THRASHER Skateboard magazine
TAKING AND TALKING THE KILLER PHOTOS
A Look Back Over the Years (and some words to click by)
Photos: Glen E. Friedman - Introduction by C.R. Stecyk III
First came George Eastman and now for a few choice words on the Five-Fingered E. Ever since anyone has known him, Glen's gotten the job done. Back in '75 Friedman felt he could shoot better photos than the designated hitters in SKATEBOARDER Mag. So he bought a camera and the rest is history. Once G.E.F. decided to create a photo-zine. Thirty days later he was sitting on 10,000 copies. So, if this legend of the living is talking, maybe we should listen?
Friedman's known all of the big boys from vintage real time Dogtown up to the present. Glen has been the first to document many mega moves and he also pioneered a bunch of now standard camera techniques. But we're here to bury Frieddio not to praise him. What can you say about someone who once talked to Alva, Ted Nugent, Ted Turner, Ted Two, Smokin' Joe Frazier, Mr. Stacy, Sid, Donald A. Battle, D. David, Dr. Rick and Patty Davis Reagan all in one week (and collect?)
Oftentimes G.E.F. tends to short out your batteries 'cause he's always in overdrive. Sometimes his exploits are a bit hard to believe. But he always gets the shot.
So, having been forewarned read on, but remember there are three things never to let happen: 1) Don't ever let Glen near your wench: 2) Don't ever let him near your phone: and 3) If he ever tells you his wallet is empty, just check under his car's front seat. No doubt these tactics are what will cause history to label this man a genius.
- C.R. Stecyk III
DEVELOPING THE UNIQUE TECHNIQUE
First off, one thing that everyone should know is that they do not need to have a Nikon with 20 different lenses in order to get intense, quality skateboard photographs. Almost all cameras work basically the same and it is the individual's technique of taking photos that will make more of a difference in the quality of the photographs than anything else. I believe it is really very simple. You might say, "Sure it's easy for Friedman, he's been taking pix for over 6 years," but to tell you the truth, I got my first photo published in SkateBoarder Magazine" the first time I ever shot color slide film ( which was all, besides B&W prints, that they would print at the time). The main reason I believe I was so successful at the time I started (I was 14), and all the way through my career, is because I'm usually interested in the subjects I shoot. I skated for at least three years before I ever started taking pictures of it and I believe that my familiarity with the sport is what helped me to achieve some of the most exciting photographs up to that time. (that may be one of the reasons you see many skaters nowadays taking some really good action shots here in Thrasher.) As skaters or what ever you're interested in, if you're heavily into it, it should be no problem at all to get the intense photos everyone craves to look at.
The Technique: to get the best shots you do not have to be the best skater - you just have to be able to decide, out of the entire maneuver you are photographing, what is its most intense 1/500 of a second and snap. Timing without a doubt is one of the most important things in action photography. (This tends to make me frown upon sequences at times because if your motor drive is not extremely fast, you may lose the most intense part of the whole maneuver while your camera is advancing to the next frame, but in fairly drawn-out maneuvers like high aerials, they work real well.)
Just think while you're skating what is the most intense moment of the trick and when you're taking photos, just discover that same moment and get it on film. That's the first and most important step.
The next step is just as important, to be able to see the person's facial expression. this can add tremendously to the photo. The amount of radicalness or casualness the skater is showing really makes a difference. By being able to see this clearly allows people to relate to the photograph more readily, whether they can comprehend what is actually going on or not. People being able to relate their personal feelings with a photograph as far as the amount of energy/emotion they see being released through it really adds another dimension to appreciation of good photographs.
Now in order to get THE most radical shots, beside achieving all of the above, you must discover where the best angles to shoot, with the intensity you want, are. I personally am into getting as close to the action as possible without cutting out any of it.
For example, seeing the pool and how high above the skater is, is just as important as the skater himself. This brings me to the subject of camera lenses, because this determines what your angle of view will be. Not what angle you will shoot from, but what angle you will be able to view through your camera. In skateboarding (empty pools are what I prefer to anything else, photography wise), the terrain is especially as important as the action going on. It is usually very difficult to show the terrain with a normal lens if you intend to catch the intensity of the skater because you have to move farther away from the subject to include more background in your frame, thereby losing a lot of the excitement that you get from being close. This is why you will see most (not all) published vertical shots taken with a wide-angle or fish-eye lens (which is just ultra-wide-angle lens).
This is done so the photographer can be very close to the action and still be able to bring a very wide angle of view into the camera and onto the film, ending with the often somewhat distorted but radical view of skate action. this type of lens, I believe, is an absolute necessity for the avid skate photog enthusiasts, but it will cost bucks.
That last word will bring me to yet another subject in photography, which most people who get intensely involved are interested in: getting your pictures published. Well more often than not, whatever you are trying to get published somewhere, so is someone else. So, to overcome this problem you must attempt to get out of being categorized with others. This is another step towards developing an individual technique for the photographer. Besides getting down all of the techniques I have mentioned so far, which may have seemed quite obvious to some, you should do, or show something in your pictures that has never been done exactly the same before. By getting unique photographs while still being able to display all of the other [aspects], you will have multiplied your chances of getting published dramatically. For me, over the years of taking skate photos, I find it more difficult to get that uniqueness than ever before. Many skaters perform their tricks in almost exactly the same way. Whereas someone like Jay Adams, rarely does the exact same thing the same way twice. Just by showing the same thing in a different way than anyone else will develop you into a great photographer. That is, of course, after you have mastered the necessary techniques of perfect focusing and basic camera use.
ON COMPOSITION: Your subject does not always have to be directly in the center of the photograph, but try to make all points and lines (buildings, copings, etc.) within the composition, surround or direct your attention to the center of interest in the photo. NEVER let the limbs (arm, leg, etc.) of your subjects be cut off.
When using a strobe (flash) at night or indoors try shooting at lower
shutter speeds (1/30th, 1/15th, even less) in order to get more background
from the natural lighting. You do not have to change the aperture to
compensate for the shutter speed change because you are shooting for an
exposure off the flash which is always the same. By working with different
shutter speeds , you're attempting to change the effects of the natural
available light. this takes a lot of experimentation to know what is going
to happen and it's definitely worth it for the cool lighting effects you
may get. remember though, when you are slowing down the shutter speed , do
not go past the point where your light meter says your picture will be
overexposed [by the background light] otherwise your photos will get
focusing on the action:
Pre-focus on the area where you believe the action will be taking place ahead of time so you can concentrate better on your timing rather than both timing and focusing at the same time. Set your depth of field to cover the area of action, being careful to maintain a fast shutter speed, alleviating the chances of speed blur. No slower than 1/125 of a second [in normal daylight].
Difficulty coming up with money for film and
The best way to overcome this problem is to shoot less, definitely go for quality more than quantity. Don't feel obligated to your friends or whomever to shoot every 3 ft. backside air they do; wait all day if you have to get the 5 ft. one or the one where he/she is making a really good facial expression and quality air at the same time. Watch and analyze for a while so you can decide ahead of time what you want to get pictures of most. Don't waste film, it's a valuable resource.
- Glen E. Friedman
6 pages with many photos
(that eventually appeared in FUCK YOU HEROES & FUCK YOU TOO)