ESPN Technique: John Huet and David Nadeau

- - The Daily Edit

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Freestyle Mogul Skier – Heather McPhie – Moguls run
See ESPN animations here and the technique fully explained in this animation

JohnHuet_SkiJump-1Ski Jump – Sarah Hendrickson – Ski Jump takeoff
See ESPN animations here and the technique fully explained in this animation

ESPN

Creative Director, Print and Digital Media: John Korpics
Senior Director, Photography: Karen Frank
Senior Art Director: Chin Wang
 Associate Art Director of Digital Media: Heather Donahue
Senior Deputy Photo Editor: Nancy Weisman
Photo Editor: Nick Galac
Photographer: John Huet
Retouching: David Nadeau

How did this project for ESPN come about and how did you make it your own?
JOHN: The first Technique assignment was with figure skaters for their December issue. While I thought the magazine was doing a great job, I wanted to add an extra layer to the final image and make it a little easier to understand the athletics going on. The skaters were throwing a quad, and this team is the only one to do so in competition. Impressive. Since the athletes are spinning in the air 4 times, I wanted to avoid the 16 image sequence looking cluttered, and make a more interesting image.  I added a ghosting effect in post, to delineate complete rotations full color images were added in the sequences.

Are the lights an issue for the athletes? How fast is the camera capturing images?
The motor drive shoots 14 frames a second, however, when I do some of the shots at night, it slows down quite a bit.  The final composite is usually a collection of maybe 3 or 4 takes.

For the ski jumping shot how many remote cameras did you set up?
We have about 15 set up and we got two 4-6 second takes each shot, errors and do over’s aren’t really an option.

How do you know where to set up your remotes? Did you know how far she’d jump?
We were testing our equipment on the previous jumpers, and I assumed they’d all be about the same distance.
Then along comes this young 18 year old, unassuming girl. Takes her first run and goes twice as long, and twice as fast!

What was the most challenging of these assignments so far?
I’d say the bobsled event. I couldn’t use any flashes, only hot lights, it was at night, the athletes were all in black, in a black bobsled going over 90 miles an hour.
The low light slows everything down so I had to be certain everything was in the same position in order to get the sharpest and most accurate shot I could. Each of these events has specific needs, and I love all the problem solving that comes with it.
You can’t show up and set things up. You have to study the environment, and make choices from there.

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Figure Skating Pair – Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir – Quad Throw
See ESPN animations here  and the technique fully explained in this animation

Retouching: David Nadeau / Rhymes with Pixel

About how many images do you have to review before selecting the right move?
DAVID: For the skaters, John narrowed it down to about 70 shots that had the cleanest look at the quad throw, that’s not including the stage shots of the empty rink. The freestyle ski shot had 166 (I know he had a big remote set-up for that one). For the bobsled, we had about the same number. He relied heavily on multiple cameras for that one too, since the bobsledders were only able to do a few runs for him.

Do you study the sport prior to piecing these together?
I did. I believed it was important to understand exactly what happens in each event to effectively distill the action into one composed image. I did take liberty with some parts just for artistic sake. For the most part though, I did everything I could to be true to the action.
I also studied the previous technique features that ESPN had done. John and I talked a lot about really making the shots beautiful both in the action as well as the background. We wanted to make a visually interesting stage for the action that didn’t detract from what was happening. We also believed we could come up with a really interesting technique for ghosting the shots. I’m very proud of what we made up.
JohnHuet_bobsled-1

2-man Bobsled – Steve Holcomb and Steve Langton – Bobsled Start
The technique is fully explained in this animation.

 

 


Which posed the biggest challenge for you?

The biggest challenge was definitely the bobsledders. Beyond the technical aspect of it being a high-speed shot of a black sled with two guys wearing all black shot at night, getting all of the shots laid out together was especially difficult. I tried for a while to get the track and sledders to be aligned in kind of an S-curve across the page. That blew up in my face. Eventually, after playing around, I came up with a bit of a fish-eye lens look. That format was able to capture all of the action while highlighting the crucial moment when the sledders enter the bobsled.

For the skater’s throwing the quad, how many images do you like to include to show a complete rotation? How did you determine what is the right amount?
I played with the sequence of the shots to see what looked right. We were very lucky that John was able to capture her facing almost exactly front, left, right and back in a couple of the throws. That allowed me to have an order to the images of her in the spin instead of a bunch of random, confusing shots. Each spin shows her facing each cardinal direction. I think that’s one of the big reasons that this shot succeeded so well. If I had just slapped a bunch of shots her together, you wouldn’t be able to follow the action. This way you have touch-points and order throughout the move. We also wanted to give a brighter highlight to one direction of her facing in each of the four spins. We believed it would give the guys at ESPN good reference points to call out parts of the action.

Figure Skating Olympic Athletes: Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir   ( see them skate here )

I understand that you two are the only team to throw a quad in competition. 
Were there any different focus tools you used to perform the move for the photo shoot that were different from competition?
Athletes: Because of the difficulty of executing throw jumps, I need to keep my focus directly on the element and not on my surroundings. Even in the competitive program, where everything is timed so carefully to the music, I need to shut out everything and zero in on my technique.

Did you find any of the lights or the equipment distracting?
Yes, there was a very specific area we had to do throw in, the rest of the rink was pretty dark, that made it hard to find my landings. When we were doing the throw there was a series of flashes and made me disorientated at times.

What are you thinking about, lets say 4 seconds or so before the move, to prepare for the jump?
Focusing on my key points for my throw, such as stay low, follow through, and over the right.

It’s not uncommon to have a photographer ask you to repeat the action, how many times did you throw the quad?
I would estimate that we did about 20 throws. But, I cannot be sure because it was so cold, I think my brain froze after 15.

What was the most challenging part of doing the shoot for you?
I would say staying warm. The rink was freezing and in between each throw I would run over and put my jacket on.

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For more of Johns work visit: official Olympics Instagram @olympics and visit his personal site here

Heidi Volpe

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