Behind the Lens: Peter Holcombe

Catching the shot of a night-time play session for the June 2013 gallery

This month on “Behind the Lens,” Colorado kayaker and photographer Peter Holcombe went beyond the traditional kayaking photo by creating an artistic composition of color, motion and water. The photo features in the June 2013 issue, on stands now.

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The Shot:
Canon EOS-1DS MK III and 24-70mm f/2.8L USM at 51mm
15 sec. at f/9 – ISO 400
2 x Hensel Porty 1200 battery powered strobes
2 x Canon 580 EX II with Radio Popper PX triggers
Car headlights providing ambient light
Gitzo tripod and Kirk BH-1 head

Canoe & Kayak.com: What was your inspiration to get this kind of shot?
Peter Holcombe: I had tried a shot a couple of weeks before like this and got some cool results, but I didn’t really nail it. It really got me thinking about mixing flash and constant light, and in this case, car headlights.

Did it come out as you expected?
I had a couple flashes on either side of the river popping as I shot, and originally I was just using the car’s headlights to focus in the dark. But turned out that during the long exposure they also gave a kind of glow and ghostly look to the wave. I popped the flashes, freezing the water drops and paddler … and we were like, yeah, that’s the look we are after!

How did the session go? Can you speak to the creativity behind the image?
This was during FIBArk 2010, and I had originally set out to just photograph Nick Troutman. But he came down to the water with Dane and Eric Jackson, so they all three got into the water. And of course I got a million different shots of all of them, but the one I really liked was this one of EJ.

What I like about the shot is that it’s more of a motion study—shape and form of the water rather than it being all about the paddler. A lot of photos are all about the paddler or the place but this shot really speaks to the connection between the water and the paddler. I love the spray and the shape you get when he throws that loop.

How was it working with Nick Troutman and the Jacksons?
Nick especially has always been excited about shooting, and the Jackson family is so great to work with. It’s amazing to work with these athletes that not only can do all the tricks in the book, but also do them exactly where I need them on a wave. It really helps me control my compositions and nail the image. I can go into it with a vision, and they really work with me to get it. They have been wonderful to work with, and I hope to do much more in this summer and beyond.

What’s next on your list of photo adventures?
A lot of times I get inspiration from my personal trips. I paddle over 100 days a year not counting photography days on the river. I’m always inspired by the river. I really like pre-visualizing the image I want in my mind. Planning the light, angle, water features and paddler into the final image. Many times it’s in that order of importance. It helps me go in with a strong plan on what I want to create and how I will do it. I really want to photograph more night kayaking and studio lighting on the rivers, mostly creek boating and some freestyle, but I am working on some SUP and kayak fishing assignments also.

Peter Holcombe is a freelance photographer based in Boulder, CO. Holcombe is a master of field lighting and focuses his work toward portraits, commercial photography and outdoor adventure.

Visit Holcombe’s site to view more of his work.

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