Chase Jarvis TECH: Strobed Photo Sequences

Of all the behind the scenes stuff we’ve showed in recent vids, the one techie thing that far-and-away led to the most questions from readers was the part in this video where I’m photographing X Games uber-skiers Simon Dumont, Colby James West, TJ Shiller, Peter Olenick, and Nick Heine in New Zealand using strobes at 8 frames per second. That’s right, all that stuff for the SanDisk campaign you remember reading about earlier. Rail slides and 100 foot airs. 8 frames per second. Strobed.

I know why you had questions.

To be honest, I too didn’t think it was possible to shoot any pack at 8 fps for 40 or so frames straight, covering more than 100 feet of distance without frying something or something whimpering out. …Which is why I tested the concept a number of ways before the shoot. The above video briefly chronicles those tests, the actual shoot, and the cool results.

More images, 2 lighting diagrams, a full gear list, and a couple more tech points after the jump…[click the ‘continue reading’ link below]

Using this idea, we got results like this:

From the diagram below, you’ll see that we’ve got one Broncolor Scoro A4s pack run off a Honda 3k generator. I’ve moved the heads so they’re each front-lighting the rider. My VALs (voice activated light-stands…ie humans! – thx McNally for that term…) are in place and are pointing the Broncolor Unilite heads with Par reflectors at the subject (sorta like shooting a machine gun). The first of the two heads picks up the rider from takeoff to about mid-flight. The second head picks up the riders from about midway thru flight to landing, some 100 feet down the hill.

The other lighting diagram I sketched (below) outlines similar stuff to the one above. We’ve again got the Broncolor Scoro A4s pack, two heads with VALs, but this time we’re running one of my time-tested “sandwich” techniques… a light on each side of the subject. Here, it’s Simon.

And that gave me results like this:

Unreal, eh? We actually had to remove about 8 frames during the making of this composite since there was so much overlap…

For you techie’s, here’s a gear list:

Nikon D3
Nikkor 14-24mm lens
Nikkor 24-70mm lens
Broncolor Scoro A4s pack
Broncolor Unilite heads
Broncolor Par Reflector
SanDisk Extreme Pro card 32GB
Pocket Wizards
Aperture (to process)
Photoshop (to make layered file)
Honda 3.0k generator

Here’s a link to B&H; if you want to buy stuff.

What to do if this sort of equipment is outta your budget? Try renting stuff. Experiment. Use some of that birthday money from your mom and teach yourself how to use this stuff. And here’s a secret: try pickup after 3 on Friday. Rent for Saturday. Most places are closed on Sunday, return gear Monday. 3 days for the price of 1. Don’t tell them I told you.

And some tech details:
_Camera set to its maximum sync at 250th of a second (fastest base sync speed for camera)
_Camera set to its highest frame rate – this case 8fps
_Camera on a tripod (for ease in compositing frames later in post production…)
_Broncolor pack output scaled to about 60% or less of full power to keep up with 8fps. Your results must vary. But you should know this is an absolutely incredible statistic. A 3200 watt-second pack at 60% (roughly 2000 w/s) at 8fps for 40 frames or more until my camera buffer was filled.
_Remember from this vid, and the vid I did last friday it’s the super short flash duration that’s really stopping the action – not the shutter.
_For more on the shutter/flash duration thing, check out the kissing cousin to this vid here, the Chase Jarvis TECH: High Speed Photography vid.
_We’re using Photoshop to create the layered file…shooting on a tripod, laying each frame of the jump on top of the other and masking away the unwanted parts of each frame to reveal just the rider on the background…

Lastly, hope this has been informative. I hadn’t intended to do a video on this, but there were so many questions about it–plus I truly didn’t think this was possible–so I just had to put something together. Lemme know what you think.

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Musculus says:


Why you didn’t rent the new Profoto 8 which could certainly keep up with 10 fps? i wonder…

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poker says:

This is cool. Kudos to you for pushing the realms of possibility.

If I didn’t live in the tropics, I’d rent some gear and try it. Adding an airticket might be pushing the budget a bit too far thoug

Canada FTW says:

This was a great video! I tried something like this on the slopes a few weeks back after taking a look at your Sandisk campaign and the book you did about the ski hill. It was much harder than I assumed it to be! I’m trying to get unique shots because I need to be one of the 18 people accepted for the photography major at my school haha. Just a couple questions,
1. Because the flash is off-camera, is the highest sync speed still going to be 250th with the Broncolor flashes?
2. I have the Cactus transmitters for flash (I’m not incredibly rich lol); is a sync cable still a better plan than things such as Cactus or Pocket Wizard?
Thank-you for your time

John says:

skiing and photography – killer combination, loving the first image

Andrew Jay says:

Also…. your shooting 8fps and say you realing of about 30 frames are you shooting in raw? i can get more that 17ish before it fills the buffer :(



Andrew Jay says:

First Great work Awesome photographer

Question: Can you or Have you done a video of putting the sequence together would really help esp where loads of photos are use that mean the rider overlaps



Canada FTW says:

It’s just a ton of photoshopping! Layer upon layer upon layer. And time. When you do these layered images you may have to remove some exposures because there is too much overlap.

easy says:

luv your work!

richkg says:

Im trying to get a similar setup for a low budget.
I do all my stuff for mainly a hobby right now, so i have limited income.
Just wondering if anyone has any tips or suggestions as to what companies to look at for the strobes?

