Photographs are a reflection of our past; a way for us to reminisce and relive fond memories. They evoke emotion and inspire action. Photos are a way to bond, tell stories, and connect with people, places and experiences in our lives. As I write this, a framed photograph of one of my first kiteboarding photoshoots with legendary photographer Tracy Kraft is on the wall above my desk. My long hair is billowing behind me, a Plumeria tucked behind one ear. It serves as a reminder of how much fun kiteboarding is, how far I’ve come as a rider and makes me want to jet back to Maui immediately! The emotions I get from this photo are strong. There’s a reason it’s on the wall in my office.
Getting a great photograph of yourself kiteboarding can be a real feat but one that always leaves me, personally, stoked. Photos doing the sport we love can make us smile, get us stoked to go ride again and provide validation for what we’re doing. The ego loves a good photo and so do your instagram friends! But more importantly, a good kite photograph leaves us feeling inspired and proud. Working to get content for your social feed and to share with your Grandma takes trial and error, a willingness to struggle and lots of time. However the results can be amazing and are worth the effort!
As a professional kiteboarder, I’ve worked with many photographers over the years. I’ve shot in locations around the globe and in all sorts of conditions. I also generate a lot of my own media with my Go Pro and have had many sessions dedicated to content production. A willingness to learn and to constantly be improving has given me a breadth of knowledge for media generation. It’s not only useful in today’s image-sharing world - it can provide real personal value. Read on for my top tips on how get an epic shot while kiteboarding, whether with your own device or working with a photographer.
A good kiteboarding shot takes a bit of time and energy but you can do it!
Strategy one: Shoot yourself.
I don’t enjoy taking pictures. It’s not something I’m supremely passionate about nor is it something that I particularly enjoy. I would much rather simply relish the moment than work to document it for future enjoyment. Yet when I have taken the time and input the small bit of effort required to shoot myself, I’m glad I did. It’s fun to have photos of yourself! The easiest and quickest way to get a great photo of yourself while kiteboarding is to shoot it yourself. Meet your new best friend: the water proof, hand-held, action camera. A plethora of these cameras exist on the market but my personal favorite is the Go Pro. These hand-held devices make quick work of capturing the action but a few how-to’s are required before you take to the water.
Tools you will need:
Your action camera: If you’re going to invest in a camera, spring for one of the newest versions. The quality is much better than previous iterations and will make your job of snagging an epic shot much easier.
Line Mount: The easiest way to get a selfie while kiteboarding is with a line mount. Coupled with a wi-fi remote, you can easily snag these eye-from-above shots. No remote? You’ll still get the shot, but you’ll be searching through thousands of photos to find it. Settings: With remote: burst mode (hit the remote right before you do your maneuver). No remote: time-lapse at every .5 second.
Selfie Stick: Any pole will do here. With adjustable versions, you’ll have more variety in the types of shots you can get.
Lanyard: Make sure you have something to attach the camera to you!
Mouth mount: An easy way to get great point-of-view content.
Have all your gear and you’re ready to get the shot? Firstly, think about where the sun is before you head out. I usually shoot holding the camera in many different directions to find what looks the best but a good rule of thumb should be to avoid shooting into the sun. Exception: If you want to get a sun glare on the lens, find your shadow, position your camera at the edge of it and point it at yourself and into the sun. With the lens have covered, the result can be a beautiful sunburst that frames your stunning smile nicely.
Once you’re on the water, work on being creative. The key with getting a great looking shot of yourself is to try a bunch of different things. What can you frame in the shot that will look interesting? What’s a new angle to try? Creativity and trial and error go a long way in crafting an epic photo.
Finally, keep your head up. Do not get so lost in attempting to snag the best shot that you lose track of where you are. The worst kiteboarders are those that ignore their surroundings. Don’t be one of those people. Be conscious of who’s around you on the water and be respectful of other riders. Just because you’re trying to get “the shot,” does not mean that you have right of way.
-Water on the lens. Water droplets are the easiest ways to ruin a great Go Pro shot. Throughout your session, check your camera for drops and lick the lens between takes to ensure a clean view.
-Dropping the camera. Have somewhere to store your camera while launching and landing. This can be stuffed into the top of your wetsuit, or hanging on a lanyard on your neck or wrist. This won’t necessarily be comfortable but having a game plan for where to put your camera beforehand will help you avoid losing it to Davey’s Locker.
