The current issue of MBUK carries a feature that I shot late last year. The premise was simple: take a few friends, put together a fun ride, then set up camp overnight and sleep out under the stars. With two experienced outdoorsmen on board - including Mendip-based survival guru Ady Boots' foraging and wild camping expertise - we had it all covered. And as a bonus, the sun didn't stop shining. Er, well, until it got dark. Obviously.
Funnily enough it's this kind of simple-on-the-face-of-it story that can be quite hard to get right, visually speaking. For a start, it splits slightly uncomfortably into two rather discrete halves: the ride, and then the camping. I needed to make sure the two bits were linked together. It's also not inherently dramatic to look at. Since MBUK relies very heavily on visuals to pull the reader in, I needed to make the whole thing - from the riding to the camping - look as interesting as possible.
Here, then, is my mental checklist for visual story-telling on a shoot like this:
1. Variety is the spice of, er, something. Shoot wide. Shoot long. Shoot close in. Pull back to show the context. Preferably, and where time and logistics permit, do all of these options at every opportunity.
2. Don't forget the details. Close-ups of bikes being fixed, fires being lit, gear in use and whatever else comes along all make handy fillers. Of course, I've only got one pair of eyes and one pair of hands, so these 'extras' tend to have to fit into what would otherwise be dead time.
3. Make sure there's a narrative. It's a story. The words will help, but it should be reasonably obvious what's going on from the pics, too.
4. Remember page layouts. Openers need space for headers, standfirsts and some copy. They can also be (randomly) single page - and therefore portrait format - or double page spreads - and therefore landscape. I need both.
That's a lot to remember. Luckily I've been doing this long enough for it to be (almost) second nature, but UK mags are very demanding in terms of quantity - as well as quality - of pics. Whereas a north American or European mag may run a 6 page feature on the back of 6-8 images, the mags I work for will want at least double that quantity (with no sacrifice in quality).
Anyhoo, the weather cooperated and it all fell into place quite nicely. And I was able to shoot available light for all but a couple of the action images, pushing the D3 all the way to ISO6400 and the limit of hand-holdabilty for firelight-and-headtorch pics in the evening. Here are a few that didn't make it into the mag:
Nikon D3, 14-24mm f/2.8, 1/30sec f/14 @ ISO200
Nikon D3, 14-24mm f/2.8, 1/1000sec f/6.3 @ ISO200
Nikon D3, 80-200mm f/2.8, 1/640sec f/5 @ ISO200
Nikon D3, 80-200mm f/2.8, 1/200sec f/2.8 @ ISO1600
Nikon D3, 50mm f/1.8, 1/50sec f/2.8 @ ISO1600
Nikon D3, 14-24mm f/2.8, 1/40sec f/2.8 @ ISO1600
Nikon D3, 14-24mm f/2.8, 1/30sec f/2.8 @ ISO6400