Judy says:

I want one.

Not really sure what I would do with it, but I want one.

Amy Ralston says:

This was very cool! Thanks for let us in the black box …I find it very informative to understand the middle process and honestly enjoy the learning process. Great, great work and amazing creativity.

Moe Maamoun says:

Hi Chase,
Thanks for sharing, that's a superb post. One I've been looking forward for a long time.

I had the same thoughts, but never the chance to actually test it. All my previous attempts didn't give exactly what I wanted.

This is really good stuff!

Thanks a gain.

Nils says:

I did a similar set last year with the hensel up high back country far from the slopes.

Taking a generator up there is probably the next level then…even if the new Hensel is just a fast on 60%

Way sweet- the language you use is so funny :)

8fps. very nice.

Mike Yip says:


Now I want to get one of those awesome strobes.

Chase Jarvis says:

@ jens. no the generator does not help with recycle times. if anything it could be something that slows it down. which is why we tested it to determine that it did NOT slow down. as far as how big a geni you need for what – somebody a lot smarter that me should be able to tell you. i just know we tested one and it worked.

as as to WHY we used a generator – there was no power out on the slopes and, while broncolor makes some awesome batter powered packs (verso and mobil) there is nothing on the market that is battery powered that could do what we're doing here.

Sebastian earlier said in this post about using the generator. Does the generator help increase recycle times at all? ALSO, how does one determine how many watts in a generator one needs for their setup?

dave everhart says:

Chase, yer KILLIN' me here! :D

This shoot is, oddly, something I've been mulling about in my brain for the better part of a couple of years. I did something like this years ago, with actors on a black stage; I got the idea from the inner sleeve of Rush's "Moving Pictures" LP, where the members were each caught in stages of show movement. Only, when I did it, I used a regular strobe light, like the kind you used to see at parties, (yep, I just dated myself), and long exposure times.
Went through almost a full block of Tri-X.
I would not have thought to abuse pro strobes like this… thanks for going the extra mile. LOL.
Expect to see some imitations. Myself included. I really wanna try this now, especially living near ski resorts.

After seeing this site, forget web 2.0, I think my site is web beta Now if the site could keep up the work. Thanks for inspiring man!

marcus grip says:

I really like that you explain in details and show pictures and videos on how you work and explains why and so on! Really great and this helped me so i think it´s great. I´m gonna rent a similar kit and try it out!

Peace Chase!

This is cool stuff, thanks for sharing !

mjk_photo says:

Thanks for the feedback man, I'll keep that in mind!

Will Foster says:

As it was cold… did you have to hardwire your VAL's as well?

Ian says:

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this it is very much appreciated. Stunnig images and informative insight, fabulous!

Chase Jarvis says:

@ anon 12:24. the PW are generally really reliable. I love love love them. put them in some harsh conditions (weather, light load, interference) and they very occasionally get sticky. i use them professionally on about 99% of our gigs. in this case while shooting the jump, even with fresh batteries we were having some misfires, so we cabled things. and it went well. later that night when we shot the stairs, everything worked peachy keen with the PW's again…so we went with them… mostly bulletproof, sometimes finicky. that's why we always have sync cord handy just in case.

Chase Jarvis says:

@ mjk_photo
@ anon

regarding the broncolor scoro vs. the profoto 8a. first, both have great feature sets – fast, reliable, etc. but key difference for me and why i pref the bronc: the broncolor is a 3200 w/s pack, whereas the profoto is only a 2400 w/s pack. thus the broncolor has 25% more power.

the broncolor is also cheaper.

Jared K. says:

Thanks for the tips Chase, love what you are doing. Keep the videos coming!

mjk_photo says:

you definately make people see what all is possible with your work!
Have you worked with the profoto lights much, and if yes, how do you think they would compare to the lights you used for this sequencing in this situation?
Thanks Chase~

nikky says:

That's awesome!

Can someone explain to me, like I'm a six-year old, why a (snooted) spotlight wouldn't work in this situation? I mean, it would be so much more convenient than worrying about remote synchs.

