Tuesday 30 June 2009

Rediscovered Image: Reflection of Carolina

Specs: 1/1000s, 28.0mm, f/2.8 ISO: 800

The image above was taken while Carolina was practicing her patterns in front of the mirror with both Mr Breen and Mr Banicevich critiquing.

I tried looking at it in colour and black and white and think I prefer the colour version.

Here's the classic image taken that day that you've probably seen many times by now:

Monday 29 June 2009

Rediscovered Image: Mark and Luke Frozen in Action

Specs: 1/1600s, 55.0mm, f/2.8, ISO: 800

I've recently been combing through all my "keeper" Taekwon-Do images and discovered a few nice shots that I've previously overlooked. Quite a few were taken on the same Sunday afternoon back in May 2007 prior to departing for the World Champs. The sun was low and streamed through the western windows of the Impact Club Dojang creating nice natural high contrast lighting.

I don't know how I missed this image - I love it! It looks like Luke is about to end up on his back on the floor. The harsh sunlight has caught them both really nicely.

Sunday 28 June 2009

Senior Men Wrestling Action

Specs: 1/200s 17.0mm, f/3.5, ISO: 1000, Flash

Luke and Chris wrestling at the end of the World Champs training at Mt Wellington yesterday.

The latter of the images below were taken with my extra-wide angle lens. I haven't used it for ages and had decided to push myself to get used to it again. An undesirable effect of the extreme wide angles is that items close to the edge of the frame can get extremely distorted. So pear shaped heads, long legs aren't real - it's the lens effect!

More images of the wrestling action...

Saturday 27 June 2009

World Champs Training

Specs: 1/200s, 17.0mm, f3.5, ISO: 1000, Flash

Carl and Luke wrestling at training today.

Today I decided that I had to go to the world champs training in Mt Wellington and do some practice myself... of the photographic kind of course. So I thought I'd work on taking the images in black and white (a change from taking them in colour and converting them to black and white afterwards), with flash and go for a harsh, high-contrast look. I also wanted to get in close and try different angles, especially close to the floor.

Kris Herbison was up for the weekend and joined in. I heard him comment that he must do less admin and more training - I think he was enjoying himself.

I got some cool wide angle shots in close of the senior men wrestling at the end of the session. I'm putting them together and will put them up on the website tomorrow.

In the mean time here is some of the sparring and patterns action...

Friday 26 June 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, The Future of Taekwon-Do #1

Specs: 1/200s, 85.0mm prime, f/4.5, ISO: 800

Here are some photos of Taekwon-Do youngsters in action. Photographing young kids is great fun. They look really good, show their emotions, and can be very cute!

The photo above was taken at the November 2008 Star Series Tournament.

And the following are from the 2008 Auckland North Regional Tournament...

And a favourite portrait...

Specs: 1/320s, 85.0mm prime, f/4.0, ISO: 800

It's another image from the November 2008 Star Series Tournament.

All of the above photos were taken with my Canon 85mm f/1.8 prime lens which is stunning for portraiture and action shots alike.

Thursday 25 June 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Cringe

Specs: 1/60s, 50.0mm, f/7.1, ISO: 100

Master McPhail featured this photo on the front of the latest Taekwon-Do Talk. It's an image I've always liked and was taken at one of the Auckland North Nationals Trainings at Rosmini College on the North Shore.

It's 4.30 on a Sunday afternoon in August 2006 and the sun is streaming in through the high windows giving nice bright directional light. I set the shutter speed quite slow, 1/60th of a second, which blurred the motion nicely. I like the way the guy being punched (please leave a comment with his name if you know it) has his face sharp but his hair is moving with the impact from Thomas Pygot's punches. The low ISO setting has captured nice smooth skin tones. The lens I used was the cheap Canon 50.0mm f/1.8 prime lens - if you are on a budget this is superb value costing only NZ$175. It has plastic lenses and is cheaply constructed but is fast and can deliver nice results as you can see here. I used it a lot at the 2006 World Champs but have since upgraded it to a much better fast image stabilised zoom lens, the Canon 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM lens, but at a cost of $1,500!

