Words & Photos: Jacques Marais | www.jacquesmarais.co.za
Oorlogskloof Trail Run, an extreme mountain marathon in the QUANTUM Country Classics Series, proved the perfect arena in which to experiment with off-camera flash lighting.
Photo credit: Jacques Marais
Lots of people trek to Nieuwoudtville during spring to revel in its seasonal floral abandon, but few realise this dorp on the edge of the Knersvlakte escarpment is way more than just another bloom town. The uninitiated are missing out on an outdoor paradise, where a gobsmacking range of botanical rarities, unlimited breathing space and the full gamut of outdoor adventure options await the fresh air crowd.
The striking landscape makes for eye-popping photos, and one way to maximise the impact of your images is to utilise wireless flash. This allows you to capture dramatic photographs, with side- or back-lighting adding an additional dimension to your imagery. Wireless transceivers (the Pocket Wizard Series is probably the best known brand) work best, as infra-red options are generally line-of-sight and with a limited range.
So pack your camera bag, but do not forget your boots, bike, climbing gear and trail shoes. A generous dollop of adventurous spirit won’t go amiss either, especially if you’re in the area at the end of May. This is when endurance athletes tackle the 42km ultra trail run along the five-day Oorlogskloof Route and it offers great action photography opportunities.
Image 1: The Light Fantastic
The Action: Running amongst ancient quiver trees on the Gannabos Road is as close to an out-of-body experience you will get on any given starlit night.
The Shot: A low shooting angle, fish-eye lens and slow shutter speed combine natural light with off-camera flash, thus delivering this sumptuous shot.
The Technique: Expose for the sky and stop down by one stop to punch the sky colours; one flash provides backlighting behind the tree, while the other fills in the athlete from an angle.
The Specifications: 8 sec @ f5.6; Nikon D800 + 16mm f2.8 fisheye; ISO 250; WB Setting (Shadow); 2x Remote SB-900 units; AE Setting (-1); Distortion corrected in Adobe Lightroom.
More Information: www.nieuwoudtville.co.za
Photo credit: Jacques Marais
Image 2: Run. Forest. Run
The Action: Negotiate the caverns, cliff edges and fynbos plains of the Oorlogskloof Trail Run, and you’ll reach one of the most gorgeous patches of indigenous montane woodland in SA.
The Shot: My NIKON D800 is the most incredible shooting machine you can get. Great ergonomics and bomb-proof construction means I can run with the athletes to get insider shots.
The Technique: Two NIKON SB-900 flashes, connected to Pocket Wizard TT5 transceivers, are used to provide surround lighting. An orange filter on the one flash warms up the scene.
The Specifications: 1/30th sec @ f4.5; Nikon D800 + 16mm f2.8 fish-eye; ISO 100; WB Setting (Auto); 2x Remote SB-900 units; AE Setting (-1); Distortion correction in Lightroom.
More Information: www.northerncape.org.za
Image 3: In Full Fynbos Flight
The Action: Caitlin Lewis looks fresh after 38km on the Oorlogskloof Trail. This five-day hiking route offers sleepovers in tents along the way, and is achievable by any relatively fit walker.
The Shot: Full sunlight does not mean you should pack away your flash. Midday light causes harsh shadows, but a burst of fill-in flash effectively balances out high contrast areas.
The Technique: I again used two NIKON SB-900 flashes with my Pocket Wizards. To balance natural and artificial light, I stopped down by one stop via Exposure Compensation.
The Specifications: 1/250th sec @ f11; Nikon D800 + 28-300mm zoom; ISO 1.0; WB Setting (Sunlight); 2x Remote SB-900 units; AE Setting (-1); No post-processing.
More Information: www.nikon.co.za
Image 4: Extraterrestrial Tripping
The Action: The landscape surrounding Nieuwoudtville (and especially in Oorlogskloof) may just as well be on a different planet, with weird rock strata, deep caverns and endless vistas.
The Shot: Break the rules by shooting against the sun, or in this case the sun as well as an SB-900 flash. A low angle eliminates everything but foreground and sky for more drama.
The Technique: With most of the light coming from dead ahead, the second SB-900 was set to full power to punch up some detail on the athlete and in the foreground.
The Specifications: 1/4000th sec @ f8; Nikon D800 with 24-120mm f3.5 zoom; ISO – 1.0; WB Setting: Auto; AE Setting (-1); 2x SB-900s; Shadow detail recovered in Adobe Lightroom.
More Information: www.jacquesmarais.co.za