Saturday, 30 May 2009

Taupo World Champs Trials - Pick of the Pix from Saturday

Here are my Pick of the Pix from Saturday - prior to optimising in black and white (35)...

Taupo World Champs Trials - Best photos from Saturday

I've gone through today's photos and picked out the best of them (145)....

Taupo World Champs Trials - 2nds photos - the ones we didn't select

I thought that it would be nice to publish all of the "good" images that weren't initially selected. That way you can browse through them and check out all of the photos of your patterns, sparring or power.

I'm calling the images "2nds photos" and if you like this idea then leave a comment so that I know it is worth while doing this again in the future.

Patterns 2nds (165)

Sparring and power 2nds (493)

Taupo World Champs Trials - Saturday Afternoon

Part 1...

Part 2...

Taupo World Champs Trials - Saturday Morning

No time to write anything but here are some photos....

Friday, 29 May 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Practicing Flight

Specs: 1/200s, 33mm, f/4.5, ISO: 1600

Mark Trotter and Luke Thompson are practicing their pre-arranged sparring in a gym used by the local Taekwon-Do club in Reva del Garda, Italy about three days prior to the World Cup.

It was I guess a couple of miles walk to this gym and they only practiced there about 3 times I think, preferring outdoors in a park or on the hotel roof top.

I have a fair few shots of Mark in flight, but this one is nice in that it is simple, quite graphic and has the local club insignia showing on the wall behind. Naturally I had to be careful what I published of Mark and Luke training their pre-arranged as they are sure that their competitors keep an eye on our website. So while they are training for the 2009 World Champs and I'm there taking lots of photos I am careful to not show anything that would indicate what their routine was like.

And each time they win, the standard is raised so this next World Champs is sure to have a higher standard once again amongst the pre-arranged sparring competitors.

Here's another image of that training session:

Specs: 1/50s (slow to make the blur), 42mm, f/4.0, ISO: 1600

Mark resting/stretching afterwards:

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Taupo World Champs Trials this weekend

Only one sleep to go until we go down to Taupo for the trials! Everyone will be arriving during Friday evening... hope the long weekend traffic isn't too diabolical. Think of those people driving from Kerikeri and Wellington! Looking forward to seeing some South Islanders and having a good catch-up with all the other non-Auckland based Taekwon-Do fraternity that I haven't seen for a while.

The trials start early on Saturday morning and go through until early afternoon on Sunday when we pack up and head home.

I'll be taking pictures and posting updates both days. Probably Saturday lunchtime, Saturday early evening and Sunday lunchtime (or early evening depending on how much time I get). Then by Monday night I'll have sorted through the highlights and given some the black and white treatment etc.

Pick of the Pix Series, Who's that Dude?

Specs: 1/160s, 28mm, f/3.5, ISO: 800, flash: used

The time was the end of the 2007 World Champs in Quebec and it was time to celebrate. The dark guy in the middle of the image who is looking to his left approached the NZ team and asked if he could get a photo with them. We'd just come 3rd in the country stakes so I guess he thought we were pretty cool.

I love this photo. Everyone is so happy and the stranger in the middle is looking out to the side. It's a nice "fluke".

Not all the NZ team were around, it happened and was over inside 30 seconds and was one of those nice natural occurrences.

If anyone knows who the dude is, please leave a comment.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Play with Colour

Specs: 1/250s, 110mm, f/5.0, ISO: 800, Photoshopped

I no longer like what I've done to this photo knocking back all the colour to black and white except for the competitors, Mark Trotter and someone else. At the time of messing with this image in photoshop I thought it was pretty cool and entered it into the World Champs photo competition in Quebec in 2007 but I've since become a bit of a purest with a low tolerance to this kind of manipulation.

But hey... it was interesting and kept me busy for a couple of hours fiddling with it.

The image was taken during the March 2007 Top 10 Tournament in Auckland and I like the composition with the spectators neatly lined up in a row but out of focus.

Here's the original image:

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Start of a Winning Streak

Specs: 1/125s, 85mm prime, f/4.0, ISO: 1600

This was taken in one of the first few rounds of Carolina Dillen's progression to a silver medal for sparring at the 2008 World Cup.

I think it may be a bit of a favourite of Carolina's because she provided it for the Prime Minster's Scholarship Certificate evening on 12th May. At the start of the evening a giant slide show flicked through a photo of each of the scholarship recipients performing in their chosen sport. There must have been 200 or so images of yachts racing, swimmers, rowing, athletics, motorcross. This was all happening in silence as the evening was about to begin and when Carolina's image popped onto the giant screen there was an audible gasp from the audience. They were impressed!

