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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Give POV A Try

Capture the action when the action speeds up

A POV shot brings the viewer into the frame and makes for a dynamic shot.

Just what is POV? The letters stand for "point of view," and it's a cinematic method that incorporates powerful editing and camera angle technique for capturing a character's subjective view within a film sequence. Alfred Hitchcock loved using POV technique to scare us, and it worked. In sports, the POV camera captures a game from the point of view of the player. The view might be over the shoulder or any location near their position, of them or the action. When looking at videos on YouTube or Vimeo, it seems every biking, climbing, kayaking, sky diving and skiing Red Bull athlete-candidate is attaching a small camera like the GoPro to their helmets, bike bars or wings.

Hatcher rigs his bike-mounted DSLR.
The reason POV video shots, even from a simple camera like a GoPro, are popular is because the action from this perspective works. The images are exciting and pull the viewer into the action, and they look great on the web. So can that style of POV cross over into the stills we make with our better quality SLR cameras? Can you get the shots on the go without expensive specialized mounts and the fear of your camera getting smashed in a fall? It's one thing to strap or tape a tiny $300 GoPro to your bike, but what about a pricey and heavy SLR? Recently, I had a chance to rig a mountain bike in several configurations with an SLR for POV still shots I made while shooting an assignment in Australia. Fast and light was the rule for the shoot, and my POV setup worked extremely well.

The assignment in question was an eight-day, 400-kilometer mountain bike adventure on the Munda Biddi Trail in Western Australia for Australian Geographic magazine. For this biking story, the magazine wanted bike action on the trail, but the editor also wanted great landscape, wildlife and camp shots. Given the weather, I figured every clear morning and evening would need to be devoted to shooting photos off the trail and that any action photos would have to be grabbed as I was pedaling my bike down the trail. The bike shots would have to be squeezed into the riding schedule when the getting was good. And that's pretty much how it worked out on the shoot.

It's been said many times that good photography depends on being in the right place at the right time in perfect light. From past experience, I knew that in eight days on the trail I could deliver a few good bike action shots from the assignment. But the trick up my sleeve would be my POV shots. With the POV photos, I knew a bike-mount perspective would nail the rider's action on the trail. Getting the shots in the right light would just be a matter of timing and having a POV rig that was lightning-fast to set up.

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