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Tracking and shooting your surfer from the shore

From: Pro Video Tips

Video: Tracking and shooting your surfer from the shore

So far, we've mostly discussed shooting up close and So, for all of these reasons and more, if you want to shoot a more Speaking of sand, that's the first thing I want to discuss.

Tracking and shooting your surfer from the shore

So far, we've mostly discussed shooting up close and personal with small action cams and smartphones. However, another option that I also recommend you use, in conjunction with action cam footage, is shooting from shore with a more robust, traditional video camera. Sports cams are cool and the exact right tool to get unique perspectives in and on the water, but creatively, these little HD cameras are lacking in a few key traits that could really enhance a finished video. Most notably, action cameras don't have variable focal length lenses.

They don't allow you to control exposure. There goes that cool sunrise silhouette shot you wanted. And GoPro and other sports cameras don't generally offer control over focus, which means no cool, shallow depth of field shots. So, for all of these reasons and more, if you want to shoot a more professional looking and interesting water sports video, with a variety of shots, you're going to want to also break out a real deal camera. So, let's talk about how to capture water sports while keeping your feet in the sand. Speaking of sand, that's the first thing I want to discuss.

The most important thing when shooting at the beach, or any other sandy and windy environment, is that you protect your camera from the sand. Even though you may keep the camera up on a tripod the whole time, fine grains of sand are always blowing in the ocean air. Sand and film equipment, especially equipment with moving parts, don't mix. So, I highly recommend bringing some canned air so you can regularly blow off your gear and keep sand off of your lens. If you're particularly worried about sand and getting your camera sprayed with water, you may even want to use a rain cover.

In lieu of a rain cover, you could also try the down and dirty solution of using a clear plastic bag and some rubber bands around your lens. Or, you can wrap your camera in saran wrap. Just be careful not to cover up any fan vents and make sure your camera doesn't overheat in the sun. Keep in mind that the camera's not the only thing that can suffer from sand. A few grains of sand in moving parts like your tripod head and legs can also lead to long-term issues with sticky and crunchy tripod legs, as grains of sand get stuck inside. To avoid this, adjust your tripod by extending the bottom legs first, so the locks for the other tripod legs are well above the ground.

Be especially careful of sand when changing or cleaning the lens. You may want to get in a more sterile or wind-free environment, like your car, when you clean or change your lenses to avoid dirt in your sensor. If this is impossible, try to make sure you turn your camera's back to the wind or maybe even drape a big towel over your head and the camera, while you swap out the lenses. Blow off the lens carefully with a blow bulb, or canned air, before using a lens tissue. The last thing you want to do is accidentally scratch your lens by rubbing a grain of sand all over it. The bottom line is to blow off and very gently clean your lens at regular intervals to help avoid problems with sand.

Now, when it comes to lenses for shooting from shore, the longer the better. You want a nice telephoto lens to help you get right up on the action while staying high and dry. Unfortunately, many fixed lens cameras simply don't have a long enough focal length to get closer than a wide shot from the shore. So, this job is best done with a camera that has interchangeable lenses. One plus here for my DSLR people out there, is that shooting on a crop sensor camera, like a Canon 7D, which has a crop factor of 1.6, will make any lens you use appear to be more telephoto.

So, a 200 millimeter lens looks more like a 324 millimeter lens, when you put it on a Canon 7D, which is perfect for capturing tighter and more intimate shots of subjects farther off shore. To steady your shots, you also want to try to use a lens that has optical image stabilization. Don't forget to turn this feature on. And of course, we also want to use a good tripod and make sure it's level to the horizon. Any time you're shooting outside, try to shade your LCD screen so it's easier to see in the sun.

Use a Zacuto viewfinder, a Hoodman, or you can just make your own lens shade from cardboard if you have to. Wearing a baseball cap, or other hat with a brim, will also help to shade your LCD screen and make it easier to see in the sunlight. A polarizer filter is also a good accessory to have on hand, to help you control how much reflection you get off the water. Sometimes you'll want to get nice reflections of the sky and clouds, but other times you may want to get more of the natural water color and scene below the surface of the water. Similarly, a graduated ND filter can be helpful for preventing the sky from blowing out, while still keeping your subjects on the water in good exposure.

When it comes to shooting from shore, don't just park yourself in one spot the whole time. Switch it up some, and look for unique viewpoints that offer high angles, low angles, and opportunities to take advantage of the shallow depth of field you have when shooting with a professional HD camera. If all you walk away with are straight shots of someone surfing, you've missed a big chunk of the story. No matter what you're shooting, you always want to try to capture the whole visual story unfolding before your camera. This means capturing a variety of shots, wide, medium and close-up, as well as capturing establishing shots, and the fine details in the scene around you.

The waves crashing on a rock, a flock of seagulls taking off, your surfer waxing their board, all of these shots will add to the depth of your visual story, and give you choices in editing. Now, perhaps the hardest part of shooting a surfer from ashore is just keeping track of which surfer it is that you're trying to follow. When shooting this footage, every time I switch between the viewfinder and my naked eyes, there is about a 50-50 chance that I temporarily lost track of Tony in the water. The problem is that everyone looks like small dots in black wet suits from afar.