More images from this session...

Image on right above taken with flash on.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Trotter 2007 Sparring - The Match

Specs: 1/320s, 70.0mm, f/5.0, ISO: 1250

This is the third article in a series covering Mark Trotter's 2007 World Champs match against the then current World Cup champion Maxime Bujold from Canada in round one of the micro-weight division.

Here's what Jeremy wrote about it back in June 2007...

Mark Trotter vs Canada – senior male micro-weight sparring:
The entire stadium surrounds the ring, the roar is deafening! The kiwis do a haka for Mark as the two fighters bow in. The first round is intense – both fighters try to fake out an attack from the other, Mark launches a couple of quick turning kicks but the Canadian dodges, Mark comes close but the Canadian lands a clean side kick. Mark now has to play ‘catch up’. The Canadian knows this and waits and waits for his counter attack. Mark throws some lightning turning kicks, downward kicks and reverse turning kicks – but the Canadian picks his moments well and places clear side kicks in the gaps. Round 2 is better for Mark, he lands some clear points of his own and it’s amazing to watch. The stadium is shaking from the crowd.
Loss – the Canadian is the reigning world cup champion Maxime Bujold – it’s a pity the two had to meet in the first round as they were arguably the best two fighters in the division – could have easily been a final. Canadian goes on to win gold.

Photos of the match...

Video of the match...

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Trotter 2007 Sparring - The Haka

Specs: 1/200s, 130.0 mm, f/5.0, ISO: 1250

The lead up and interest in Mark Trotter's 2007 World Champs match against the then current World Cup champion Maxime Bujold from Canada in round one of the micro-weight division was awesome. See yesterday's article for Mark's preparation.

As the match started the NZ team males performed a Haka right at the side of the ring. It is traditionally reserved for key sparring finals, but the interest and support for this match was such that they performed it for Mark.

Words can't explain the impact and feeling of experiencing the Haka like this, but I hope the photo above can. Notice Luke's chest where he's clawed his chest during the performance. Amazing, awesome, powerful, scary, thrilling, loud, spiritual.

It pumped Mark and the rest of us.

Monday 22 June 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Mark Trotter 2007 Sparring #1 - Buildup

Specs: 1/160s, 135.0mm, f/5.0, ISO: 1250

Mark Trotter and the then current World Cup champion Maxime Bujold from Canada were unfortunately on the same side of the draw and faced each other in round one. Not the first time Mark has cursed a draw that was all or nothing in round one.

The build up to this fight was huge and I'm going to talk about it over several articles to do it justice.

I was busy doing my stuff photographing other competitors and didn't really cotton on to the significance of this fight until about half an hour before it started. Believe me the international interest and the build-up was amazing.

Trotter seemed to start his warm up and psych-up about an hour before the event. He was zoned out with his ipod on and doing the usual jogging, punching and kicking the air to get his body warm. But there was a very deep and serious demeanor in his face. That's what I noticed first and I don't think I'd ever seen him quite like this before. So naturally I took a few photos of him from a distance.

The one above is a firm favourite of mine. It's not what you'd call a great shot technically because he's jogging up and down and even at 1/160 th of a second you can see the movement and his facial features are slightly blurred, so it is not sharp. But the faraway look in his face captures for me how he was at that time... anxious, nervous, serious, committed, with the outside world turned off. He was what I'd describe as "zoned out".

The image is also graphically interesting. The white strip on his sleeve contrasts against a dark background. As luck would have it, the background changes to the big white Quebec sign in the background which contrasts with his dark hair. The contrasting background is almost perfect which I've just realised now contributes to the success of the image. I like seeing his name on the jacked blurred because of the up and down jogging motion... it reminds me what he was doing which I otherwise wouldn't remember.

Carl van Roon was his second and Carl had been working a little with Mark. Just over 30 seconds before the above image was taken Carl was giving him some more words of wisdom and encouragement:

Specs: 1/100s, 230.0mm, f/5.6, ISO: 1250

Here's a few more photos leading up to being ready to go on to the ring...

