PPD Spotlight: Time Lapse Captures Emotions of High School Football

By David Schonauer   Monday February 27, 2017

The color and emotion of high school football are intense.

And that intensity is what photographers (and PPD/Motion Arts Pro readers) Tracy Boulian and David Ahntholz  set out to capture in a minute-and-a-half long motion project  combining time-lapse photos and video sequences. “We wanted to capture the nervous and frenetic energy of a game as a team comes together and goes to battle,” says Boulian.

Last fall, the Southern California duo documented a game played by the San Juan Hills Stallions — the football team of San Juan Hills High School in San Juan Capistrano, California — from inside the locker room, where the young athletes put on their game faces, to the field where the action comes fast and furious.

“David and I are former news photojournalists, with an extensive background in sports photography,” says Boulian. “We’ve covered countless football games — from high school to college to pro — as still photographers for the newspapers we've worked for. We left that work seven years ago and now focus on commercial photography and filmmaking, but we still love photographing athletes and sports – especially the energy and emotion around games.”

About two and a half years ago the photographers began playing around with time lapse as well. “We wanted to tackle a more nontraditional subject matter for time lapse,” says Boulian. “Going back to our sports roots, we decided to create a motion project to tell the story of a football game.”

After assessing the visual potential of a few high school stadiums, Boulian and Ahntholz reached out to San Juan Hills, which agreed to let them shoot their project there. “At the first game we photographed, we quickly found that capturing subtle moments didn’t work well in time lapse – it required way too many frames to get a sequence that was long enough to show anything, and quick moments would be over in a blink," says Boulian. "After some trial and error, we evolved the project to use time lapse to set the scene and create the energy and video to capture the emotional moments."

The game represented in the final project is actually made up of images shot during the course of two games. Boulian and David Ahntholz worked with Canon 5D Mark II DSLRs for both stills and video. Boulian estimates that the time lapse was made with between 7,000 and 10,000 stills. “We worked in a documentary style to capture the game, but pre-visualized what we wanted to capture, creating a shot list of what we hoped would happen,” she says.

Putting the stills together in Adobe Premiere Pro and Lightroom (for color correcting the time lapse sequences) took six months. “Personal projects like this are a constant for us in our limited free time – we are always looking for the next thing to work on for fun and to continue to stay inspired and to build our portfolio of work in new directions,” says Boulian. It helped that she and Ahntholz are both former athletes — she was a competitive swimmer and he a soccer player.

The work on the football-game continues to evolve, notes Boulian. “We've been shooting more to go with it as part of a longer-term personal project that we hope to unveil in the coming year,” she says.

See more work by Tracy Boulian and David Ahntholz at their website.


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