By Jaren Wilkey and Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo
Here at BYU we are always trying to come up with creative ideas for marketing our athletic teams. Dave Broberg, who is the lead graphic designer for the BYU Athletic Department, came up with the crazy idea of having exploding water as part of this year’s softball team poster and schedule cards. He really wanted to see how we could create explosions of water on the bat when the batters hit the ball. Of Course there really is only one answer, water balloons. The plan was to hit the water balloons with a bat to create the water explosion, and then we would add the softball to the photo in post.
They wanted a black background so that the water would stand out, so we decided that it would work best schedule the shoot on the softball field at night. We asked the grounds crew to turn off all the lights in the stadium so that we could have total control over the setup. Initially I wanted to bring in our Elincrhom 600RX monolights so that we could freeze the water with its superfast duration, but when you shoot with strobes you only get one shot for each water balloon which makes timing really touchy.
Ultimately we decided to light it with continuous hot lights so that Mark could get several shots of each sequence instead of the single shot you would get with a strobe. Our Canon 1D Mark IV cameras can shoot at 10 frames a second, leaving us plenty of options to choose from for the final posters. We used 3 of our old Redhead tungsten lights, two lights behind the subject at 45 degree angles and one in front. All the lights were between 10-15 feet away from the subject. The backlights rimmed the softball players, essentially separating them from the background, which is really important when you have a dark uniform. The backlight is also what makes the water stand out, the key to getting water to go white against a dark background is a nice strong backlight.
We filled up a bunch of water balloons that the players would hit with a bat or catch in their glove. I think we filled 70 or so but we could have easily used 3 times that many because it took several tries to get the right timing for each shot, apparently the timing required to hit a water balloon is a bit different than that needed to hit softball. The girls were a bit leery at first, but once they were soaked they got into the shoot and tried outdo each other by making the biggest explosions of water.
We also could have used more powerful hot lights so that we could have done the whole shoot at a lower ISO, but the Canon 1D Mark IV did a great job at 3200 ISO. Check out the behind the scenes video:
It turned out to be a really fun shoot, mainly because the girls had such a good attitude about it. Utah is a bit crisp in early October, and the water didn’t help, but they loved seeing the photos and laughing at their teammates as they got drenched. We were really happy with how the posters and player cards turned out, here are a few examples:
Mark Philbrick is the University Photographer at Brigham Young Unviersity and can be contacted at the BYU Photo Homepage.