Behind the Photo: Mike Mcdonald

On our end, the four weeks it takes to make a champ seem to go by quickly, but for the photographer, it probably gets pretty exhausting. Being in the Firing Squad is sort of like a perpetual critique during freshman year of art school. But Mike McDonald and his photo survived, and they’ve earned a DAKINE photo pack for their efforts. Now here’s a bit more about the photo and how it came to be.

Who is in this photo, where was it taken, etc?

The rider is Chris Colbourn, it was taken some time in august of 09. it’s a random spot at this warehouse in Colchester VT.

What set up did you use?

I was using a Canon 50D, with the Canon 15mm Fish (I know it’s not really a fish on that camera due to aps-c chip, but i was a good price when I got it.) And 3 Pw’s to trigger my 2 Vivitar 285Hv’s, one placed on the left of the image, the other on the right slightly facing me.

If you took it again, would you do anything differently?

Possibly worked a better angle, and framed it better. other than that I feel I did the best I could with the situation at hand. It was windy, and I had a flash get picked up and thrown to the ground during this shoot.. it unfortunately didn’t make it.

Did you learn anything about photography from all the experts in the comments?

Apparently the experts say, you have to make sure to dress the rider in clothes that don’t blend in with the spot to much, so maybe bring a clothing store with you when you go to skate spots? And if you have colored wheels you need to swap those out, because they are whack and ruin photos….haha just kidding, well other than that, pretty much the question before this one, keeping that framing tight and squared up.

What was your favorite comment?

There was a few colorful ones I read, that were mostly about Z, but the preface and tags that Tim Zimm wrote for week 2 made me laugh so hard.

What’s your story? Where do you live, what do you usually shoot?

Pretty much started shooting seriously 3 years ago, I got into photography in high school, and landed a photo internship (pretty much by word of mouth, as it seems its never what you know, but who) at Rome Snowboards shooting product shots under their principal photographer Mike Paddock. I did that for 2 seasons, and took the knowledge to the streets and the park, with snowboarding and skateboarding, after a while I met Zack Griswold, who I pretty much bicker with all the time about photography, equipment, and lighting tech, which has led me to become so much better. It’s super key to have a friend like that, you’ll never get better otherwise. I live in Vermont and it seems I pretty much just shoot skate now. Snowboarding photography is a way rougher gig I’m not into being out in -15 below anymore or dealing with my flashes being dead or wet, but serious props to those who make it happen, it’s way harder.

Do you have any advice for people who aspire to shoot skateboarding?

Go to the local skate park and make friends with the people who actually skate well, having contacts and good friends is super key, because the more people you know the more chances you have to shoot photos. The other thing would be study photos, buy mags, and check websites, read about what the pros use and where they started. Also analyze photos, break them down and get an idea of how it’s composed and why it looks the way it does, figure out were they placed flashes and how you could use those techniques in the streets yourself. Also experiment A LOT. I learned so much by messing around in the skatepark with a few friends and some flashes. And have fun, if it’s not fun to shoot a spot, leave. It’s not worth the effort, for something you’re not into.

Check out more of Mike’s shots at

2 replies

Comments are closed.