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Digital Photography Technique => Taking Photos => Topic started by: annaiso on February 05, 2006, 08:31:18 PM

Title: martial arts photography?
Post by: annaiso on February 05, 2006, 08:31:18 PM
has anyone ever taken any martial arts photos?
im a member of a martial arts club and there is an amazing 17 year old black belt in kickboxing who has very kindly offered to let me photograph him. The problem is i have never taken these kind of shots before and im unsure of what equipment to take.

I know i need to buy a flashgun (that Q is in another part of forum) but i was also thinking of buying a cable release. I ve got a tripod but I think the head is no good for sports shots and was considering a pan and tilt.

Also im still learning about digtal cameras so bear with me on this, do i need to change the white balance with the shots being taken indoors ?
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: rhett121 on February 05, 2006, 10:05:05 PM
WOW! Is that a loaded question or what?!

First you have to decide what "kind" of photos you want to take. Are you looking for a "sports portrait" of him doing the motions solo, or are you looking for some "action shots" of sparring with another?
 If you're doing some action shots, lose the tripod and shoot and move. For solo portrait style you can use the tripod. The biggest skill is to study the subject and anticipate the moves. "When" to press the shutter is the most important skill shooting any sport. Anticipate when the kick or punch will be at it's peak and shoot for that.
 A pan and tilt head won't do you any good for this type of shooting (unless he's running past you). Studio strobes will give you the best options and can be rented fairly cheap. On camera flash or a flash gun could work also but will give different results. If you've ever noticed during an indoor Pro sporting event they have dozens of studio heads mounted on the grid above the floor, these are fired by photographers shooting the event (usually wireless activated) to help freeze action but the photographer still has to figure out "what" action to freeze. You aren't going to find a camera fast enough to capture ALL the action (outside of video) so the skill comes from learning when to press the button. Since it's digital and doesn't cost anything to practice, you should practice as much as possible. Take your camera down and just shoot hand held to practice getting the hang of capturing the exact moment, whether that moment is "the moment of impact" (landing the punch), the moment "just before impact" (just before the punch lands) or the moment of "initiation" (just before the punch is thrown) is up to you and what you are trying to portray. Once you get the hang of the timing (which has to do with the camera delay as well as the action happening) you can play with your shutter speeds and flash settings to decide "IF" you want some motion blur and how much.

So really, depending on "HOW" you are planning on shooting, you really don't need much equipment at all. As far as recommending a flash, sorry but I haven't found any that I can get a definitive answer as to whether they actually work properly or not. I do however have studio strobes which is about all I use for flash work anyway. I have a 5400HSS that I used pre-digital and I wouldn't buy another Minolta flash, not since they cost twice as much as the competitors and obviously have no future compatibility roadmap.

Have fun and good luck!

p.s. Yes, you should always adjust your white balance when changing venues unless you want to correct it in post.
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: annaiso on February 06, 2006, 10:50:26 AM
have u done sports photography before?

thankfully im in the same class as him so watching his moves won't be problem in fact it is kinda hard not to watch him, the power he has is unbelievable and he is so fast i would not like to be on the receiving end of one of his kicks or punches.
I think i would like to try both styles portrait and action.
I did take some shots of him when he got presented with his black belt but all the shots were too dark (i didn't change the white balance) and most had red eye, so i guess at the moment its going to trial and error but then again if we didn't make mistakes how do we learn?

i really appreciate the advice, im hoping to go and do a night course A level in photography in sept but before i can get on the course i have to have an interview and present a portfolio and i would like to have some action/sports shots in there. Also thinking about going to the local motorcross track.
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: Ronin on February 06, 2006, 12:26:59 PM
Try some slow rear flash sync. Gives a great long exposure with a flash at the end, the flash freezes the shot. This gives a great feeling of movement. You will also want some very fast shots freezing the action in time, there you will need HSS.  Try a high ISO (800 or so)  in a bright place for the fast shots.
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: Ronin on February 06, 2006, 12:29:10 PM
If all else fails. Then contact the „GRANDMASTER“. (sorry that’s a joke for Gaz).
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: gazraa on February 06, 2006, 02:14:52 PM
hehe and i think i'll be the only one to get that joke.

for those not in the know, 'grandmaster' is a chap on another forum that's into martial arts.

It would be great to see some of your photos anna. You mentioned images that were too dark, could these be saved using photoshop?

