Andrew Paquette | Photographer

Shooting Pool

Last year, I moved to a new house. In the back yard, we had a pool. When I first made an offer on the house, I didn’t even know it was there. The pool was covered, I didn’t see it right away, and made an offer anyway based on the house. The next day I discovered the pool. I had been wanting one for years, so I was very happy to suddenly have one even if it wasn’t intentional.

After we moved in but before our things arrived, a friend named Kim and his family wanted to come by for a summer visit. One of the things I wanted to do was celebrate the pool by taking a portrait of my friend and I jumping into the pool. My lighting gear was on a truck somewhere, forcing me to rely on natural light. I didn’t like that but pushed on regardless.

Shooting Kim wasn’t easy because I needed to catch fast motion with an uncertain focus point. The autofocus wasn’t fast enough to track him and the amount of light forced me to use a large aperture, which resulted in a very shallow depth of field. That meant we had to test the focus point first and train ourselves to click the shutter at exactly the right moment to catch it. Another problem is that I wanted his clothes to be dry, so I practiced by having his daughter jump in his place until we got the focus right, then Kim and I jumped in dry clothes while my daughter triggered the camera. We got it, which was good because we were too wet after the first try to get any more shots for a while.

A couple days ago, almost exactly a year after I shot Kim, another friend from Belgium, artist Neville Marcinkowski, came by for a few days. This time I had my lights but I didn’t have a stand-in for Neville. That meant that he had to do all the practice jumps himself, then dry off, get dressed, and jump for the final shot. If we missed, it would have been a problem. 

The pose I wanted required Neville make a 180 degree twist in mid-air while jumping. This was more difficult to control and to master than Kim’s jump. Neville was getting tired after doing a number of these, so we decided that he was going to get dressed, do the final jump, and we would just nail it because we had to. Luckily, we did.

I’m happy with the end shot but there is one thing I’d like to change. There is some motion blur in all of the shots. With Kim, it was because of the lower shutter speed needed to catch the light. With Neville, it was the ambient light in the scene that illuminated him as he moved. My flash froze Neville’s motion but the ambient added a little motion trail. Because I shot on a 101 MP camera, it is easy to eliminate the blur by down-sizing the image. Later, I want to figure out how to eliminate the motion blur while illuminating the figure and the trees in the background evenly.

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