Saturday 20 June 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Look Behind You

Specs: 1/50s, 22.0mm, f/4.5, ISO: 800

When the crowd roars, turn around and look behind you for some awesome photos.

This image was taken at the end of the 2006 Junior World champs in Honduras and I think from memory that they are cheering for medal winners on the podium. Argentinians in white and Kiwis in black.

To take this image I had on a wide angle zoom lens set almost fully wide, ie 22.0mm. I turned around during the ceremony and held the camera high up in the air at arms length and fired off a few shots. You have to point your camera a lot more downward than what feels right. Hold the shutter button half down for a second to give your camera a chance to auto-focus then let it roll of 5-10 shots in order to get a good one out of them. A slow shutter speed, eg 1/50th of a second adds motion as I've captured here.

Here's some more examples of turning your back on the action for a good image:

Saturday World Champs Training

Specs: 1/160s, 54.0mm, f/2.8, ISO: 1000

I went along to today's training at the Mt Wellington Dojang and took a small number of photos of the men sparring. It was a pretty quiet training today with a few nursing injuries, recovering from the flu and the like.

Here's some more photos...

Friday 19 June 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Capturing Elation

Specs: 1/160s, 17.0mm, f/2.8, ISO: 800

Looking at the time stamps on this image we think this is when Estee Speirs completes her round of special technique and has scored well. The image featured yesterday shows her half an hour later when her points are overtaken and she's out of medal contention and naturally disappointed.

I find capturing elation is much easier for me than the capturing of disappointment that I wrote about yesterday. when I first started photographing and we won I'd be yahooing just like everyone else then 5 minutes later I'd be thinking "damn, I should have been taking photos of all that emotion". So I've learned to keep shooting and resist the temptation to put the camera down and join in - believe me - it is hard to do!!

Here's a few more elation shots from 2006 and 2007...

Luke Thompson and Mark Trotter are announced World Champions for pre-arranged sparring at the 2007 World Champs

Coach Mr Steve Pellow shows his pride in Jeremy Hanna's performance. I almost missed this shot - my aim is a bit off (missing half of Jeremy) and it's a bit out of focus but Steve's face says a lot about how he feels.

Candice Millar is congratulated or comforted by coach Mark Trotter at the 2006 Junior world Champs. I'm sorry that I can't recall the exact situation.

Coach Mr Dave Ballard congratulates a very happy Johs Van Pierce after he wins male individual power at the 2006 Junior World Champs.

Shane Black pulls in the bronze medal for the junior male special technique team event at the 2006 Junior world Champs. They're feeling pretty good about it!

Coach Mr Dave Ballard with the Best Overall Female Team trophy at the Junior World Champs - look at the pride in his face.

Thursday 18 June 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Capturing Disappointments

Specs: 1/200s, 140.0mm, f/5.0, ISO: 1250

Jeremy Hanna is upset after loosing the deciding match in Junior male team sparring in the 2007 World Champs. He drew the match and scored the first point in the sudden death but only 2 of three judges saw the point. His opponent then got the next point which was seen by three corner judges. Loss to NZ. He's gutted.

Prior to my involvement in photographing Taekwon-Do I felt quite uncomfortable in photographing people. TKD was a wonderful opportunity to get close to people and, over time, people getting more comfortable with me taking lots of photos of them too!

As I've written before, I prefer snapping images while the subject is involved in their activity rather than set-up or posed situations. I feel that it removes the element of self consciousness, and you get the opportunity to try and capture something of the natural character and personality of the subject.

What I really like to capture in a portrait is some emotion.

The difficulty is that big outbursts of emotion often happen within seconds, often last only a split second and they're rare. I've seen teams perform high fives and missed the shot by seconds. I've finished taking photos of a sparring match and missed the elation on the face of the winner when the decision is announced.

New Zealander's don't let their emotional guard down often. We're typically more emotionally reserved than for example Italians, Argentinians, French and even the Irish! And in Taekwon-Do the biggest bursts of emotion is observed at major international events such as the World Champs or World Cup. At these events the stakes are high, competitors have been training for the few minutes of the event for a year or more, and they will either win or lose. Win = elation. Lose can be devastation, depending on the hopes of the competitor or how close they were to winning.