-Less is more. The old adage does not apply here. In actuality and especially when it comes to Go Pro photos, more is more. The more photos you take, the more chances you’ll have of snagging a great one. Keep trying, keep shooting.
Strategy two: Work with a photographer.
Whether you’re hoping to impress your partner, looking to get sponsored, or you’re a seasoned pro, the ability to work with a kiteboarding photographer is a real skill that takes time to develop but can pay dividends in the end.
Many of you might not have the means or desire to seek out a photographer but these simple tips still apply whether you’re shooting with a friend or a professional. Find a friend that wants to start or has recently gotten into shooting kiteboarding and who’s looking to progress their skills. If you’re both in it to grow and learn, a really beneficial relationship can bloom! Already got a photographer on speed dial? Use these tools to up your game and prove that you’re a real professional.
- Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Communication between photographer and subject is the number one thing that you can actively do to get a geat photo. Slight adjustments in where you jump or where you’re looking can make or break the shot. Also different tricks look better from certain angles. The photographer is the one with the perspective on this and will give you feedback. But they can only give you input if you take the time to chat with them. Start your session with a few tricks, then stop and ask the photographer if what you’re doing is working. Questions to ask: “Am I jumping/turning in the right spot?” “Does that look ok?”
- Be open to feedback. Criticism for how you’re riding doesn’t always feel good and yet it can be the most important thing for progression. Work with your photographer to improve. Didn’t get the shot the first time time around? Find out what you need to improve upon, and head off on your own to practice. Call up your photographer when you’re ready and don’t worry if there’s more to work on. There always will be.
- Do the same trick many times in a row. A giant grab bag of tricks is useful, however to really nail a shot, it’s better to execute one trick really well to ensure you’ve “got it,” before moving on to the next one. Start your photo session with a few base “tricks”: the ride by (yes, this shot can be epic and look amazing), smiles and carving turns. Do the same thing a few times in a row before checking in with your friend/photographer for validation. If it’s looking good, keep doing it. If not, move on to the next easy trick and repeat, repeat, repeat. Start easy and you’ll both feel more successful.
- Be conscious of the light. When and where you’re shooting have a massive impact on how the photos turn out. You don’t have to know exactly where the sun should be or what settings to shoot on but you should know when the light looks amazing in that particular location. Set yourself up for success by identifying when to shoot and work with your friend/photographer to be out there during that time. Delving a tiny bit into what makes for a good photograph will help in your communication, and overall skill set.
- Be willing to go the extra mile. Some of the best photos I’ve ever gotten have been at sunrise or sunset. Getting up at 4:30am to shoot kiteboarding takes motivation and determination. You never know when you’ll get “the shot,” but a willingness to work hard will ensure that you’ll have ample opportunities. Always be willing to try again and don’t complain. You’re kiteboarding and you have someone that wants to take photos of you. This should be celebrated! Famed photographer Vincent Bergeron always says “Early morning and late days are the best even when the wind is good at noon!” Sometimes you have to shoot in bad wind to get the best shots.
- Have fun. Being stressed about taking photos not only sucks the fun out of the photoshoot but your performance will be affected. My very first photoshoot with Liquid Force Kiteboarding was on Maui and we had hired a helicopter to shoot for 20 minutes. The crew, James Boulding, Brandon Scheid and Jason Slezak were all heading out and I was to join them. It was extremely windy and gusty and I was on a 5meter. As I tacked off the beach, I accidentally hit my quick release and soon found myself struggling to put my release back together. The wind was pulling my kite so hard that I couldn’t hang on to it to get enough slack to re-engage the chicken loop. Furthermore, I was so stressed and anxious to rejoin the photoshoot that I simply couldn’t do it. I spent the entire 20 minutes down in the water, battling my kite and stressing out. To say the least, I did not get any good photos out of that shoot. Moral of the story: just relax, remember to breathe, and most importantly, try to have fun and enjoy the ride.
As kiteboarders, we’re extremely fortunate. Chasing the wind, scoring sessions and living life outside and full of endorphins is awesome! The ability to share that stoke with our friends, family, and strangers through photographs is exciting and inspiring. And while nailing the shot is by far the least important part of a session, it can yield tangible, enjoyable results that you can look back on for days and years to come. Happy Shooting!