I have always been obsessed with light and the effects it can have on what you see. Since the start of my photography career, I have used every tool I could find to bend and shape light into places it should not be.

Steel Lafferty poses for a portrait Red Bull Wake Rivals on 30 April 2016 in Orlando, Florida, USA.

When approached by Red Bull® with the Wake Rivals project, I knew this could be an amazing opportunity to create a unique set of images. I was given full control of 12 high-powered
Sharpy stage lights, a full cable wake park at night, and some of Red Bull’s top athletes. We wanted to create something that showed the different colors of the Red Bull flavors to celebrate summer and the release of the new Summer Edition.

Steel Lafferty checks out the lighting control units at Red Bull Wake Rivals on 30 April 2016 in Orlando, Florida, USA. Steel Lafferty checks out the lighting control units at Red Bull Wake Rivals on 30 April 2016 in Orlando, Florida, USA.

The idea was to create a very colorful set of images that would show all the motion of the action, water, and light—and yet freeze the athlete at his/her peek, as well as matching lifestyles.   This would give the view scenes of motion as well as and understanding f what was being photographed. The main “hero” images also needed to be shot from a very high, bird-like view angle to finalize the surreal look.

Mike Dowdy poses for a portraitat Red Bull Wake Rivals on 30 April 2016 in Orlando, Florida, USA. Mike Dowdy poses for a portraitat Red Bull Wake Rivals on 30 April 2016 in Orlando, Florida, USA.

The shoot had to overcome many different challenges before the final images were reached.  Not mentioning the fact that we were putting the shoot together the same day as the idea came up, the summertime Florida weather was calling for rain almost the entire 2 hour period we had to shoot.

The Venue at Red Bull Wake Rivals on 30 April 2016 in Orlando, Florida, USA. The Venue at Red Bull Wake Rivals on 30 April 2016 in Orlando, Florida, USA.

The first obstacle was sorting a way to create the blur of the water and athlete as well as burn in the color of the Sharpy lights—about 3 to 6 seconds of motion to be exact- from an aerial perspective.

Steel Lafferty performs at Red Bull Wake Rivals on 30 April 2016 in Orlando, Florida, USA. Steel Lafferty performs at Red Bull Wake Rivals on 30 April 2016 in Orlando, Florida, USA.

This style of shooting required me to mount the camera to the 121 foot boom we had rented to keep the camera stable. I was not able to use a tripod because I was almost shooting straight down on the action, so I decided to mount a Induro high hat to the “cheese grater” section of the boom (bottom section) with bolts. This would allow me to lay flat to compose the image with the attached BHL3 ball head to the “mini Tripod.”

The next step was to freeze the athlete’s motion so he was visible in the image and not just a blur. This was completed with 2 to 3 (image depending) Elinchrom Ranger Speed AS packs with A-Heads to stop the motion. They were placed along the waters edge at full power to give a rim lighting effect to stop the edge motion of the athlete. These were triggered separately with the new Elinchrom EL Skyport plus for reliability and power control of the packs.

The camera also had to be remotely triggered to keep it as stable as possible. This was mainly due to the fact that just breathing on the fully extended boom added movement to the camera! This was achieved by a separate triggering system on a different channel than the remote flashes.

The images were an absolute blast to create. Each one was unique in it own way depending on the color mix of the lights, athlete style, water spray, shutter drag, and flash timing. I love every image and I am glad I was able to create exactly what I had pictured a head of time!

Meagan Ethell performs at Red Bull Wake Rivals on 30 April 2016 in Orlando, Florida, USA.

Meagan Ethell performs at Red Bull Wake Rivals on 30 April 2016 in Orlando, Florida, USA.

Steel Lafferty performs at Red Bull Wake Rivals on 30 April 2016 in Orlando, Florida, USA.

Photo Equipment

1 – Nikon D4s

1 – Nikon 24-70mm

1 – Induro High Hat with BHL3

1 – Induro 3 series Carbon Tripod with BHL3

3 – Kupo C-Stands

3 – Elinchrom Ranger Speed AS

3 – Elinchrom Ranger A-Head

3 – Elinchrom Skyport Reciever

1 – Elinchrom EL Skyport Plus

1 – Remote Camera Triggers

1 – 121 foot Boom