Using the Nikon D70 as a GoPro camera back in 2006

My name is Hadrien Picard (website | Instagram). I’m a photographer & director living in Paris.

I film & shoot a lot of different subjects but I started professionally as a BMX photographer, where I learned a lot.

Believe me, if you can get a photo at the perfect moment, with the right composition & the right light on your 6X6 medium format of a rider risking his life to get a trick that, if he pulls it he will never do it again, then you’ll be not to bad shooting other subjects a bit less fast & dangerous:)

Anyway, a couple of days ago, I was doing what a lot of photographers are doing under quarantine: looking in old hard drives. I was happy to find again an old idea I made a reality thanks to one of the nicest BMX rider, Romuald Noirot, AKA Bibi, who accepted to give a try.

It was in 2006, I really wanted to show on a photo what the rider sees doing a trick. And I wanted to do that during the night because it would have looked way cooler! At that time Go Pro was at its beginning, I don’t remember if the brand was already imported in France or not. I checked Wikipedia & it looks like the Digital HERO of 2006 had a 640×460 camera… It would be hard to print a full page with that!

So the only solution would be to put a real DSLR on the head of the rider… and that’s exactly what we did… but the story is a bit more ghetto than that to tell you the truth. As you see on the BTS pics, we put a Nikon D70 with the 10.5 fisheye in the vertical position on a poly box & then tape it with a lot of gaffer tape on an open face BMX helmet.

The problem with the helmet was the weight & even more the size, so we were a bit nervous when Bibi tried to ride with it. Surprisingly it worked not to bad. So here we were, at 11 pm, in the South of France, in the backyard of Bibi, Alex Dropsy & Guilbert trying to make a photo of a rider with what looked like a PC tower on his head.

The jumps were lit but not enough for the photo so we had to use some flashes. I used 4 Nikon SB25 or 24 for that. I know I should have used more powerful flashes & higher stands, but that’s all I had at this time. You can indeed tell the SBs were at full power since the back wheel is not perfectly frozen by the flash. So now the timing… and that’s when the fun starts.

The problem was if I tried to trigger at the same time the camera and the flashes from a Pocket Wizard transmitter the flashes were always a bit faster than the camera, at least at that time with that configuration. I thought about having on the D70 one receiver & one transmitter to trigger the fashes in a second time… but if my memory is correct there is no Sync cable output on the D70 so it would have been complicated. So I decided to do a long exposure & trigger myself the flashes.

We needed a couple of tries to get the timing correct. It took 7 seconds from the rolling from Bibi to hit the jump. So after someone pressed the 10 seconds timer, I asked Bibi to wait 4 seconds before going for it. I set up a 4 seconds long photo so I knew the photo would start to be taken a second before he hit the jump, allowing me a margin of 3 seconds to trigger the flash.

And it worked 1st try for the photo haha I still can’t believe that. After that, Bibi did a couple of « warming » tricks so we could all be comfortable.

The trick we wanted was a «Tailwhip». It’s a trick where you push the back of the bike & let it rotate 360 around the bars. That’s already a complicated trick so imagine with a camera on the head. I had obviously no insurance for the camera…  1st try of the tailwhip didn’t go well at all, Bibi had to throw the bike halfway. But luckily for me, he managed to protect the camera. Bibi; I’ll forever owe you that.

2nd try went perfectly, he pulled it super clean, on my side I knew I got the timing right.

We checked on that tiny little screen of the D70 & were pretty stocked about it. Everybody was relieved that no one got hurt, Bibi was starting to feel a little tired, the jumps were starting to be more & more slippery & i didn’t want to push more so we call it day.

Et voilà 🙂

I’m aware that picture is far from being perfect: you see the flashes & I cut the right hand, but honestly, I don’t care. I had a unique photo at that time, we had some fun & nobody got hurt & in that kind of photography it’s all that really matters at the end.

Thanks again to everyone in Peynier, especially Bibi, Alex Dropsy & Guilbert for allowing me to try this stupid idea & thanks to you if you’ve read till the end!

If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.

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