find in your camera bag as you prepare for a field shoot? 

Photography is hard, as there is always that new thing you wanna buy! From my experience, kiteboarders don’t like to wake up early, and the places I get to go usually don’t have good wind in the morning anyway, so I end up doing a lot of flash stuff, even during the day. You’ll definitely find flashes in my camera bag. The more the better, and the bigger the better too.

Using flashes requires a lot of stands and/or people to manage, but it’s worth it. Having people hold the flashes makes everything a lot easier — especially for the riders because they can pop a little earlier or later — and you have the flexibility of having the light source follow them. Shooting with stands is harder, but not the end of the world.

As for other gear, I’m currently using a Canon 7D, but I’m looking to upgrade as soon as possible. For kiteboarding I mostly use a Canon 24-105mm lens, and sometimes a 70-200 too. I tend not to use fisheye. I have a water housing from SPL — a dude in San Diego that makes them, and they are pretty awesome. I have a fisheye port, and a port for the 24-105 and the 70-200. At the end of the day, it’s a lot of things to carry.

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Is there one piece of equipment that you find absolutely essential to your field work?

Every photo shoot requires different gear, and the gear you have (or don’t have) can restrict the possibilities offered to you onsite. It’s hard to say what one thing is most essential, but if pressed, I would say flashes and my wireless triggers. Using lights to photograph kiteboarding isn’t something you can do anywhere, so if it’s a beach set up, I’d say a water housing would then become my “essential”.

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Kiteboarding can only be photographed from so many angles. How do you keep your perspective fresh?

I always tend to look for inspiration in other fields of photograph. Fashion is definitely an influence. Fashion shots are usually high budget, and even more so if you compare them to kiteboarding, so you can learn different light techniques from it. Other sports are also important. There are some photographers getting amazing stuff with wakeboarding nowadays. Skateboarding and snowboarding also have some pretty epic stuff going on.

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What new techniques are you currently experimenting with?

I’m always looking for new things and ideas. I’ve been trying to shoot more skateboarding lately because I live in Rio de Janeiro and apart from Reno Romeu there is no other top kiteboarding rider to work with. In skateboarding, you don’t really have to deal with water to constrain where you can place the flashes. I’ve been playing around with water housings for flashes so I can have more options in a lagoon next time I shoot kiteboarding.

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What advice would you give to riders who are being photographed? Are there things they can do that will help make your job easier?

My shots are usually very “organized”. I tell the rider what trick to do and where to pop. It’s a lot easier if the photographer knows what is going to happen. So if the photographer doesn’t know much about kiteboarding, the rider should definitely try to teach them something beforehand. Edging around the same spot is also something that helps a bunch, so the photographer can focus on composition. Doing the same trick a few times is another thing that is usually quite helpful, so things get more predictable.

ABOUT ANDRE: Andre Magarao is Brazilian and lives in Rio de Janeiro. While always interested in shooting sports, he got involved with kiteboarding after meeting Reno Romeu. Andre’s not a kiteboarder himself, so had to learn about the sport from Reno and other riders he worked with in Brazil. Of all the board sports he shoots, kiteboarding is his favorite. To see more of Andre’s work, visit his website at www.andremagarao.com.

Want to see your images featured on the Kiteboarder Magazine’s website or in print?  Read our submission guidelines, then send your best portfolio picks our way. 

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