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.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Luke Thompson’s Sidekick

Luke Thompson was practicing his full power sidekick at Impact Club against a heavy bag in preparation for the 2007 World Champs in Quebec.

He was repeating it over and over again and I felt that the power was amazing and wondered how I could try and capture it. Luke was happy to oblige and I took a few rapid-fire sequences of his run-up and the kick. Later Luke joined them up into an animation (1.6mb).

For the shot below I pre-focused the camera and held it close to the bag and after a few times got the courage to hold the camera closer and closer until it was only a couple of inches away from the bag. I could see that Luke’s accuracy meant that my camera wasn’t in much danger but if he hit it we’d be talking about a write-off and no way was I going to have my head behind it. So I kind-of held it out at arms length and guessed the angle etc until I got it framed right after a few shots.

I liked this image the most because it shows the immense power being exerted and viewing it you feel like you could be on the end of the kick itself. His face sharp but body movement blurred conveys the motion. The wide angle lens emphasises the size of his leg and lower body as they’re closer to the camera and slightly exaggerated as a result. You can’t really see it in the black and white version but his left arm was in a bright blue plaster cast at the time.

Specs: 1/125s 17mm f/5.0 ISO:1250

Here's what he was doing...

You can see it was a massive bag – it needed to be!

Luke went on to win the World Championship in the Men’s Individual Power. Here are some shots of the winning round and the team’s response…..

I've had enough of muddy skin tones and high noise photos

In taking a critical look through the photos from the 2008 World Cup I've decided I need to work on mastering the use of flash. The light strength and quality inside the venue was inadequate for capturing high quality images and who knows what the venue at Argentina will be like. There's no real way to find out without turning up at the event then figuring out the challenges.

Photo and zoomed in version from Italy, Canon 30D, ISO 1600, no flash...

Photo and zoomed in version from yesterday Canon 40D ISO 800 with flash bounced off the ceiling. Notice how much nicer the skin tones are and how smooth the image quality is by comparison to above...

The things I don't like about flash:

- Flash guns going off can be off-putting to the competitors.
- They tell everyone that you've taken a photo and make the photographer more obvious rather than being unnoticed in the background.
- They can give an artificial/non-natural look to the image.
- They can make the light in the image look flat.
- Badly used, harsh shadows can show.
- They burn battery power and only last for about 500 shots
- Makes the camera a lot bulkier and heavier to handle
- When shooting two competitors, the closer one to the camera will be better lit then the one further away. Some times the closer one will be over exposed - burnt out.
- when taking a sequence of fast action shots - say 7-10 images in a row at 4-5 images per second, the flash can be pretty annoying to others.
- It is yet another issue to think about and have to master.
- I use two cameras during a tournament. One with my 18-55 f/2.8 IS zoom lens which is fantastic for close up stuff and the other with my 85mm f/1.8 prime lens which is necessary when competitors are near the far side of the ring. Does this mean I'd need another flash unit so both cameras are powered up with flash all of the time?

The things that flash can deliver:

- I can use a lower ISO speed which makes the skin and colour tones much smoother. The quality difference can be very significant. Without flash skin tones can look muddy and quite ugly.
- Colour quality can be much better.
- The images are significantly brighter.
- A faster shutter speed can be used, less blurry unsharp photos.

I have a high quality flash gun that I bought second hand off a photographer a few years ago. It's a Canon Speedlight 550EX - a really good quality unit.

So... this is my next challenge, to master using flash and hopefully therefore bringing you better quality images.

Yesterday I tried using flash during the Auckland World Champs training and was quite pleased with the results. Normally I would have had to use ISO 1600 but did the whole photo shoot at ISO 800 (resulting in finer quality images). What do you think about the overall image quality?

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Happy Argentinians

Specs: 1/60s, 70mm, f/5.0 ISO: 1600, Flash: used

I caught up with Mark Trotter yesterday. He just arrived back from a month training in Argentina yesterday morning. I loved hearing something of his time there. He’s writing about the trip for an article on the ITFNZ website so I won’t steel his thunder!

He said that quite a few of them were asking if he knew “dugana”… he couldn’t figure out what they were saying and finally they imitated taking a photo and he figured they meant me. He said that during the world champs they all go to our website and look at the pictures. That was pretty cool to hear!

If any Argentinians are reading this then you’ll be pleased to learn that I love photographing you guys at these events. Why? Because you are so happy when you do win, exude emotion, and you show so much passion for Taekwon-do.

