Recently we’ve done a lot of fun shoots with water. Just a few months ago we shot a poster for the BYU Swim Team and loved how the images turned out. One of the coolest shots was of Brandon Watson spinning during a dive and seeing the water fly off in all directions. Dave Broberg, our graphic designer for the athletic department, had the brilliant idea of taking the idea a bit further with the Gymnastics Team. Check out the video below:

The idea was to highlight the shapes of the gymnasts performing different poses and jumps and have water flying off of their legs, arms and hair to accentuate their movements. We opted to set up the shoot in the Richards Building Pool, due to its ample supply of warm water.

First we set up a background with two large sheets of Duvetyne, also known as black wrap. It is used on television and movie sets to black out windows and block out light. We use is as a background on many of our shoots because it goes completely black when you light it right. After hanging the Duvetyne from the railings, we brought in a blow-up kiddie pool on top of a gymnastics mat. We wanted to have a small pool of water so that the gymnasts could wet their arms and legs right before jumping. Rather than fill it up with air we just wrapped the edges around some PVC pipe. On top of the pool we put some generic black cloth.

Lighting is the key to making this technique work. To get the water to show up you need to light it from behind and have a dark background. We planned to use two of the Einstein 640 strobes from Paul C. Buff to light the entire scene. We wanted to use the Einsteins because they have a really short flash duration, which would reduce the blur on the water while in motion. We put two lights up on the observation deck aimed down at the kiddie pool and attached barn doors to them to keep the light from flaring the camera.

After a few tests we realized that we needed some lights coming from the ground level to better light the water droplets and to give the models a nice even rim light all around them to separate them from the background. We put a Elinchrome 600RX on the ground on each side of the backdrop pointed right at where the models would stand. We ended up using a Elinchrom Skyport to trigger the two floor lights and the Einsteins were triggered by the on board flash slave.

Lighting setup - lights are in the green circles (click for larger version)

After about an hour of setup and testing we were really happy with the results. On most of our big shoots we use an Eye-Fi Pro X2 sd card to send small jpgs directly to our iPad so that we get a big preview of what photos we are getting. We also showed the gymnasts the photos so that they could make adjustments to their jumps. The Eye-Fi creates a wireless network that the iPad can connect to, and then we use the Shuttersnitch app to import and view the photos.

The gymnasts were not sure what to expect when they walked into the room and saw the setup, but they were excited to try it out. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we needed more water on the athletes to get the effect we wanted, so we filled up buckets and garbage cans with warm water that we dumped on the gymnasts right before they made their jumps. That was the key to getting a ton of water droplets flying off them and creating cool and distinct patterns. We experimented with lots of different jumps and poses to give our graphic designers plenty of images to choose from. We also experimented with throwing water in front of the gymnasts during the exposure to create a different effect.

I’m not sure how fun it is to have buckets of water thrown at you all day, but the girls were troopers and didn’t complain one bit. Once we finished with their photos, we took a few shots just of water being thrown in front of the background to give the designers a few more elements to work with in the poster.

Dave Broberg and his team of designers in BYU Athletic Publications took the images and created the poster. They really hit it out of the park with this one. Check out the final posters below:

Kimberly Cook, one of Dave’s student designers, composited all of the images together into one poster. She must have spent a ton of time getting all the images to mesh together like this. Click on it to see a larger version.

We will use these images and posters to promote the Gymnastics team and their schedule for this year. There are already a few billboards up and coming back from lunch today we saw the first bus wrap, and it looked awesome. Thanks to Dave Broberg’s team, the BYU Gymnasts and our student assistants for making this all happen.