Jet Bike Action
(Ixia Rhodes Greece)
Jet-bike at Surfers Paradise, Ixia, Rhodes
Jet Bike Action
During a recent vacation on the sunny Greek island of Rhodes, I found myself staying near SURFERS PARADISE a watersports activity centre offering a variety of on water activities from Windsurfing to Pedalos.
One of the more popular options was to take a wild ride on a powerful Wave-runner machine – a kind of motorcycle for the sea!
For many tourists this exhilarating activity is a rare treat – or indeed a once in a lifetime experience – definitely the sort of thing for which they will want to get some great photographic momentos to wow their friends and family.
For safety reasons the high speed action has to take place several hundred yards from shore in a specially reserved zone, making it difficult to get good action photos with an average pocket compact digital camera.
Fortunately I had to hand some equipment more appropriate for the task and managed to get some great shots – this is how I went about it.
I used a super telephoto zoom to reach all the distant action – but also a normal angle of view for some important close up shots – essential to help “tell” the full story of the rider's experience.
The light was invariably really bright as Rhodes is blessed with glorious sunshine and blue skies for around 300 plus days a year – so fortunately I didnt need a $10000 super fast f4 500mm lens I used my Sigma 50-500mm f4 – 6.3 “bigma” lens which has a fantastic 10x zoom range and a more than acceptable image quality even at the long end of the range.
Format and resolution
I chose to shoot in the highest quality JPEG rather than RAW format as this meant
1. The lower file size writes faster to the card allowing me to capture more photos in burst mode – essential for getting the perfect shot when the wave runner has leapt clean out of the water!
2. The high resolution left plenty of scope for further “magnification” via cropping – so I could get a truly frame filling detailed action image - even if the machines were 500m away when the shot was taken. This is particularly relevant these days as many of the photos will only ever be viewed “online” on sites such as facebook – so many of the available pixels can be cropped away without affecting the on screen image quality.
The action was pretty fast paced – so despite the extremely responsive auto focus of the sigma lens – I chose to shoot at f8 where the added depth of field gave a little extra leeway on the accuracy of the focus point. This had the added benefit of being around the lens’s natural sweet spot for sharpness.
It was however, essential to keep the shutter speed up past 1/1000 as a minimum. So I tended to leave the camera on Av aperture priority mode – and then adjust the ISO so shutter speeds didn’t fall beyond 1/1000 – most of the time this meant ISO 400 . My basic rule was to maintain my preferred aperture and shutter speeds by increasing ISO as necessary up to an ISO 1600 limit – (at which noise levels are still on the right side of acceptable) on the rare occasions when it was cloudy or maybe a rider was out late in the day it was necessary to open up the aperture to maintain exposure – basically the exposure setting I didnt compromise was the 1/1000 minimum shutter speed.
I used focus servo tracking based around the more sensitive center focus point. Whilst this didnt always give the best shot compositionally speaking – it did mean more of the shots were sharp and focused.
High speed burst mode – ALWAYS! Riding wave-runners is a fast and furious activity, and digital photos have no consumable film cost to encourage shooting prudence. So I basically just left the camera on burst and shot away! This enabled me a much better strike rate of capturing the action at the optimum moment.
Getting the MONEY shot
At the outset getting great photos isn’t necessarily uppermost in the riders mind – they are more focused on the upcoming thrilling wave runner ride... however, I just KNEW they were going to want decent photos – particularly if the shots were more interesting. So after the essential training and safety instruction I asked them to do a couple of things that I knew would improve the shots.
Firstly I asked that as they first begin to make their way back to shore at the end of their alloted time, that they “snake” the machines in a fairly high speed zig zag. This added a significant amount of dynamism to the shots at the very time they were facing the wave runners directly to the camera - the sizeable spray thrown up by the bikes and the inclined angle as they naturally lean into the turns really helped capture the exciting nature of the ride.
Secondly as they get close to shore and were sitting on the machine with the engine off I would wave madly to them (and encourage any family members or friends on the beach to do the same) – this invariably resulted in them waving back and smiling broadly – I am sure that these might be the shots that eventually make it into print!
A montage of the whole event – this gives a real 3 dimensional effect to the photographic record.
If you ever visit the beautiful island of Rhodes – pay a visit to SURFERS PARADISE you can find them in IXIA opposite the Sheraton hotel – or contact in them advance at www.surfersparadise.gr