Monday, October 31, 2011

Sequence It!

The lip is a little sticky this morning. I'm only going to do this jump once," crackles over the radio. "Are you ready?"
Text And Photography By Tom Bol Published in Shooting
Sequence It!
The lip is a little sticky this morning. I'm only going to do this jump once," crackles over the radio. "Are you ready?" Dave asks.

I answer, "Ready down here. But please be careful. Do whatever jump you want."

"I'm going for it!" Dave replies. "This is what I do every day!"

Dave's a pro skier and jump instructor, and his enthusiasm is contagious. I nervously watch Dave ski off the ramp high on the hillside above me, but then lose sight of him. I'm biting my nails waiting and listening for the sound of Dave's skis carving through the icy snow. I won't see him until he flies off the jump above me. And I'll have milliseconds to hit the shutter and get the shot.

And then it happens. A split second before I see Dave's ski tips clear the jump, I hear his skis rattling on the hard snow. I push the shutter button right as Dave's skis clear the lip. For a moment, it seems like I'm witnessing a surreal scene. Dave clears the lip and soars to treetop heights against a deep blue sky, rotating and flipping in the air. Meanwhile the shutter on my Nikon D3 is blazing away at nine frames a second. Dave somehow rotates out of his upside-down position right as he disappears downhill onto the landing area. I hear a whoop of joy and I know he stuck the landing. My finger is glued to the shutter button, and the camera is still cranking away. I just shot 15 frames in less than two seconds, the amount of time Dave was airborne. Now I need to seam the frames together into one shot for a dramatic aerial sequence of Dave's jump. Time to sequence it!


Creating image sequences is easier than ever before. Today cameras all shoot at rapid frame rates and can capture numerous frames of fast-moving action. And Photoshop has made improvements to allow quicker and easier image alignment to seam all the frames together.

You don't need a pro skier and nine frames a second to create stunning sequence shots. Any moving subject will work, from a person riding his bike down the street to a group of rafters floating down a river. The slower the activity, the less frames per second you need. Many cameras have a maximum frame rate speed of four to six frames a second. This is fast enough to capture bikers, rafters or runners on a trail. Some sequence shots don't even require a fast shutter speed. Imagine photographing a rock climber as he moves up a cliff face. He's moving slowly, so you can shoot a frame every five seconds, and after a minute, you'll have 12 frames to seam together to show his ascent of the cliff.

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