Behind the Photo - Dylan Miller / by bradlee rutledge

Last July I got the opportunity to go out to Area 52 for the first time. Up until that point I had only seen photos and heard about how perfect the property was. We had a three-day shoot planned with Kevin Henshaw, Dylan Miller, Trevor Bashir, Clayton Underwood, Brenton Priestley and Shane Bonifay.

During our first day of shooting we were rained out by the typical Florida thunderstorms that are common all summer long, so we adjusted our plans and on the second day got out early and shot all day. One thing that made this shoot unique was the high reach we rented to try to capture a photo Kevin Henshaw had in mind since he first began designing the park. We weren’t trying to get that photo till later in the day, so I had a high reach at my disposal for most of the day while all the guys rode.

All morning I shot from the ground as everyone was sessioning the stair set. With so many guys riding that day it was important to switch up the angle as much as possible so I didn’t end up with repetitive photos. Around noon, when the sun is usually too high to shoot, I decided to test out the high reach and try an overhead shot above the kicker. (Full disclosure: I am scared of heights and have never driven a high reach before, so I was pretty nervous at first, but I figured a good photo would be worth it). I knew I wanted to shoot something with no shoreline in sight because usually there is some reference point of land in standard wakeboard photos. Also, shooting from overhead was the only way to utilize the harsh mid-day lighting without using flash. At the time I was trying to get the basket into place, Dylan was out riding and I saw him land a huge melan halfcab roll. I knew just from watching that one that that was the trick to shoot. I yelled down to Dylan to try some more and without hesitation stomped them for me while I dialed in the framing.

This is the first frame I shot of Dylan. I really liked the whole idea of not having any shore in sight but unfortunately the angle/framing was slightly off. It looks like he is doing the trick uphill, which I didn’t like. Luckily, this was an easy fix on my part and I just had to make sure I was able to frame the shot better. Another great part of this is his shadow from the mid-day sun created a cool silhouette on the water that I wanted to make sure stayed in frame.

Take #2. I fixed the framing and it looked better with Dylan going across the frame rather than up the frame. Something I didn’t like about this one though was the kicker being on the edge of the frame. It was extremely distracting to me as a viewer and overpowered Dylan. I also realized that I wanted to be more overhead of Dylan because the photo was feeling a bit distant. I extended the high reach farther off the water and lowered it since I now knew how high Dylan was going.

Take #3. I knew this was the angle and view that I wanted. Extending the high reach farther really got me closer and achieved a better feel. Also, there was now separation from the kicker and the edge of the frame, so it was less distracting. I was happy with this frame but you couldn’t tell how tweaked it was. I asked Dylan to go for one more just for security.

This is the final frame I shot and ultimately the one that Dylan and I agreed looked the best. You can easily see the grab and tweak – and having the spray off the kicker really adds to the entire image.

Camera: Canon 1D Mark IV

Lens: Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L

ISO: 400

Shutter: 1/2500th

Aperture: f/5.0

Filter: Hoya ND