Flash bang!

James Marchington meets the Skeet shooter and professional action photographer who captured these amazing images.

My jaw dropped when I saw these photos. It’s not easy to take good photos of shooting – even professionals struggle to take a really striking shot. These were on a whole different level to any shooting photography I’d seen before.

So I set out to discover who had taken them, the story behind them – and as a semi-pro myself I wanted to know what kit and techniques had made them possible.

Through Facebook, I tracked down Thomas Morel, a Dutchman and full-time professional photographer living in Bergen in Norway. He specialises in high speed photography, freezing motion that is too fast for the human eye to see.

As it happens, he’s also a keen hunter and Skeet shooter who says “Being an active skeet shooter myself, I have for a long time been thinking about how to visualise the sport. I really think the shooting sport deserves a lot more attention, and I especially wanted to create imagery that could appeal to both active shooters and people who have never shot a gun before.”

He explains: “The way I work is that I want to create and control the moment, rather than being a spectator or observer. This way I can anticipate on the action, and by repeating it over and over again I can work on perfecting every small detail. I always work with external flash lighting, and know exactly what I am looking for so that I can illuminate every detail the best way.”

Thomas, who shoots a Beretta DT10, says it’s a big advantage that he is a shooter himself, and has shot a lot together with the model, Geir Heggertveit.

“Because of this I know Geir’s rhythm very well, and timing the shot was no problem. I am often asked if I use some kind of automated trigger system, but I would much rather rely on my own instincts instead of letting some device decide.”

Astonishingly, Thomas takes just one shot at a time, with no burst of any kind – he relies on his own instinct and feeling for the rhythm of the sport to press the shutter button at exactly the right moment.

“This might seem weird, but timing the ejection shot was much more of a challenge then the actual clay-shot because there is no context leading up to the moment,” he says.

Thomas went to a local club, Bergen Leirdueklubb in Bergen, for the photo shoot. He’s an ambassador for camera manufacturer Hasselblad, and used their H5D-50c camera in conjunction with Broncolor Pulso G flash heads which give a flash of just 1/8500 sec, effectively freezing the action. The Skeet photo was taken at Station 8, low tower.

“The reason for that choice is simply that the action happens close together, and the clay gets truly vaporised,” he explains. “I wanted Geir to use a modified choke, because I knew from a slow motion video that I’d filmed earlier that the swarm of pellets is exactly the same size as the clay at that distance when you use a modified choke. That’s not ideal for competition, but perfect to get the best shot.”

A keen Skeet shooter and hunter, Thomas has made his name in high speed sports photography

And that’s exactly what he did – the images here are proof of that. So what will Thomas tackle next? Will he capture more of these arresting images of shooting, or will he return to the activities where he’s built his reputation, like skiing, snowboarding, athletics and dance?

“There are two real reasons I took these few shots of shooting,” he explains. “First of all I wanted to check if it was technically possible to freeze a bullet or shot pattern at muzzle velocity. And second, I wanted to create some material of the sport I love so much – in the same style that I am known for in my other work.”

Now Thomas says he hopes his images will inspire shooting brands like Beretta or Gamebore to work together on a bigger project that will really show the beauty of shooting sports.

“I have some ideas on the drawing board for a video that I am itching to realise, and I am working on building a case to make it easier for others to understand what I am looking to achieve. I am looking to visualise the elegance and balance that is required to become a good shooter, and I hope that this work gives a little taste of that through still imagery.”

To see more of Thomas’s work visit:  www.thomasmorelphotography.com

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