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Behind the Shoot: Pittwater Council

April 18, 2016

For those of you who’ve been following me on social media, you’ll know I just was down in Sydney working on a project for Pittwater Council.

The council contacted me just after I moved to the Gold Coast wanting photos of people riding bikes in recognisable areas of Pittwater, specifically large hero images to be used throughout an upcoming council document.

As Pittwater is one of my favorite areas of Sydney I jumped at the offer and immediately began wrangling riders and scouting locations to shoot.

With this being a fly-in-fly-out assignment I was worried about inclement weather, but lucky for me my rain jacket stayed in my bag the entire weekend.

The Kit

The project involved everything from action landscapes to very setup portraits and required a large kit. I’d organized an assistant for the longest day of shooting, but I still didn’t want to lug big strobes and battery packs around, so instead I opted for every speedlight I owned and plenty rechargeable AA batteries.


See I wasn’t kidding about the batteries


The Shoot



After I picked up my bags and grabbed the rental car I headed straight out to do some scouting. I had most of the day to scout, but had scheduled my first shoot of the trip for that afternoon.

They say, ‘never shoot with kids or animals, because you won’t be able to direct either of them.’ Having worked as a Ski Instructor I know how much fun it can be to work with kids, but I also know how difficult it can be to get them to do anything – I was pretty worried about this part of the shoot

Same as skiing, if you put a bike under a kid and tell them to ride around for a while they’re stoked until they get tired, and then they cry.

Lucky for me the bike stoke lasted until we were packing up, and the kids only started crying as their parents tried to wrangle them home.

It was quite grey throughout this shoot, and some of the photos were pretty dull and lifeless. Remember all of those speedlights and batteries I packed? This is exactly why, a couple of strategically placed flashes can be the difference between a muddy boring photo to one that is full of life and contrast.

The Roadies


As part of the brief Pittwater Council wanted large format hero images, so basically ‘bike landscapes’ – big scene little rider.

We had two locations to cover, Whale Beach and Chruch Point. The plan was hit Whale Beach at dawn to catch the sun coming up over the ocean, and then run over to Chruch Point while the light was still good.

These are the photo’s I was the most excited for, what respectable photographer doesn’t get excited for a dawn shoot?

I’d organized a group of riders from the Manly Warringah Cycling Club to help me out, and they were awesome doing as many hill repeats as I asked. It was fast paced and a little bit stressful as we only had so much time while the light was good.

From a technical standpoint this section of the shoot was pretty simple, with the focus being on composition and a quick shutter. I did use flashes for some fill on a couple of occasions, but for the most part I didn’t need to mess with lights.

Special thanks to my assistant Zacc for chasing me around with heavy gear and driving the rental car as I hung out the back.

The Family


After we finished with the roadies, Phil from Pittwater Council brought his wife Lara and their cute baby daughter Ashley to be my ‘utility riders’ and ‘happy family on bikes.’

The light was still quite harsh and this is where the speedlights came in handy. In almost every shot from this section of the shoot, I was shooting into the sun and using one LumoPro speedlight, with a flash disc on the end of a 10ft light stand, held directly above the subject(s) just out of frame as a fill. This provided a flattering soft light and awesome results.

The Kids Part 2


By this time in the shoot Zacc and I had been going for about 14 hours. The council had organized some teenagers to shoot with around Avalon Beach.

Having no idea what I was in for, when some surf groms showed up on bikes I was stoked. The light was becoming glowy, golden and getting better by the minuet. This section of the shoot was a breeze, the teenagers were awesome models and hardly required any direction to get the shots we were after.

The Commuters


I got to catch up with my friends Kath and Fiona as they were my ‘fast commuter’ and ‘slow commuter.’ Pretty straight forward, I’ve shot both of these gals before so they know how I like to run things, and other than saying, ‘again’ don’t need much direction to get the shots.

The Take Away

Every shoot I do I learn something, and this shoot was a challenge. Not because the weather conditions, or because I had a precious model who was a pain to deal with, or even that the shooting was that difficult.

The hardest thing was the logistics of coordinating all these separate groups of people, some of whom I didn’t meet until the day of the shoot – it’s actually pretty scary to depend on people you’ve never met.


Photo: Phil Gray

It was a stressful weekend, but just about everybody was on the ball. As the way things often happen one of my subjects had something come up last minute, and couldn’t make it to the shoot leaving me unable to fill their slot on such short notice. Fortunately I gotten plenty of great images from the rest of the shoot, and wasn’t stressed for images.

Overall the shoot was a massive success, and we came up with some fantastic images. Massive thank you’s to Pittwater Council, Phil Gray and family,  Alexis Kaless, Brad Ward, Evan Snow, Peter Mcnamara from Manly Warringah Cycling Club, Dave Musgrove and Cell Bikes, Kath Bicknell, Fiona Dick, and Zacc Larkin; I couldn’t have pulled off this shoot without each and every one you.

Check out my favorite shots from my weekend with Pittwater Council

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