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The Story Behind the Image

Flying High
Flying High
Flying High (winner of a View Bug Editor’s Choice Award)

Inspiration

Let me tell you about an image¬†which is¬†truly¬†special for me. My middle daughter, Amy,¬†loves to swing.¬†As I watched her enjoying herself, the scene brought me back to the carefree times of my own childhood.¬†I quickly ran inside the house and grabbed my¬†camera to capture the moment. I asked my wife to give the swing some extra speed so that Amy would come up higher in the sky, giving the photo that “I’m flying!” feeling.

To me, this capture sums up the best things about being a kid: being young and free. To laugh and seize the moment, not having to think about yesterday, today, or tomorrow. Life has its simple yet profound moments, and this was one of them.

Location

This photo was taken in the backyard of our house in Sweden on a late summer’s day as our kids were just having fun outside. You don’t always need to go far to capture something beautiful, because moments such as this happen all around us everyday.

Time

It was about 2:00 in the afternoon that day. Our whole family (my wife Malin, our 3 kids and I) were enjoying our holiday time off and soaking in every bit of warm rays we could get, as most people in Sweden do this time of the year. Summer is short here, so you have to make the most of it while it lasts.

Lighting

The sun had just come out from behind the clouds, and despite it being a direct and somewhat harsh light it really helped to give the photo some depth and contrast between the highlights and shadows. It also helped me to freeze the motion by being able to use a high shutter speed while keeping my ISO nice and low to avoid noise.

Equipment

This was shot with my Canon 5D Mark III and the incredible 135mm f/2L prime lens which creates buttery smooth bokeh (background blur) while giving you a nice and sharp focus on your subject.

What’s in my camera bag?

If you asked me a few months ago I would have said my bag contains the Canon 5d Mark III, 135mm f/2L prime and a 50mm f/1.8 prime. Today however I shoot with a Nikon D750 and the 24-70mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.8 as well as the excellent 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens. But as far as equipment goes, I would say that the quality and impact of our images has very little to do with the brand of our camera. It has much more to do with our creative vision; the only limit is that of our own imagination.

Editing

My normal workflow starts by importing the RAW file into Adobe Lightroom, where I work on the basics of the image such as white balance, shadows, highlights, and color. Once I am happy with those things I consider if I need to bring it into Photoshop for some other more complex retouching. For this image I want to remove any small unnecessary distractions and help the viewer focus on the feeling of fun and freedom.

For example, in this¬†shot my wife’s hand, which was pushing the swing, was also visible in the frame.¬†To remove that I opened the image in Photoshop and cloned out the hand using the clone stamp tool to copy some of the surrounding sky. There were also some small branches of a tree peeking into the frame which were quickly removed by the healing brush tool. I then¬†warmed¬†up the overall toning of the image as well as slightly desaturating the red and magenta colors to give it a slightly faded vintage look. Finally I finished it off with a vignette to further focus the eye on what’s important: the girl.

How can you capture a photo like this?

If you wanted to capture a similar shot of your child, make sure you are as low as possible to the ground. I started off by shooting standing up, but quickly realized that I was getting the neighbor’s house and trees into the background which was detracting from what I was trying to achieve. So I ended up belly down laying on the grass so that I could capture as much of the sky as possible and give the image this flying high feel.

Anytime you have this much constant motion there is a risk of motion blur, so switch your camera to shutter priority and dial in a speed that will stop the motion. In this case I shot at 1/8000s. A wide aperture such as f/2 to f/3.5 will also help you separate the subject from the background.

I normally shoot using back button focusing, but I was struggling to keep up with tracking the speed of the swing, so I stopped and observed for a few seconds to figure out where that moment of suspension is as the swing reaches its maximum height. I prefocused the camera on that point, and next time the swing appeared in my view finder I fired a burst of 4-5 shots. One of which was the image which you see here.

Finally, let me say that the most important thing is to get out with you camera and shoot daily. Shoot, shoot, shoot. The more you do it, the better you will get!