I really like the photo above. It was taken at the 2008 World Cup in Italy and is so typical of the Argentinian’s joy at winning. The photo has a weird soft/sharp effect which has come from using my flash at a very slow shutter speed (1/60th of a second). The slow shutter speed has captured movement while the flash firing has captured some sharpness. The effect I find interesting.

Atentamente a todos en la Argentina Taekwon-Do. Buena suerte para la competiciĆ³n siguiente.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Welcome Home Mark Trotter

Specs: 1/160s, 170mm, f/5.0 ISO: 1000 Flash: used

This afternoon I caught up with Mark who was visiting Jeremy. He got back yesterday morning from a month of training in Argentina.

I thought “what a perfect time to feature this photo which is another of my favourites”. Those who know Mark and Carolina well will know how much they’ve missed each other while he’s been away and this photo tells more than a thousand words could express. In my eyes, and I hope yours too, it is beautiful.

It was taken while they were queued up waiting to receive their medals at the 2007 World Champs in Quebec. I snuck this shot with my telephoto lens from a distance while they were quietly engrossed in the moment.

Welcome home Mark!!!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Leaping Mountains

The day before the 2008 World Cup in Reva del Garda, Italy, the kiwis got together for a light training. We’d been here for nearly a week and this morning was the first time that the mountains had been really clear – they’d been very hazy all the other days. Carl and Jeremy were keen to get a creative photo or two with the mountains in the background. Later we were wishing they had full doboks on and had removed their shoes…. That was a lesson for me for the future!

We were on the roof deck of a 4 story hotel and I had to lie down on my back to get the photos with the mountain tops in the background. I pre-focused the camera and aimed it at the spot where I hoped Carl would end up and then held the camera up while watching him without looking through the view finder. With this sort of thing – like high kicks, it’s no use looking through the view finder because the narrow view is too hard to predict when to click the shutter. It took us 5-6 jumps to get what we wanted – mostly time for me to get in the groove with my aim and timing with a little bit of Carl working on his position and form.

Specs: 1/800s 21mm f/8.0 ISO: 320
Here we are in the process of making and reviewing the picture.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, The Punch

For me, the holy grail in Taekwon-do photography is capturing the emotion and impact of a punch. Now I’m sure some of you will disagree, and I concede that there is a lot of potential in other aspects of Taekwon-do for wonderful images. Why do I endlessly chase capturing a great punch? Because it is so damn difficult to get. I just did a search and I have kept about 16,000 taekwon-do "keeper" images in my database. After an event, I quickly select the best 20% or so of the images and I move the rest into a “medium term storage” folder and delete them after about a year. Yet, after several years of shooting sparring I have yet to capture the ultimate punch and after going through a whole lot of images for the last hour I selected 21 "good" punches. So, for me I only get about 1 good one in every 750 keepers.

This one’s not bad. Taken at a fairly low shutter speed of 1/100th of a second there is movement of Ms Phillipa Henry’s head and hair as she takes a punch from Ms Erica Germain. The movement of the head and hair gives it the feeling of impact and makes it interesting. Unfortunately they’re wildly out of focus with the focus point being about 3 metres behind them. I’ve cropped the image to a square shape – we did that to most of the images taken during this training session to explore the square format. The shot was taken during 2009 World Champs Trials build-up in April-May.

Specs: 1/100s 18.0mm f/3.5 ISO:1600

Here's another that shows the speed of some punches.  This is the Slovinian gold medal winner throwing a punch at Jeremy Hanna at the 2008 World Cup.  Taken at 1/125th of a second his arm and glove are completely blurred... that's fast.

Specs: 1/125s 47.0mm f/4.5 ISO:1600

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The Prime Minister's Scholarship Recipients

Tonight was the official presentation night for the Academy of Sport Prime Minister's Scholarship Awards. Taekwon-do recipients for 2009 were Carl van Roon, Carolina Dillen, Mark Trotter (absent - training in Argentina), and Kane Baigent (absent).

Carl and Carolina organised a demonstration which the audience, including the Prime Minister John Key, responded with awe. Mr Mark Banicevich was MC for the demonstration with Erica, Jeremy and Chris participating also.

Here are the photos...

Pick of the Pix Series, Lift Off

Bradley Wickman packs a wicked sidekick. Here he is on the main elevated ring at the 2007 World Champs in Quebec. I really like this image because not only has it caught a great technique and the impact it’s having on his opponent but we’ve captured the intensity of expression on Brad’s face, the Argentinian coach yelling instructions (that’s normal) and the referee just caught in the frame. These elements all come together to make it successful.