Tony Obfenda says:

Chase Jarvis you ARE the man!!…Always an inspiration to take better pictures of the kiddies!!

Chase Jarvis says:

@dan: I think i may have said it above or on another blog, but the variation in exposure can be largely controlled within each frame with a more careful treatment in post production.

Often times its waaay easier to take an extra hour and some $ on location to get it right in camera as opposed to "just fix it in photoshop" later, but this might be the exception. The environment is quite a dynamic one as it stands, so adding too many moving parts can get complicated quickly… But i LOVE the spirit of your thinking. Right on the money.

CoCoLiSo says:

The Absolute Dogs Bollocks mate!

Damon Hunt says:

Keep sharing the knowledge brother! Most of us can only dream of using equipment like this. The equipment deposit alone can put rentals out of reach for the casual user.

fas says:

Who says its easy to be a camera man.

Dan says:

Wow. Wow. W O W.

I'm stoked. Gotta try something like that.

Of course, there's always the thought of how to do it one better…

Could the lighting be made more even over multiple shots by backing up the light and getting less variation because of the small relative distance changes as the boarder flies by? It seems like you had enough excess light to back the strobes up a bit.

Also, what about putting the strobes on a toboggan or something really dangerous to pace the boarder. How guttsy are your VAL's?

What a great production you've got there. Fantastic.

Thanks so much for the vid.

Arthit says:

I want to know why you choose to use Aperture?
but it's very Pro Work i like your work.

Anonymous says:

Is there any reason why you didn't go with a faster camera capable of 10 fps? Also wondering why you didn't rent the new Profoto 8 which could certainly keep up with 10 fps? Many thanks!!

Hi Chase,
Ive been enjoying your blog for quite some time now and would like to ask you a few question. How does the picture licensing for your clients work? What should definetly be in the agreement and how do you make sure pictures are not used afterwards? Currently I agreed with the city of munich/Germany to give them a few of my pictures in order to let me in some locations instead of paying a lot of money but I want them to only be able to use those for a specific amount of time what would you suggest ?? I know you are busy but I am sure many of your viewers will find this interesting as well.. Thank you very much

prasad says:

wow.Great shoot. Thanks for sharing.Special thanks for Bron color.

<b></b> says:

@Anomymous (Cool…. yet allot of exposure variation per frame…)

It's most likely due to where the person holding the lights is positioned. Prob. positioned a bit higher up on the hill or rail so the first few frames are front lit, front lit, front lit, side lit, side lit, back lit, etc… as they follow the skier with the light. This would be why the exposure varies as well. You'd almost need a moving light set-up similar to the Outside Magazine BTS video lighting (golf cart or a dolly). In this scenario it would be cool to see the guy holding the lights, in motion (on his skis) and following for more consistent exposure. You'd of course, have to make sure the cables were long enough…and good luck matching speed on 80' tables.

Enjoyed Chase! Had a few q's for you on DH's site too –

Utah Photographer | Kevin Winzeler

rexyinc says:

ok very impressive chase!…

i love using rapid fire flashies too, they are always lots of fun – i can crank ours out at 11frames sec –

Quick little demo of the FlashPro 500 R – Rapid Fire Strobe. 11 frames sec with Nikons D3 in DX mode.

test vid here –

quick test – and the d3 was set at iso 200, 250shutter and F5.6 in DX mode 11 frames/sec.

( i really need a buffer upgrade on my d3 though :(

we luv you chase!!!

Leo Zuck says:

That diagram makes me think of a parabolic motion physics problem! High school physics has scarred me for life!

danno says:

thanks for the info chase,
quick question : how would the new profoto pro-8's compare to the broncolor you used? any experience doing something similar ( not necessarily the cold, but keeping up with power, flash recycle / flash duration & your nikon's fps ) ?


Sodabowski says:

Funnily, I did something a bit similar last summer, but with modest gear: I used the pulse mode of my speedlight to catch a falling waterdrop along its trajectory in a single shot (as can be seen here). I'm glad one of you pros out there gave a try to the concept with top gear, the result is freakin awesome. Thanks for sharing :)

Zac says:

It will be interesting to see how many shoots like this will now hit the Flicker pages. For you Strobists, your small flashes can be used to something on a smaller scale…thanks Chase for your willingness to share info, I like the way the armchair photogs always have an opinion on things, when it's not them, out there in the cold, with a client standing behind them and their butts on the line…keep rockin' it brother.

Anonymous says:

Cool…. yet allot of exposure variation per frame. At the start it looks a little hot and by the end a little under done. That said not the easiest shooting conditions. Was it hard to maintain even exposure over the comp?

GT animation says:

That is FILTY!! Very nice post work and thanks for sharing.

