Behind the Shot with Ken Sklute

Behind the Shot
With Ken Sklute

There are so many facets of the photographic world. We are all free to peruse what avenue of photography excites us. I have reminded my students and mentees of a Ricky Nelson song lyric from 1970. It was a song called “Garden Party” and immortalized to me, the thought that “you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself!” That will really be the underlying message in this post.

We make photographs to please ourselves. Even though I have been a photographer for a VERY long time, I still make images that I am just plain excited about, for myself. The images will eventually find their way to be seen by my clients and hopefully purchased to have others enjoy them as well. I would like to share a little story with you about an image that I saw in my minds eye. Like I said, I create images that I enjoy seeing, often free from the thought of a degree of difficulty. This story begins at the Arizona State Fair. A perfect venue for my taste, full of color and motion. After a very warm day of photographing both stills and video, I came upon an image that grew from trying to tie the color and motion together. I found a rotating, climbing and descending ride that caught my attention. It looked to me that I needed about a 6 second or so exposure to make the cluster of lights and movement resemble a flower with its various layers of petals. I enjoy being as much of a photographic purist as I can be, trying to, as I was taught very early in my career, to get it right in the camera. I try and accomplish that as often as I can. I do embrace all of the technology available to you and I when considering how to execute my thoughts. I do love the technology that we are afforded. I push myself every year to grow and to find a new way of seeing the same people, places and things.

Photo by Ken Sklute

Photo by Ken Sklute

In this case, I set my Canon 1DX body atop my RRS BH-55 ball head with a 28-300 mm F/3.5-5.6 IS L lens attached. From the position I chose, based upon this ride and the peripheral distractions, my composition turned to be a vertical composition. This is generally when I really appreciate the RRS way of thinking with their magnificent “L” brackets that allow me to rotate my camera on axis, over the center of the ball head, keeping the camera balanced over the center allowing me to keep the tripod balanced and steady, most especially with long exposures.

I was in the process of refining my thought and the composition when I saw that with the correct timing I might be able to combine two rides together, providing me with an image that would resemble one of my absolute favorite subjects, the Aurora Borealis. I simply needed to wait for each ride to fill with passengers and from my vantage point, they would overlap, creating the Aurora like flow of color and movement.

Photo by Ken Sklute

Photo by Ken Sklute

Well, my guardian angel must have had the night off because serendipity was not occurring. One ride would begin while the other loaded and they seemed to not be anywhere near crossing as I had hoped that they would. I invested about 90 minutes into the image, waiting and hoping but to no avail.

I did not want to leave being unsuccessful. I wanted to go home with the image of what I saw in my minds eye. Then the technology bug bit me, reminding me that with the latest version of camera, Canon gave us the opportunity to capture more than one exposure on a single frame. I could, if memory served me, predetermine the amount of exposures that I would like to have overlap, set that number and then make the correctly exposed captures that would be layered one upon the other, creating a new raw file of the blend, as well as the individual raw frames to use later as I pleased.

Photo by Ken Sklute

Photo by Ken Sklute

I made the first exposure and it, by itself was fine. I then waited for the second ride to run. When it did, I captured my second exposure and within seconds, the preview popped up on my LCD and, there it was. The image that I envisioned a few hours ago, in one frame, thanks to that double exposure feature. I made a few variations before heading out of the fair. I was quite content as I figured out how to make an image that timing did not allow me to. Isn’t technology wonderful? Yup, I do too!

I hope that you enjoy the result as much as I do.

Ken Sklute is a photographer and teacher based in Phoenix, Arizona, and is one of Canon’s Explorers of Light. Copyright ©2014 Ken Sklute. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Joe Johnson says:

    Ken, great image. I’m glad you insisted on pleasing yourself and I for one am also quite taken by the incredible patterns of color set in a very complete composition. Great images often require quite some persistence and I’m glad you took the time to get this shot just the way you wanted it. Joe

    • Ken Sklute says:

      Thank you Joe. Those are very kind words. It is wonderful to be able to work with the best tools that exist in camera support. That is why I am proud to use your ReallyRightStuff product line. Thank you for what you provide the photographic industry!

  2. Clement Stevens says:

    Great focus Ken, pardon the pun. It is too often in the photographic process that we give up. You stuck with it. Amazing.

  3. anakin says:

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