home  ::  all lessons  ::  outdoor/location  :: Capturing the Action: Urban Skateboarding Portrait


In coming up for concept for this lesson, I was excited to shoot an action skateboard shot with a skater jumping a trashcan. I had shot a group of skaters for stock the week prior, but had not loved the location. It was cool and all, but I wanted something a bit more intense.

During the time I was thinking about the location, I saw the movie “Max Payne”. I felt that the sets and "film noir" look-and-feel of the film were much stronger than the actual film. I loved the alleys that they shot in and decided to shoot in a downtown LA alley. Action shots like these do not need epic backgrounds to be powerful.

Here, I've included a simple version of the shot captured against a dark background. Its just as powerful, but did not have rats to contend with. I'll talk about the rats later...

(Most images can be clicked for an enlarged view.)

Topics Covered:

  • Finding The Ideal Angle
  • Unloading all the Gear
  • Setting Up Garbage Can
  • Finding the Perfect Camera Angle
  • Creating "Floating" Trash for the Garbage Can
  • Roughing In the Lights Before the Talent Arrives
  • Making A Sturdy Camera Mount
  • Capturing Blue Sky for Composite
  • Setting Up Rim Lighting
  • Controlling The Light
  • One-Light Result
  • Stopping the Action
  • A Note on Strobes and Shutter Speed
  • Tips on Freezing Action
  • Adding Front Fill Light
  • Adding Light to the Skateboarder's Face
  • Adding Second Rim Light and Creating More Fill
  • Four-light & Reflector Result
  • Adding Light to Background
  • Controlling Background Light
  • Trying Special Effects: Smoke Machine

Equipment Used:


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