The original image submitted to the photography contest.

A winning picture

Back in March 2014, on a sunny Thursday afternoon with clear skies, I had this craving to shoot some skateboarding images.

I live just a few miles east of the Venice Beach skate park and have been going there often, since it opened back in 2009. So, the “itch” became a good excuse to grab my camera, hop on my bicycle and pedal my way to the beach.

Being familiar with the conditions of the natural lighting on the location, I had somewhat of an idea of the picture I wanted in my mind. The sun would be low on the horizon and I had about an hour and a half before sunset.

Once I got to the park, I spent some time walking around, scanning the location for the best skaters present at the time and for good points of view to best capture the tricks they were doing. The sun was dropping and I spotted a prominent shadow in the transition walls. There were just a couple of skaters riding in that area of the park but after a few shots, I noticed a silhouette effect and began to explore that composition.

I realized that it worked best when the subject was directly in between the sun and my point of view – otherwise, it generated flares or became overexposed. I laid down on the ground to get the lowest point of view and fired every time a skater approached that obstacle, trying to catch him in the air and, at the same time, blocking the sun entirely.

The spot I was shooting from wasn’t the safest of all – I was on the ground, right next to the ramp and any missed trick would send a stray skateboard flying straight at me. At any rate, by now, I am already used to this kind of hazard – over the years, I had my share of this type of impacts, on both my body and my lenses!

After the skaters moved on to another area of the park, I had a chance to review the images. When I saw this one, I knew I had captured the image I was looking for – the feeling of accomplishment was sweet. I smiled, packed my camera and pedaled home a very happy snapper.

The original image, later submitted to the photography contest.
The original image, later submitted to the photography contest.

Later that week, I came across a Popular Photography magazine contest for “action shots with beautiful backgrounds” and submitted this photo.

At the time I entered the challenge, I was able to check out some of the competition. There were about 300 entries and, while a lot of them were not really “action” shots, there was definitely some stiff competition.

Then, in early April, I received an e-mail from Matthew Ruiz, an associate editor at the magazine saying that my picture was selected as a finalist and he needed a high resolution version of it. We exchanged a few messages regarding the requirements and I gladly sent him the file. By the way, the only editing I did was cropping the image about 25% to enhance the composition

A couple of weeks later, Matthew e-mails me again, congratulating me as the contest winner, sending along a questionnaire to help him write the story.

The one-page article featuring my photo on the June 2014 issue of Popular Photography magazine.
The one-page article featuring my photo on the June 2014 issue of Popular Photography magazine.

The article was featured on the June 2014 issue and I also got a $100 prize.

Still, the best reward is to see my work on print – it is an awesome feeling!

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