Capturing this image is not a decision. Sparring happens too fast to wait and snap. I find you have to take hundreds of images and take each one when anticipating that a good move is coming up. If you wait for it then click the shutter you are usually too late. Sometimes, when there is a flurry of kicks and punches I just let the camera shoot off 5-7 frames in a burst and hope that one of them captures the ingredients that make it work.

I always look to try and capture the face and/or eyes in sparring… they make the most interesting images to me. Great technique but with no faces showing just doesn’t rate… you need to capture the emotion in the face.

Specs: 1/400s 110mm f/5.0 ISO:1600

Monday, 18 May 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Mexican Wave

At the end of the 2008 World Cup tournament in Reva del Garda it was time to celebrate. The place was packed and it was hard to find a place to take photos from where I wasn’t swamped in bodies. So I snuck onto the medal podium which was raised and quietly took my photos from there. At one stage this Mexican wave caught on and it was awesome seeing the officials all join in. The crowd loved it and it lasted 3 or 4 rounds of the main ring from memory.

I like this image because it captures a couple of the faces showing the joy of the moment. As luck would have it they are in focus with a very narrow depth of field which gives them more emphasis. Cover the two faces and you’ll see that the image dies without them.

Specs: 1/200s 85mm f/2.5 ISO:1600

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Release

Specs: 1/160s 24.0mm f/3.5 ISO:800

It was the final of the senior pre-arranged sparring at the 2007 World Champs in Quebec. Mr Mark Trotter and Mr Luke Thompson had performed numerous times to get through to the final. In the final they performed first. The other finalists had just completed their performance and the judges were adding up the scores. I turned around and pre-focused for the reaction when the announcement was made… and got this memorable shot. I remembered thinking, “don’t panic, whatever happens just keep shooting and get the reactions”. It was pure luck that Rose’s face was visible between them.

I’ve learned to look for the reactions of the supporters, coaches, the hugs and high fives… they convey so much of the emotion of the small snippet in time that words can’t.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Encore

This is the final sequence in Mr Mark Trotter and Luke Thompson’s gold medal winning pre-arranged sparring performance in Quebec. At time of taking this photo, they’d won their gold medal and were asked to perform it again in front of the crowd either before or after one of the sparring finals.

One reason that many of us really like this image is that it has our Master Paul McPhail lit up in the background, barely visible vague shapes of the crowd in the background and it captures Luke at the peak of his final flip.

The only “treatment” the image has had is removal of about 10% of the frame from the right hand side to move Mark and Luke to the right creating more focal tension in the image between Master McPhail and the champions.  This image works better in colour.

Specs: 1/200s 70.0mm f/4.5 ISO:1250

Friday, 15 May 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, #4 Reflecting

This image was taken half an hour after #3. Ms Carolina Dillen was practicing her patterns in front of the mirror. I focused on her image in the mirror, leaving her back slightly out of focus. I knew the fans were there and liked the symmetry of the composition. Also, her position in preparing for her pattern shows concentration and focus. The top and bottom have been cropped to give a panorama styled shape to the image.

Specs: 1/800s 37.0mm f/2.8 ISO:800

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, #3 Light Impact

This image was taken during the training lead up to the 2007 World Champs. We’re at Mr Mark Trotter’s Impact Club on New North Road in Kingsland. In this image Mr Trotter and Mr Luke Thompson are practicing their pre-arranged sparring routine. You’ll all probably know that they went on to win the event and become the world champions.

The gym has a low ceiling with north facing windows. It was 4.30pm in early May and the low sun was streaming through the windows creating a contrasty back-lit setting. It was near the end of the training an the others all sat down to watch them put in a final complete run-through of their routine. The image was cropped top and bottom to remove boring ceiling and floor and a little dodging and burning was used to focus the viewer on Mark and Luke.

Specs: 1/1600s 17.0mm f/4.0 ISO:800

I like the image for many reasons… possibly more personal memories than it being a really good image. Nevertheless it’s a firm favourite.

During the same training I managed to capture a few more favourites.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, #2 Houston Car Park

This image was taken during the lead up to the 2006 Junior World Champs. We were staying at a hotel in Houston for a few days, to get settled into the time zone, and as a base prior to flying into Honduras itself.

The temperature and especially humidity was high and one of the days the team trained outside, out of the sun, in the car park under the hotel.

For me this environment was stunning photographically. Grey concrete floor, walls and ceiling, bright lights and the sun shining into the car park in the distance. It was very contrasty, sweaty and hot.

The scene…

I got a few nice shots but whish I’d spent longer there and got some more “stunners”. I don’t think I’ve since experienced seeing training in an environment that was as photographically appealing (to me) as this.

