The Kickflip Guy - Dave Rees

24th Apr 2012

I had a dream.

Hmm, maybe this isn’t the time or place for my “Dream speech” Anyhow’s dream is probably to strong a word. Ok, I had an idea.

More often than not my ideas don’t amount to much. They flash by at warp speed, resonate for a second or two before disappearing into the ether. If I’m lucky and I have a hand free, I’ll write the idea down in a little black book I carry with me everywhere. When this gets full (it doesn’t take that long) I pop it into my “ideas bag” along with all the other books, scraps of paper and napkins with squiggles all over them that live in there. So if I ever have an ideas draught I’ll know exactly where to look!

I’d been toying with the idea of shooting 3 very stylized photos for a while now. I like to think of them as my “white” period. I wanted each photo to be completely representative of the chosen sport it depicts in a very simplistic way, yet produce an image, instantly recognisable to both “core” and layman.


My dream.

The idea always comes first; I can see the finished shot in my mind before I ever pick up a camera. A conversation here, an email there and eventually the idea starts to take shape, it doesn't always. Sometimes I'm to busy shooting everybody else's images to concentrate on my own, but personal projects are what drives me, so this ones for me.

The first shot isn't complicated, a guy, a skateboard, that’s it really, simple. Only it’s never that simple! I need to work out what I want the skater to do before I can decide on a skater. Like I said, I want the photo to be simple. Yet portray something Iconic. Something representative of skating, something that even the layman would immediately recognise.

Simple, yet Iconic?

I know, a kickflip. You can’t get more iconic than a kickflip, it’s one of those “core” skateboarding tricks.

A kickflip without distractions! Rider and board photographed against a white background. Most likely in a studio with an infinity wall and controllable lighting.

Now I have my trick I can think about my skater. I don't want just any old skater, I need them to go huge from a standing start, time and time again. Not an easy ask.

As luck would have it I know a man who knows a man who, over the ensuing months (it nearly always takes at least 6 months from the inception to fruition of an idea, ah Logistics how I love/hate you) becomes affectionately known as “The kickflip guy” his actual name is Dave, Dave Rees. I’ve never met Dave, but I'm assured he can go "BIG" as often as I need him to and he’s going to drive for 6 hours down to my studio so I can take his photo, what a star.

The rest is relatively straightforward; the hardest part of any shoot is always getting the photographer and subject in the same place at the same time, sounds simple doesn't it? it never is!

Once I got Dave in the studio I decided to shoot three different scenarios. First up the "kickflip" against the white background. The lighting set-up was what I like to call "Stupid-simple" two lights fired straight at the white background to make sure it stayed white and a main light on a boom, directlty above and in-front of Dave, which was fired through a 100cm Elinchrom “deep” octobox - the idea of the "deep" is that it focuses the light. I chose to shoot on a Hasselblad H3Dll - 39 (as the finished print would be "lifesize") which was placed on an old and very sturdy Gitzo tripod at about waist height. I wanted a low angle so that when Dave was at his optimum height his head would be higher than the camera and I'd get at least a little of his face in. I used the Hasselblad HC 50-100mm f3.5/4.5 for three very simple reasons. Its brilliant, its flexible and its one of only two Hasselblad lenses that I had (the other being the extemely wide HCD 4/28) I set it at f8 and fired away happy in the knowledge that everything would be sharp - "F Eight and you're great" as they say!

I was shooting at about the 50mm end of the zoom which would allow me to crop the photo in post. Once we got started we both very quickly settled into a rhythm, four or five kickflips, check the images, repeat the process. After about an hour of almost continuous kickflips it was time for a much needed break and a cup of tea.

Next we moved outside the studio to shoot a portrait, I love texture in photos and decided to shoot against the metal shutters of the studio. For this I opted to shoot on my Nikon D700, mainly because I wanted to use a ring flash and the Elinchrom ECO isn't big enough to accommodate the bulkyness of the Hasselblad 50-100mm. After shooting some close-ups, head and shoulders and three-quarter lengths I decided to try a few more kickflips outside as I really liked the cobbled street, it would look great in a shot with the sun bouncing off it. Same camera and flash set-up, after a few minutes of lying on the floor in a puddle I realised the shots were nice, but they weren't really in keeping with my original "un-cluttered" kickflip idea, but hey you gotta try right!

Back inside, a change of clothes, a change of camera and lighting (back to the original set-up) fifty more kickflips and the jobs a good un, its in the bag.


The whole shoot was captured on video so hopefully by the end of the week the final edit will have been done and you will be able to watch exactly what went on as well as read about it so watch this space.

I'd like to say a huge thanks to Dave Rees for being such a star on the day and agreeing to do the shoot in the first place - check out his website here