In preparing for this article I looked through the 2007 World Champs images and found only 4 showing dissapointment. Part of the lack of these images is that I feel awful taking them. It feels cruel. But part of me says that to only take happy photos is missing out on an important part of the journalistic aspect of covering these events. And there are wins and losses and why should we just focus on the wins all of the time. And 4 "down" photos out of 2200 "selected" is only 0.2% - that's not many!

Over time I've gradually learned to look around at the end of a match to capture the emotions of the competitor, team, seconders, coach etc. I find it hard to remember to do, but some of my most powerful emotional images have been taken at this instant. And so often, when it is "loss" I don't take the picture then are cross with myself when I notice that I missed an important moment.

So, here are the small number of dissapointment photos from that event that I captured and the story behind them:

Specs: 1/160s, 55.0mm, f/4.0, ISO: 1000

Under the pressure of the competition, Jon Sawden has just missed the punch that he always gets.
PS: 21/6/09 - I spotted myself in the top right hand corner of this image which means that I didn't take it! We owe this and the other images of Jon taken from this angle to Regan Diggelmann who had grabbed one of my cameras and spent time shooting some events that I couldn't cover.

specs: 1/125s, 240.0mm, f/5.6, ISO: 1250

Carl van Roon was knocked down in his sparring match against Netherlands where he looked to be ahead. The referee called for the tournament Doctor. He stopped the match which was near the end anyway and they awarded it to Carl because it was determined to be caused by excessive contact.

However, it also meant that he couldn't compete in the semi-final which he had just qualified for and the expression on his face tells you how he felt about that.

Specs: 1/100s, 70.0mm, f/5.0, ISO: 1600

Estee Speirs has just dropped out of medal contention (we think from memory she had dropped to 4th place) in senior female special technique.

While the dissapointment is huge in these images, we can be encouraged by the support the competitors receive from their team mates who know what it feels like.

I feel that these are powerful images, conveying so much in an image that words struggle to convey.

I'd be interested in hearing what you think about me capturing these moments. Click comments below and let us all know what you think about it.

Next, I'm working on an article about taking images of positive emotions. I't going to be much easier :-)

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Haka in Honduras

Specs: Canon 300D, 1/60s, 18.0mm, f/4.5, ISO: 1600

In the final days prior to the 2006 Junior World Champs in Honduras the team and management were practicing the Haka in one of the meeting rooms in our hotel. It was awesome to watch and they allowed me in to take a few images. By this stage they had practiced a lot and were getting pretty good. I took a few shots but this was the most interesting. There wasn't much light and with my basic Canon 300D camera on maximum ISO, minimum aperture (with the cheap plastic Canon 18-55mm lens) the fastest shutter speed I could get was 1/60th of a second. However, this was a good speed to capture some motion without faces etc blurring with movement.

Here is the real thing - the Haka being performed at the opening ceremony. The crowd absolutely loved it and it really pumped the team up!

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Pick of the Pix Series, Portraits #5 - High Contrast

Specs: 1/125s, 300.0mm, f/5.6, ISO: 800, extreme contrast adjustment in Picasa

I love good high contrast portraits. This one of Carl van Roon at the recent Taupo World Champs trials is straight out of the camera, converted to black and white then contrast pushed to the extreme in Picasa.

Here's the original image:

Here's another recent favourite:

And more that I like:

To take a high contrast image here are a few suggestions:
1. Turn your camera ISO up as far as it will go. This is optional but will add noise to the photo, making it look more "gritty" than a low ISO image which would have much smoother tones.
2. You need either a very dark background or a very light background.
3. It helps to have strong directional light going across your subject from one side of them, preferably slightly in front of them too.
4. Don't use flash unless it is a separate unit from your camera and can provide directional light as described in 3 above. Straight on flash will make the image look flat.
5. Convert to black and white and play around with increasing contrast on both the dark and light parts of the image with Photoshop, Picasa or a similar image editing program.