Monday, 25 May 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Masterful Break

Specs: 1/160s, 41mm, f/4.0, ISO: 1600

During the 2006 Nationals we hosted Grand Master Sheriff and Master Davidson (on the left) and Master McPhail (on the right) put on a demonstration which ended with the twin breaks above.

Those of you who have tried to photograph a break before will know how frustratingly hard it is to get the timing right. I have many photos that are either the moment before the impact or just after it... here is an example from only a couple of weeks ago:

Here's how I try to get the the timing perfect...
Only take one shot. Regardless of how many frames per second your camera will take, it is not fast enough to reliable capture the point of impact. To do that you have to setup the camera (manually pre-focus it and line up the shot in the viewfinder). Next take your face away from the camera while holding it in the same position and watch the person making the break as you can't see enough through the viewfinder and it's best with both eyes working. You'll have you finger half down on the shutter to maintain the camera in it's ready state. Watch the person making the break and you have to predict the point of impact by effectively making your finger press down on the shutter at the same time as the impact. You can't react to the impact, you have to predict the absolute point of impact. I kind of pretend my finger is hitting the tile at the same time as the person's fist.

You can apply the same process to taking a photo of a high kick.

I've tried getting my camera to take a burst of photos and it's never as good. Even at 6 frames per second, that's one shot every 1/6th of a second it is way too slow. The best, most expensive sports cameras take 10 frames per second and they may be able to do it, but probably not as well as the "predictive" method.

Master Davidson kindly told me how to predict the point of impact of their break. He explained how they would end their "pattern" and the initial punch movement would be just to line up and get their timing right, then they'd raise their fists, count to two before beginning the real punch. I was lucky and delighted to time it perfectly as a result.