Skate photography workshop to raise money for charity

Photo: Garry Jones

Since day one, skateboarding and photography have gone hand in hand. From the early days of the British skate scene documented in magazines like Rad, through to today’s online social updates capturing the best action—photography has always been a major part of skateboarding culture.

Last year, the two worlds collided again to create camera history. Camera giant Leica collaborated with American skateboarding legend Ray Barbee and Vans to create the limited-edition Leica D-LUX 7 Vans x Ray Barbee.

Want to learn to create skate photography yourself? Well, now is your chance.

MPB, the world’s largest platform for used camera kit, is teaming up with Skateboard GB to run a Photography Masterclass with skateboarder and professional skate photographer Rob Whiston.

Rob will teach attendees how to finesse the art of skate photography with his detailed workshop, which will demonstrate the importance of camera settings, depth of field, creative blur and how to work with skaters.

After being shown the ropes, attendees will get to try out their skills with ten professional skateboarders, including Skateboard GB Team members Alex Decunha, Joe Hinson, George O’Neill and Lilly Strachan.

Sam Beckett will also be in attendance, famed for being the only British skateboarder to win gold at the X-Games in the Vert discipline, as well as Tay Cunningham, Alex Griffiths, Adam Kay, Jack Wallbridge and Ben Broyd.

No camera kit? No problem! Participants will have the opportunity to borrow a camera setup from MPB. The event will be held on Saturday, 12th November 2022 at the XC, Jarman Park, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, HP2 4JS. Tickets cost £10, with proceeds donated to the Ben Raemers Foundation.

MPB caught up with Rob Whiston @whistonphoto to discuss his experience on the scene as a skate photographer, his go-to kit and advice on how to shoot in his style.

MPB: How long have you been a skate photographer?
RW: Around three years. I was a late bloomer.

MPB: Who inspired you to get into skate photography?
RW: Chris Johnson. I’ve known him since I was a kid. He was the head photographer at Sidewalk Skate Mag for years. He’s always been a source of inspiration and is the main reason for me picking up a camera. Outside of Chris’s work, I look at Wig Worland, Glen Friedman, Grant Brittain, Spike Jonze, Mike Blabac, Clément Le Gall and Oliver Barton.

MPB: What are your go-to pieces of camera kit for skate photography that you can’t shoot without?
RW: The Sony A7 II, 12mm fisheye and 85mm, plus two or three flashes. That kit would get me through most situations.

MPB: Skaters and photographers have perseverance in common. Skaters often attempt tricks multiple times to get them right. How long does it take as the photographer to get the perfect image? 
RW: I wouldn’t say I’ve ever caught the perfect image. For me, it takes time to get something that is close to what I need. It’s a collaboration between myself and the subject, trusting each other, working closely and communicating what we need to create the image that we can both be happy with. Sometimes that happens in minutes, other times, months. It’s a journey.

MPB: Do you have a favourite location when shooting skate photography?
RW: If you have the right subject, it doesn’t matter where you are or what they’re skating. The best photos are when you’ve captured the skater’s raw style. This could simply be them pushing down the street they live on, or skating a massive set of stairs on the other side of the world. It’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with.

MPB: This Image of Dave is highly captivating, it’s almost shocking how close to Dave’s skateboard you got. How did you go about capturing this image? Do you ever worry about your kit when you are shooting this close-up to the action? 
RW: With this type of photo, I tend to ask the skater to repeat the same trick a few times so I can study their movements. It’s not an exact science, but it helps me understand where I need to be and how far I can push my luck. I used a 12mm lens, with continuous shoot mode on. When Dave did his trick I pushed the camera in as close as I could and held down the shutter to capture numerous frames. From this, I selected the frame which looked the most dramatic. I obviously try my best to keep my equipment safe. Sometimes, I get swept up in the moment, and the photo becomes more important. Roll the dice, take a chance

MPB: How did you create this image of Alex?
RW: This is a homage to Spike Jonze, he has a couple of iconic skateboarding photos in this style. I was obsessed with learning how to do this when I first got flashes, it took a while to figure it out. The location and lighting are just as important as the camera and flash settings. I won’t go into too much detail, play around with bulb mode and manually trigger your flashes. Pick somewhere dark and a patient subject. Good luck!

MPB: Have you got any tips for emerging skate photographers?
RW: Go out as much as you can, learn in controlled environments, skateparks, with people who are happy to repeat the same tricks over and over again. Ask questions, make mistakes, look at other photographers’ work.

Buying professional equipment will be a massive help, but you don’t need to have the best setup to produce good photos. Take it one day at a time and slowly build your knowledge along with your kit.

Learn more from Rob on 12th November at the XC, Jarman Park, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, HP2 4JS. Tickets cost £10, with proceeds donated to the Ben Raemers Foundation.

Hurry, places are limited. Book now.

The Ben Raemers Foundation (1188150) is a charity that enables the skateboarding community to have opportunities to develop the skills and tools needed to support each other to understand and address mental health.

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