Question: This photograph was taken by John K Cheng, staff photographer of USA Gymnastics. Which techniques or camera equipment were employed to make this shot ?

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Here is a video of the actual vault you can see Cheng shooting the shot.


It's better than the attempt I made in 2004 at the Olympics in Athens to do something similar. I took multiple, normally-exposed photos, and digitally stitched them together later.

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  • Is this an official answer: multiple normally-exposed photos that are then digitally stitched together ? – user3195446 Nov 2 '18 at 15:26
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    An "official" answer? It's my answer for how this can be achieved, yes. But which techniques or camera equipment John Cheng used, I can't say for sure. – osullic Nov 2 '18 at 15:33
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    Broadly speaking I suspect in "sport photography" this is known as an - action shots ? And it is possible even though he was holding a camera he may have actually been shooting video ? I accepted your answer. – user3195446 Nov 2 '18 at 15:38
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    @user3195446 John Cheng might have been shooting video, and just stitched together individual video frames. However, video resolution is far below the resolution of even multi-shot digital photography. It's likely Cheng used a stills camera with 10-15 fps, and used shots from that image burst sequence to montage together. – scottbb Nov 2 '18 at 19:38

This isn't really "a" photograph. It's what's known in the photojournalism world as a "photo illustration" that allows the photographer more leeway in producing an image.

Not only have multiple frames been combined to show the various positions of the athlete as she performed a vault, but it looks like a lot of tone mapping and detail enhancement has been done as well. Tone mapping and detail enhancement are two of the main things that are often used when processing "HDR" images created from bracketed exposures. But the same processing techniques can be used with single images or a series of images all shot at the same exposure. Even apart from an "HDR" application, the controls for contrast, highlights, shadows, blacks, curves, etc. can do tone mapping. Masks and layers allow one to apply specific adjustments to parts but not all of a scene. Sharpening settings, particularly the "unsharpen mask" can do a lot of the same thing as what HDR applications call "detail enhancement" or "clarity." Likewise, a lot of individual adjustment of different colors with an HSL (Hue - Saturation - Luminance) tool can mimic use of a "vibrance" adjustment.

I'm guessing, based on the quality of the image, that the individual frames were not video frame grabs, but rather high resolutions stills from a high fps (frames-per-second) camera such as the Canon EOS 1D Mark II (up to 16 fps), Sony α9 (up to 20 fps), or the Nikon D5 (up to 12 fps).

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