How to Capture Three Seconds of Action When You've Only Got One Shot

Sometimes we have the luxury of being at an entire game or tournament or match to get action shots of athletes performing their best. Yet occasionally, if we're like Brett Wilhelm, we are asked to cover the World of X Games Cam Zink Mammoth Flip that only happens once and lasts all of a few seconds. Under that kind of pressure with no "redos," Wilhelm takes us through a refreshingly in-depth BTS video that covers everything from basic composition to gear and how one man can cover three cameras.

When you have only a few seconds of action and can't make a sinlge mistake, you better have the gear you need -- and you better know how to use it. Wilhelm takes us through everything in the video so thoroughly, even someone just starting out could now know how to cover this event tomorrow.

Want more images or video of the actual backflip? Check out the photo gallery or video on ESPN's X Games website.

Brett Wilhelm/ESPN

Brett Wilhelm/ESPN

Brett Wilhelm/ESPN

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9 Comments

Mike Zinger's picture

That trigger setup is neat

Ralph Berrett's picture

It was interesting, but the multiple triggering cameras is '90s tech. I shot sand drags and Baseball with Quantum Radio remotes in the 90's. The newest tech is the remote TTL which has some interesting applications.

Adam Ottke's picture

Yes, triggering multiple cameras has been around a while. But I think so many people are still hesitant to do what it takes to get all the shots possible. A lot of people would have said (unfortunately), "Well, I can't have a second shooter or assistant, so I guess I'm only getting one angle..."

Chris Blair's picture

Two things: First, did you build that thumb trigger? That is a great idea for a remote camera solution. Second, it appears you are in need of an assistant, may I recommend myself?

The pocket wizard setup is just an off the shelf "thumb trigger to 1/8th inch mini phone" that is gaff taped to a rubber band (so it stays in my palm), plugged in to the pocket wizard camera port. The PW is attached to a Hildozine Transceiver Caddy, which originally is meant for strapping to a light stand/tripod, but I use it here to strap to my forearm. All just born out of necessity to keep the triggering handy while still allowing me full mobility running around.

Chris Blair's picture

I like it, did those speedlites end up being enough power?

They did provide a small amount of fill, but there was still enough ambient light (sun was setting fast!) that the ambient light was still the primary. If you watch the slow motion video you can see the flashes fire/light him from beneath in 2-3 quick pops and the progression of frames show less fill light as he comes in to land..so in the end it provided a small amount of fill, plus some color pop/accuracy of his bright clothing.

Christian Berens's picture

Thanks for sharing Adam. That's absolutely nuts that one guy can capture all that! Definitely cool of Brett to share the info and all the specifics as well! That's a lot to think about and for ONE chance to get it right, he's got to be sure of himself and equipment!
I look forward to the next BTS of his!

Brian Reese's picture

That was awesome. Thanks for the share.