I was on a roll and then it was over before I knew it. I asked a few to stay behind for some posed shots but they weren’t very good. My preference is to always work with what’s happening naturally – setting up shots doesn’t work for me yet – something maybe for the future.

However, while packing up and milling around at the end I took a few shots of Jeremy Hanna in his hoodie. He had been wearing it to help loose weight, was tired and dripping with sweat.
Once I got back to my computer and looked through them I realised I had what to me was a great image… in fact my all time favourite. It helps that he’s my son too of course!

It was featured on the front of the next issue of Taekwon-do Talk.

Specs: 1/640s 50.0mm f/1.8 ISO:1600

At the end of the session I also took what I reckon was a great shot of Mr Richard Burr. It’s had a bit of dodging and burning to add contrast, but I like it. Mr Burr didn’t!

Specs: 1/800s 50.0mm f/1.8 ISO:1600

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, #1 Team High Five

I'm at home crook but can't help do some "playing" on-line.  I've got quite a few all time favourite Taekwon-do photos that I've collected since I got into photographing Taekwon-do during the 2006 Junior World Champs build-up.  If you've been following my blog over the years you'll have seen them all before but there's a story behind each one and I thought it would be nice to feature one every day or two over the next few months along with the story behind it.  It would be great to get your coments, memories and feedack on any of them - the more the merrier!

And just to keep you on your toes, there's no particular order to them - we may be jumping around a bit :-)

So, here we go, number one...

The day before the 2007 World Champs started in Quebec City, the team assembled for what would be the last pre-tournament training session.  It was in the huge multi-room event centre at the university where the event was being held and there were other national teams training around us.  Mark Trotter got the team fired up coming up with some ways to cheer together and to make as much noise as possible in practice for supporting each other during the event.  At the end of this they came together to join hands in a 1-2-3-new-zealand cheer (it's hard to describe this but you can probably see what I mean by the photo).

I ran up to them and held my camera up as high as I could reach, wound out the lens to maximum wide angle (18 mm) and pointed the camera almost straight down taking several shots.  The camera was set to a slow shutter speed, 1/30th of a second, which captured the movement as they all came up with their hands and bodies to yell the cheer.  Remarkably, Candice Millar's face didn't move much and remains pretty sharp - mid roar - and contrasts the movement of the others.  It adds a focal point to the image and really makes it work.

I particularly like this image because it captured something spectacular that happened only once, and it was over in just a few seconds.  I was very lucky to capture it and it was pure luck that I'd set my shutter speed so low which captured the movement and excitement.  The whole image is a fluke that would be hard to replicate.

I've got a print of this image on my wall at work and several of our designers have asked if I photoshopped in the movement.  The answer to that is a very simple "no".  The only adjustments I have so far made to my images in general include cropping, straightening crooked horizons, adjusting contrast and brightness and conversion to black and white.  I've once or twice tried dodging and burning but my overall preference is to always get the image as good as possible "in the camera". I don't have time to mess around with them.

Please leave a comment with your thoughts/memories.... especially if you were one of those in the photo!

Specs: 1/30s 17.0mm f/5.0 ISO:1600

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Black belt grading

I went to the public part of today's Auckland black belt grading and took a few photos. Here they are...

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Favourites from the World Champs buildup trainings so far

Here are my picks of the pix from this years world champs training sessions so far...

More Saturday World Champs buidup training at Mt Wellington

I spent a couple of hours playing around with improvements to this blog site. It's powered by Google's which gives it some pretty powerful features.  I've added a few new ones including 
  • my new Twitter feed - that will be handy for posting txt updates from the world cup event later in the year.
  • Making the page width resizeable - I'll try posting larger sized images and see how that goes
  • Added a poll - so you can give me feedback
  • Added subscribe links - get my blog posts direct to your RSS reader, such as your home page.
Enough tech talk - here's a few of the better photos from today....

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Saturday World Champs Training

Needing to get back into the groove of photographing Taekwon-do action I dropped in on the Auckland World Champs Saturday training session. They train from 1-4pm each Saturday in the Mt Wellington gym. The last couple of weeks I've turned up an hour before they finish... by that time they're hot, sweaty and tiring.

This Saturday Carl and a couple of others were practicing their high kicks. It's always challenging to get the timing right - at point of impact - and after a few misses on my part the practice started paying off.

I also played around with very high ISO settings for use in very low light situations - like the awful lighting conditions we had in the stadium in Italy last year. Anyway, it gives a pretty grainy result but when converted to B&W looks quite nice.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think about them.


Getting in close in Black and White

Been playing around with these photos that I took and published a couple of weeks ago. Wanted to try and get in really close and give the feel of what it might be like to be sparring, to really show the intensity of it up close.