f-stop Ambassador Danil Kolodin is action sport photographer who doesn't like staying still. He works on projects with Red Bull, is the staff photographer at FunDaMental Agency and is also building up another agency called FunDaMental Sport focused purely on sport projects. When he told us he'd been working on showing movement by getting a skateboarder to jump through paint and flares, we knew we had to find out more...
Hi Danil, this is a visually impactful project. How did the concept for this shoot come about?
First of all, I started to think out how to show movement and dynamics with a still image. The solution that came to mind was to show it with paint splashes and fire. To be honest, this is the only project of its kind that I have done. Well, the first one - to be correct - as I’m sure it won't be the last one! I really want to continue working with paint and fire!
Regarding the inspiration. I think the closest to a direct inspiration at that time was Max Riché with his long exposure Red Bull Morphing project in Paris, done back in 2015. He had no paint on location but he also played with different types of lighting and length of exposure. My athlete this time was skateboarder, Nikita Sekh. We have worked together for years already, and this time Nikita was really stoked to create this footage with paint and fire!
How did the project change as you worked through making this concept happen in real life?
We only had a really short time to get ready for this shoot. Really short. Like one day! There were a lot things to get ready... like the skate park access, the fire proposal, power supplies, putting together tonnes of gear and movit all to the Moscow countryside. So we had no time to think out of a proper concept first, and work on it further. To be honest, i just had this idea: to show moment with still image. But my team, the guys who supported me on this project, are always ready to go at short notice. We just got together on location - me as a photographer, Nikita as a rider, Alex Bivol a producer from our agency, pyrotechics and light specialist Alex Gorelov, and couple of video guys with Kostya Trubin to make the behind-the-scenes movie. In the end, I think it turned out great and was worth the effort!
The skateboard athlete does a great job – what were the challenges for him, compared to a typical action sports shoot?
Oh yeah! Nikita did great! For sure the main challenge for him was to ride in complete darkness, when only the kicker was highlighted, and breaking though the clouds of smoke and paint. Besides that, we were really short on time with the shooting, so Nik had only two or three tries to nail the trick.
What were the biggest challenges for you as a photographer to create the images you wanted?
The biggest challenge for me as a photographer on this project was team work, i think. I was more or less sure about the shooting aspects : how to set the camera, lights etc. But we had to do much more than just a few main photos. Backstage photos and videos, interviews. And on such a tight schedule, everyone on location had to work in closely with each other, making results from the first try.
What gear did you use?
I was equipped with Nikon and Profoto gear for this project. We had a Nikon D850 as a main camera with a 16-35 for the sequence and 70-200 for the action single close up shots and portraits. There were two Profoto Pro8 units and one Pro7 flash. We decide to use these powerful flashes to be sure that the power for each flash in sequence will be same and equal - no matter the number of shots in sequence you were going to make.
Were there specific aspects of the camera’s capabilities, or specific aspects of your skills as a photographer that you wanted to showcase with this project?
Yeah! There are two points I can mention for that. The first is the d850 sensor and photosensitivity. I was impressed with the low noise and good quality of image although we were shooting at night time. The second is the size of photo you get at the end. You are able to print even a billboard size poster and put it on a house!
Lighting obviously plays a key role in this project. Can you tell us about your flash set up?
Lighting was the key on this project ...and it was even double. I mean we had two sets on the location at the same time. The video set and the photo set. The video set contained constant lights for video crew and my, photo set, was with flashes. They were together ON in therms of short timing. The constant lights appeared as a ghosts on my photos but i did not mind. They highlight the dynamics.
Regarding the gear. I had two Profoto Pro8 and one Pro7 flashes on a side. I decided to use powerful gens to have Nikita frozen perfectly on each frame of a sequence.
Which image were you most stoked on from this shoot – and how did you set up for that one?
The ‘close up’ shot that is the cover shot at the top of this story, for sure. Shooting a sequence was one the main tasks for me, for the rider and for the camera to make ...and we got that first. Then a couple of single action shots, a few portraits. Finally we came to this close up frame at the very end, when all the work was almost done. By that point, all the crew felt quite relaxed. Usually a lot of cool things happen right at this time. I was once told that this is even not a true skate shot - as you can not see the landing. But for me, you can see the dynamics, the power of movement, of the kick.
You must be stoked on the outcome here! What’s next for you?
Yeah, to be honest this was my first translated video, and i’m glad that it turned out to be for this skate paint project with Nikita.
The next is a challenging team game. Kazan city hosts children sport games in the beginning of December called Popov Cup (http://popovcup.com/). So we, the whole FunDaMental Sport agency, will go to cover this games with a full crew of 7 guys: 5 photographers, one videographer and one social media manager on a site. We'll all need to work as a team, but it’s gonna be fun anyway.
Regarding my personal projects. I am going to Kazakhstan to shoot some MX and drifting right after the Popov Cup, and take part with this footage in the Nikon Kazakhstan Z-series launch. So stay tuned!