Tony Johnson says:

Thanks for your inspiration, insight and willingness to share with us all.

TJ says:

sick stuff, why 8fps not 9?
also, any more budget oriented system that go shoot that fast?

I think the sketches are awesome. Previsualization is the key eh?

Alvaro MAM says:

The video is great, you packed all the info nicely, good job!

By the way, I'm amazed with the sound of the broncolor head.

Most informative post yet on the Sandisk shoot – thx.

Skateboarding guys have been doing this for a long time. Its good to see that you stepped up the scale…

Flyflinger says:

Chase Jarvis… Making me feel like sh*t about my photography on a regular basis! That was "sic

thanks for some great tips its always good to see how other photographers get the job done.

Anonymous says:

Inspiring Dude! That was just NASTY!!!!! Question, did you pre focus and leave focus on manual or track focus?

And had you thought about doing it as multiple exposures?

Matt Timmons says:

Dude that is some sick flash recycling- the sound of the strobe in your test back in the studio was furious! Sometimes the gear can be as impressive as the creativity- and the spur of it as well. Cheers!

Anonymous says:

Question: "less reliable" could be the description of PW now? They are RADIO so suppose to be faster enough to trigger the broncos … so, their things are DISTANCE like the adds suggest … but I need the srobos CLOSE to me … hehehhehe … everything to get our money.

Sebastian says:

hmm, is it "just" the broncolors that can keep up with the 8fps, or was it the honda generator?

thanks for the video answer by the way ;-)

szabiakanich says:

That's totally sick. Wow. Never would've thought something like this was even possible. Did you fry any strobes in the process or did everything survive this 'torture'? Also Why didn't you put a third strobe at the botto of the hill as well? I see that the left part of the photo where he's landing he didn't catch too much light. Wouldn't it have been even more amazing to lit him all the way through? Just a thought. :) Great stuff really. I love watching these videos. Can't get enough of them. Thanks again for all your hard work an all of this behind the scenes stuff!


Chase Jarvis says:

@zak. Good thinking but it's even easier. The hot spots can easily be corrected for in post production. We left it as such partly outta speed, partly we liked it in an American Apparel sort of way, partly for illustrative reasons.

It would be sick to do it with a powerpack in a backpack and have the strobe hand held and follow the subject so you dont get those hot spots and the light on him would be consistent, good work though!

Mindreader. I can scratch this off the list of "things I can't figure out". Thank you Chase.

Ghislain says:

Wow with my D300 and any consumer lens I have, I would never be able to keep the focus on the subject coming with that me directly to me…. some frame would be out of focus for sure. Great job Chase… WOW

all I can say is Wow! Tons of info…thanks for sharing!

Michael says:

You just singlehandedly increased broncolor's stocks.

love watching stuff like this!!!

Casey says:

Great post Chase! Can't wait to experiment this winter.

Chase, you say it best my friend…

Filthy. Absolutely filthy.

Very nice "making of"… thank you !

Ghassan says:

Want to know how do u merge all these photos together … hope u can do a tutorial on this technique … coz I tried and looked all over the internet and didn't find one and when I do it using Photoshop CS4 it doesn't do a very good job automatically … plzzzzzzzzz Chase Jarvis …

great video chase .. u r the best

best wishes

nice stuff,

question: in the little question answering vid you said that you pre focused, what about when the boarder is coming towards you, do u just pull focus and hope or can the d3's af actually keep up with that?



This is cool. Kudos to you for pushing the realms of possibility.

If I didn't live in the tropics, I'd rent some gear and try it. Adding an airticket might be pushing the budget a bit too far though :)

Landhes says:

Wow! Such an informative post Chase! Always love ur vids…Sandisk choose the right person for their Campaign :)

Eddo says:

Thanks Chase for the clarification of how you create these grand shots! Most of us, including me, will have to make due with far less expensive gear … but hope to make similar shots one day :p

Garry says:

I have been doing some similar work on downhill mountin biking, to test our recycle rates on the Strobeam EID 500 still just finishing the images, before i can upload them for you.

My kit:
Canon EOS 5D
24mm-105mm LuIS
3x Strobeam EID 500watt heads
(2 fitted with spillkill reflectors and a honeycomb diffuser, 1 fitted with a 215cm parabolic umbrella, bounced)
All fired wirelessly of course.
And running off, 2x Strobeam DL-D4 battery pack.

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This is just great!!! Thank you for the insights on the equipment!

You are so cool! I do not suppose I’ve truly read a single thing like that before. So wonderful to find someone with a few genuine thoughts on this issue. Really.. thanks for starting this up. This web site is one thing that is needed on the web, someone with a bit of originality!

Aaron says:

wow you must have taken hundreds of images Chase…. HUNDREDS!!!!

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