Kiteboarding Jump, Frame-by-Frame

San Jose, California, USA

I was out cycling along a trail when I came across these kiteboarders. I had not seen at this location previously. I stopped to watch for a bit, talking with another cyclist that had also stopped along the trail to watch. There were several kiteboarders (4-6) out enjoying a somewhat windy day.

After watching for a bit, I went up and talked with a couple of them that had come out of the water to take a rest. We talked for a bit about kiteboarding, something I personally knew very little about, but was a bit curious. One of the kitesurfers I was talking with had a camera with them, so the topic of photography came up. I mentioned that I am a photographer. I did not have my gear with me during the bike ride, but they said they had started frequenting the spot due to coronavirus travel restrictions in place for the area. They said that it would be fine if I came out to take some photos of them. It should be obvious from the photograph above that I took them up on that offer.

A few days later, I drove by the spot again and was pleasantly surprised to find the kiteboarders out again that day. I talked with them again briefly before I began taking some photos, including the sequence photo above. I wanted to say hello again, and verify they were still alright with having some photos taken.

Personally, I had not done much sports photography, so taking photographs like this was a bit new to me at the time. Also, the telephono lens I was using was fairly new to me at the time, so I was learning that as well. The photos are alright, but I hope to venture out and get some more photos of windsurfers and people doing other water sports in the Bay Area.

In particular, learning how to predict what is about to happen and tracking quick moving subjects is something that I need to practice more. As they say, "practice, practice, practice." Not to mention it is a good excuse to get out and meet some new people.

I stayed for a bit and captured quite a few photos. Before I left, I made sure to get their contact information so I could share the final photos with them (via this page).

Merging a Sequence of Photos

Sports photography, or anything that has fairly quick movement, tends to lend itself well to merging sequences of individual photographs. That is how this photograph was created, with a sequence of individual photos.

The camera is continiously taking photos in quick succession, each equally spaced in time. For this photo, each individual instance of the kiteboarder flying through the air is actually a separate photograph. Those individual photos are then aligned and merged to form a final composite photograph. In this case, I merged the photographs by hand, selecting which portion of each photo would show through in the final image.

The camera had actually taken twice as many shots as was required to make this photograph. Had every photo been used, there would have been twice as many instances of the kitesurfer flying through the air, all overlapping with one another. In order to keep each instance of the kitesurfer separate, every other photo was used in the final composite. For this photograph, I wanted each figure to be clear, and thus wanted each instance of the kitesurfer to be separate.

When making composites like this, it is quite helpful to have the background, or at least some fairly major element of the background, remain steady throughout the entire sequence of shots. The steady elements within the scene serve as anchor points that can be used to align the individual photographs during post-processing. Most photo editing software these days, such as Photoshop, can automatically align two or more images. However, if everything with the individual frames is constantly moving, that can confuse the software. It may inadvertently choose to anchor on one or more of those moving elements. In this case, for example, the water was constantly shifting. The hills, on the other hand, created a nice solid anchor that served as reference for all other movement in the frames.

Another useful thing to pay attention to for sequences like this is how the camera tracks the subject, especially when is zoomed in closely on a subject moving at a long distance. In this case, for example, the path taken by the kiteboarder arches up through the air. However, I did my best to pan the camera to the right, rather than tracking that arch. This helps fill out the resulting composite. Had I zoomed in a bit more and followed the kiteboarder's arch through the air, the background in the upper corners and the lower center would be missing in the final composite.

Instead, I took a bit of time to get a sense of how high the kiteboarders were jumping. I then set the shot up so that the arch was covered with minimal up or down tilting of the camera during the shots. It helps to have a bit of extra background as well. In post-processing, sometimes that extra bit of border is useful for cropping and creating a final composition. Generally, it just helps to add in some margin of error in the entire process.