Skookumchuck tidal rapids, British Columbia, Canada. Paddler: Peter Czonka
30 sec. at f/13 and 1/200 sec. at f/2.2 (Two exposures merged in Photoshop)
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
Canon EF 24mm F/1.4
CanoeKayak.com: This is a unique look at Skookumchuck! What was the creative direction or idea behind making it?
Jens Klatt: I was on a kayak freestyle shoot in Canada with Olaf Obsommer and the Adidas team this spring. Skook was running late in the afternoon and into the night. We simply wanted to use the whole time frame to shoot. If the sun is gone, you have to make your own light.
Does this kind of photo define your style as a photographer, or was this a departure?
I love to use flashes or other lights to give the world a different look. But most of my work as a photographer is outdoor photography, so I have to use the available light. Carrying flashes and batteries around isn't always easy and a lot of my clients are not interested in surreal looks; they want the real world. So as soon as I can use flashes my heart goes boom-boom and yeah-yeah!
Can you take us through how you made this shot? What kind of lights did you use?
To be honest we used five simple hunting torches from Wal-Mart. No expensive flashes whatsoever. Yes, flashlights!! These lights are far from the quality I'm used to from my flashes. But since we were shooting a movie I could not have used my flashes anyway. Also, if you use a flash in the dark, the paddler would have been blinded for a few seconds every time I pushed the button. Skook is not a place to risk too much.
And if you look at the illuminated background: no torches were used here. There were logging operations on the opposite side of the inlet lighting up the trees. We simply were lucky!
What kind of post-processing did you do to the image? Is it a composite?
Yes, in the end there are 2 pictures: the lower part was shot at a 1/200 sec to get the paddler sharp. On this image you could not see the stars as they didn't shine bright enough. So I took a second shot with longer exposure (30 sec) and put them together in Photoshop afterwards.
What were some of the challenges you faced?
The autofocus doesn't really work in such a low-light scenario so you have to trust your eye. My camera was also on a very high ISO mode (which I normally don't like.)
But the biggest problem was the big and dark pool for the paddlers afterwards. As soon as they fell off the wave they were paddling through the dark. All of them are strong paddlers – Csonka, Troutman, Serrasolses, Dumoulin – but I never really like when people put themselves in danger for the camera. But of course they all wanted it more then me.
A few minutes after this shot happened a huge ship turned on its light right next to us in the eddy and went out in the current to go upstream. Due to the noise of water we haven't noticed it before. It was huuuge, bigger then anything coming along all day. We we're screaming as hell, but Gerd, who was surfing the wave, couldn't hear us. The moment the ship was right behind him he fell off the wave and disappeared. I have witnessed many strange situations in my life and normally I try to stay cool and not to lose focus, but this was one of the worst things I've seen. Nobody knew were Gerd was, and the ship continued as if nothing had happened. After a while we saw him paddling up the pool. He was chill as always, "Wow, that was close!" was all he said. That was the last time we used the torches on the trip.
What’s next on your list of photographic adventures?
I have just built a little photo studio close to Augsburg, Germany. Combining traveling and family is not easy, and I want be at home more and see my son grow up. So no big trips planned at the moment. But I can use flashes all day… boom-boom and yeah-yeah!
Where can we find you online?
My website www.jensklatt.com hasn't been updated for the past five years. I'm a digital slacker! But you can find me on Instagram and Facebook as @jensklattphoto.
–Check out our Photo Essay: Your Guide to Surfing Skook in the Winter.
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