The redeye will be helped if you got a flash gun as the flash head will be further from the lense avoiding the flash relections in the eye which is what causes red eye, if you get a flash gun that allows it you can tilt/angle the head to bounce flash off the ceiling or other objects, but that depends on what is available to bounce light off. could bea bit tricky if it's in a gym.

For your course that you hope to do, make sure it covers digital. If most of it is film based and spent in the darkroom then that might not be too helpful for you.

And of course, keep asking us questions :)
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: rhett121 on February 06, 2006, 02:57:24 PM
I used to shoot some sports but that was long ago, and mostly with manual focus equipment (Nikon F3). For a little while I shot skateboarding with a 9xi (and later a Maxxum 9) and used the 5400HS with good results. I am actually going to start shooting sports again this spring (sail boat races) but they don't move as fast as martial arts do and flash won't be practical.
 You really have an advantage in that you already know the sport. You will be better prepared to anticipate his moves because you probably know them as well (maybe can't do them as fast, but can certainly see them coming sooner than most).

 I haven't used flash much on the 7D (and what little I have was unimpressive to say the least) but I know you will need to watch your settings very carefully. A lot of the settings require the flash to fire a pre-burst to acquire exposure settings (or focus) and this will cost you so much time you are sure to lose the shot! (see "lazy eyes" posts)
 When shooting action you may have more luck with the camera set to manual mode, shutter priority and manual focus with the aperture set according to the hyperfocal distance of your lens and the focus area you want. Unfortunately, most modern lenses make this difficult at best but it can still be done with a little math.

If you're shooting indoors without flash, crank that ISO up there. Don't be afraid of it for practice rounds because it will allow you to really get the hang of the timing involved in shooting like this. Once you feel comfortable and buy (or rent) a flash, you will know what it feels like.

ALSO!! If he is really sparring, be VERY careful as to where your flash is! The last thing you want is to fire a strobe into someone's eyes, temporarily blind them, and have them catch a sucker punch! It'll probably be the last time they let you shoot there! Just a heads up.

p.s. Here is a link to a DOF calculator (http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html) you can use to find the hyperfocal distance of your lens.
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: annaiso on February 06, 2006, 04:57:43 PM
ive got a kickboxing class tonight so im gonna see when my instructor will allow me to use the centre to practice my shots.
I didn't know u could rent flashes? 
The other thing ive to be careful of is that the centre has huge mirrors all along the walls (and i hate watching myself train)

ive checked the college course and it does both digital and film, thankfully when i bought the 7D i didn't sell my film camera. A lthough i haven't used it in about 10 months.
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: HappySnapper on February 06, 2006, 10:43:34 PM
Indoor sports hmmm, well ive done only outside and under floodlights (west ham reserves) using my trusty 7D and the 300 f4, even under those bright lights the ISO had to be pushed to get a nice fast shutter, as the other guys have mentioned, flashes going off may be distracting, try and aim for a fast shutter depending of the type of lighting adjust the white balance too. Should they come out dark you still have the option of ( touch ups ) digital dont you just love it..

Also try shooting from high and low positions and see what works best and best of luck.

Once you get the bug its going to be hard to stop.
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: annaiso on February 07, 2006, 04:16:03 PM
i once was giving the chance to photograph my local football team "Doncaster Rovers" but spent most of the match yelling and screaming like a banshee at the players. There was another photographer there who i think worked for some newspaper he wasn't best impressed. Although i wasn't much bothered in what he thought he didn't speak to me once but kept sticking his nose up at my gear.

My other half wants me to take some shots of him fishing, no offense to any fisherman on this site but I'd refer to watch paint dry!

Any one ever done motorcross or car racing photography?
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: gazraa on February 07, 2006, 05:05:31 PM
I know one photographer who's done a lot of motorcross photography, not with minolta gear though.

