Behind the Shots: Toe Jam Big Heads

The night before the final round of the Byerly Toe Jam I was trying to think of a different way to shoot some portraits of the riders. This was the tenth Toe Jam (in Orlando) and have been to all but the first, I wanted to get something that would be different and memorable. It was then that I stumbled upon a link on Facebook that took me to the blog of a wedding photographer who had made a post about shooting double exposure portraits of brides using her Canon 5D Mark III. Having the same camera I was interested, read the blog, and watched a video tutorial. I knew I could combine two images into one exposure to get very unique images of the riders at Toe Jame: their face and, of course, their toes.

James Balzer, with his foot not quite in his mouth…

A double exposure is basically shooting twice on the same frame of film. Back in the days of manual film cameras when you had to wind the film after each exposure, it was a fun experiment to try to get good double exposures. You literally had to trick the camera into thinking you had wound advanced the film, then you could shoot a second image over the one you just took. Getting the pictures back was always a bit nerve-racking because you never knew if you got the exposure or framing just right. These days with digital cameras it is much easier (and even more so if you just want to do it in Photoshop).

I really liked the idea of doing the double exposure portraits in camera though and the 5D Mark III makes it really easy and fun to do, plus there are several blending modes to choose from so you can get the look you are going for. In order to get the riders’ feet to only show up over their faces I shot the portrait of their face against the gray clouds in the sky to give me a blown out background. Using the Live View mode of the Canon 5D Mark III I could then line up their toes onto the part of their faces that I thought looked best and then shoot the second photo. Using Live View made it much easier to do these portraits just the way I wanted – I could position the second frame (feet) just where I wanted so that toes weren’t covering both eyeballs or cut off from half a a cheek. We ended up using the portraits as an installation to the Big Heads section in the June issue of Alliance, so if you’d like to see some in print, swing by your local shop and grab a copy.

In the end this was a fun way to do something different while documenting all the crazy action that takes place at a Toe Jam. Much to my dismay though, none of the riders had nastier toes than myself…

Aaron Reed head over heels.

Danny Hampson smiling from head to toe….literally.

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