And if they're backlit against the sun, forget about it. When there's a crowded field of surfers, if helps if your subject has a bright colored surf board or other accessory, such as a colorful armband, to help you more easily spot them in the crowd. Even better, if you have a friend helping you spot the surfer, or a pair of binoculars with you as well, it can go a long way to help keep track of your athlete on the water, and not missing the golden moment when they finally do catch that perfect wave. Similarly, you should have some simple hand signals worked out, so you can signal each other basic info, such as I'm going to catch another wave, my GoPro is out of batteries, or yes, I got that awesome shot.

So yes, little sports camera are great for one of a kind, up close and underwater action shots. But for when you really want to take it to the next level, put a full-featured video camera in the mix, and you'll be shooting surf videos just like the pros.

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This video is part of

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Pro Video Tips

67 video lessons · 10059 viewers

Anthony Q. Artis

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  1. 9m 49s
    1. Tips for lighting an interview subject
      9m 49s
  2. 2m 8s
    1. Intro to Pro Video Tips
      2m 8s
  3. 17m 27s
    1. Controlling reflections in glass
      4m 7s
    2. Managing color with polarizers
      2m 32s
    3. Using a polarizer to adjust skin tones
      2m 0s
    4. Using polarizers when shooting landscapes
      4m 42s
    5. Ten polarizer tips
      4m 6s
  4. 14m 34s
    1. Supplies to get to hide lav mics
      2m 13s
    2. Hiding lavs in collars
      5m 16s
    3. Hiding mics in hair
      2m 17s
    4. Hiding mics in sheer tops
      2m 40s
    5. Hiding transmitter packs on talent
      2m 8s
  5. 34m 25s
    1. Canon C100 overview
      11m 33s
    2. Looking at the Atomos Ninja
      12m 20s
    3. Checking out the C100 menu options
      10m 32s
  6. 10m 28s
    1. Ten tips for set safety
      10m 28s
  7. 9m 18s
    1. Packing a truck
      9m 18s
  8. 19m 24s
    1. Putting together your lens kit
      1m 0s
    2. Normal lenses
      1m 54s
    3. Wide lenses
      3m 5s
    4. Ultra-wide and fish-eye lenses
      2m 53s
    5. Telephoto lenses
      4m 53s
    6. Super zooms
      2m 54s
    7. Macro lenses
      2m 45s
  9. 17m 22s
    1. The importance of exposure
      1m 31s
    2. Using waveforms
      5m 3s
    3. Using histograms
      6m 53s
    4. Using zebra stripes
      3m 55s
  10. 10m 20s
    1. Shutter speed overview
      3m 18s
    2. Different ways to use shutter speed
      7m 2s
  11. 10m 29s
    1. Tips for keeping your budget down
      10m 29s
  12. 10m 11s
    1. Working with batteries
      10m 11s
  13. 24m 39s
    1. External audio settings
      4m 2s
    2. Audio input menus
      9m 31s
    3. Audio output menus
      4m 6s
    4. Setting and monitoring your levels
      7m 0s
  14. 16m 33s
    1. Introduction to backlight
      1m 18s
    2. Types of backlight
      3m 51s
    3. Exposing for backlit shots
      5m 31s
    4. Backlighting translucent object
      1m 39s
    5. Avoiding lens flare and wash out
      4m 14s
  15. 13m 28s
    1. Booming techniques
      13m 28s
  16. 5m 42s
    1. Feeding your crew
      5m 42s
  17. 8m 36s
    1. Choosing between prime, servo, and manual zoom lenses
      5m 19s
    2. Running and gunning with prime lenses
      3m 17s
  18. 10m 55s
    1. Green screen lights and materials
      3m 47s
    2. Mounting the green screen
      1m 39s
    3. Lighting the green screen
      3m 8s
    4. Lighting your subject
      2m 21s
  19. 9m 28s
    1. What to look for when buying a tripod
      6m 13s
    2. Working with monopods
      3m 15s
  20. 23m 19s
    1. Choosing a camera
      3m 2s
    2. Preparation and supplies for a surf shoot
      2m 13s
    3. Dealing with lens fog
      1m 44s
    4. Mounting your POV camera
      3m 20s
    5. Tracking and shooting your surfer from the shore
      6m 56s
    6. Interview with Tony Cruz
      6m 4s
  21. 8m 37s
    1. Introduction to lens mounts
      1m 24s
    2. Canon mounts
      2m 0s
    3. PL mounts
      1m 59s
    4. Nikon mounts
      1m 24s
    5. Micro 4/3 mounts
      1m 50s
  22. 7m 30s
    1. Introduction to lighting ratios
      1m 19s
    2. Comparing ratios
      2m 52s
    3. Measuring light ratios
      3m 19s
  23. 10m 25s
    1. Ten Looks in Ten Minutes
      10m 25s
  24. 5m 36s
    1. Using camera height and POV to better tell your story
      5m 36s

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