One tip, get a long lense and keep away from the mud as much as you can!! I can get a little bit unfriedly towards cameras around these events with all the dust and mud.
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: rhett121 on February 07, 2006, 05:39:35 PM
Just for fun, here is a link to the Sports Illustrated photo guidelines (specifically the strobes page of the "final four"). Browse around there, it might give you some insight to the camera settings they use on different cameras (sorry, no Minolta though).

http://www.siphoto.com/?FinalFourRules.inc
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: annaiso on February 07, 2006, 06:21:42 PM
I've been in touch with the local motorcross park and apparently there is an area where people can watch and take shots of the high jumps, so this weekend i think i'll take a trip out for the day if im not working.

thankfully i've got a 500mm lens so that should keep me away from the mud.
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: AScot on February 08, 2006, 04:50:59 AM
I know an Aussie who uses a 7D professionally to shoot motor racing. His initial worry was that the 7D could only shoot three frames per second, but after a couple of tries he was very happy. he now regularly sells his pics.
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: gazraa on February 08, 2006, 10:12:29 AM
i think our very own xeroid might do something similar :)
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: Ronin on February 08, 2006, 01:38:15 PM

Any one ever done motorcross or car racing photography?

here is some of my stuff (speedway)

http://www.photo.net/photodb/folder?folder_id=499747

Have lost more but its all needs to be scanned and i got real lazy real quick with a DSLR

Off on another car shoot soon.

http://www.dynaxdigital.com/index.php/topic,783.0.html

Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: xeroid on February 09, 2006, 02:02:58 AM
Here I am, just spotted this. Hi Annaiso.

I haven't done much indoor sport pix but the problems I'd see would be lack of good light, colour temperature and fast movements of the combatant(s)
White balance can fix the second, the others are very dependent on your lens and lighting capability.

For actual 'fight' shots:
Centre spot focus, ISO 800 to get stop motion, continuous focussing, and multishot. You may find preset manual focus or prefocus and hold works but with wide open aperture and lots of opponent movement the depth of field may not be enough and you'll get soft shots. 

Rear sync your flash for main lighting and will help colour balance. If you can add a few extra side lights to fill shadows and reduce harsh contrast the camera should cope with the rest reasonably well. I will use P mode ( not the green fully auto ) and preset ISO then let camera sort out f and speed for itself. Depending on your flash you may need to set speed to 1/160 if it isn't a KM unit with control. The 1/160 requirement for the flash will conflict with need for fast shutter for stop motion so you may get body ok but arm movement all fuzzed.

Lens ...... I'd have my 28-105 on, close enough not to require huge flash but I'd be staying back far enough to follow movement of combatants ( and to keep me outa trouble - same with rally cars LOL ).  Zoom for framing.

Portrait is portrait, I ain't the expert there but posed shots in fight stances etc fit into that category.

Take lots of shots, and check results as you do, that's what LCD, Histogram, EXIF data are there for. If something ain't working change it till it does. Use the close up to chk blur, both movement and focussing because that's probably where your biggest problem will lie.

Hope this helps a bit, be interested to see a few pix later.

Cheers
Brent
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: annaiso on February 10, 2006, 11:39:00 AM
cheers guys all advice greatly appreciated.

Just spent 20 mins making notes.

As soon as im sorted out with a flash im arranging to take the shots and hopefully (if i ever learn) will post pics on site.
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: ISO3200 on February 11, 2006, 06:27:53 PM
Sounds like great fun.

I can't say I'd be any good at photographing kickboxing, but I admire contact sports as much as any other kind and would love to try and shoot it.

You'd want to capture the energy and physical prowess of the combatants and I think lighting is going to be everything here. You could try rear-flash, so we have the blur or a leg or arm and then a sharp image of a kick, etc. I suppose it will depend on how comfortable and patient your subjects are. You could always slip them £30 to hang around and do exactly what you wanted them to do.

If you get a good result be sure to post it.
Title: Re: martial arts photography?
Post by: Akshay Jamwal on February 11, 2006, 07:10:36 PM
Try some slow rear flash sync. 


You'd want to capture the energy and physical prowess of the combatants and I think lighting is going to be everything here. You could try rear-flash, so we have the blur or a leg or arm and then a sharp image of a kick, etc. I suppose it will depend on how comfortable and patient your subjects are. You could always slip them £30 to hang around and do exactly what you wanted them to do.

I'd have to whole-heartedly agree with that. I've taken a few shots of my dog on the beach (while he was running) and used rear-sync to freeze him while panning. Will upload/link the photo if I can. It isn't spectacular, but it could be. Unfortunately, I'm kind of lazy.

Re: not blinding someone by mistake, I'd try bouncing the flash off the ceiling or off a wall in any case. Or perhaps attaching some sort of diffuser on the head.