I’ve been lucky. Previously shy of photographing people, I was a parent supporter at the 2006 ITF (International Taekwon-Do Federation) Junior World Champs when my son, Jeremy, competed in his first major international tournament. Having put down my SLR camera soon after getting married in 1983, I was a keen amateur photographer, but had not really engaged with photography again until buying my first digital camera in early 2000. My enthusiasm for photography was renewed, taking images of family holidays and coastal landscapes and I had been infatuated with photographing the amazing yachts in the 2003 America's Cup in Auckland. The first consumer SLR to hit the market, the Canon 300D "Digital Rebel", was mine by late 2003 and my photography began improving dramatically.

How It Started

The Junior World Champs in Honduras in 2006 provided an opportunity to photograph the people I was travelling with. Enthusiastic responses from other parents and team members were really encouraging and I could see how the images provided a detailed record of the trip. At the same time, Gwyn Brown, the official journalist for the event, was writing a detailed record of the trip but only had a little point-and-shoot camera. He saw my images and asked if he could include some of my pictures with his reports being sent back home. Naturally, I was delighted.
Twenty five years of experience in the IT industry also meant I was well equipped to get the reports transmitted home, via the very unreliable wireless network in our Hotel in Honduras. Running an America's Cup news website during that event in 2003, I had learnt the necessity of updating information as soon as possible, while the news and images were very fresh.

Gwyn’s stories with my images were published daily on the ITFNZ (International Taekwon-Do Foundation of New Zealand) website. Appreciative messages flooded back to us from parents, friends, family and fellow Taekwon-Do athletes. The enthusiastic response from back home was so encouraging that I decided to try to photographically document the whole trip. This was my first introduction to photojournalism and I've been hooked ever since.

Knowing there was an appreciative audience gave me a sense of purpose in taking the photos. I began taking pictures of everything the team was doing; the training sessions, our "tourist" outings and relaxation times. The more photos I took, the more the team grew used to me. Competitors and coaches were soon ignored me clicking away with my camera. This was perfect since it let me get close to the action without competitors being self conscious or put off by my presence, and for every 100 shots I took, a few really good ones emerged.

Once the tournament got underway I was determined to capture images of each Kiwi competitor's performance. This was much harder than I thought as there were many rings and at times we’d have competitors on several rings at the same time.

It was also challenging technically as I had a very basic Canon 300D digital SLR with a high quality but slow 70-300 zoom lens, the cheap, fast, but poor autofocus 50mm f/1.8 prime lens and the sluggish 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 Canon kit lens. With this gear and the limited light in the venue, I struggled to capture the fast moving action.

Appreciating these technical limitations meant the beginning of a rather expensive equipment accumulation and renewal programme over recent years. This has eventually led to a significant improvement in my equipment, which has in turn helped me capture the images I want from this fast paced, high action sport.

This tournament got me hooked. I loved the challenge of taking the photos, the appreciative thanks coming from the kiwis back in New Zealand and the eager team members queuing to see the shots at the end of each day.

Since 2006, I’ve covered each of the international events that my sons have competed in including the 2007 World Champs in Quebec, 2008 World Cup in Riva del Garda, Italy and the 2009 World Champs in Mar Del Plata, Argentina. I’m keen to continue with the 2010 World Cup in Las Vegas, USA and 2011 World Champs in Wellington, New Zealand. It has been a great way to see the world too!

A photojournalistic approach to these events means I am taking a wide range of images including fast moving sporting action and informal portraits of team members, coaches and supporters.
Some of the best action shots have come from training sessions where I can get in really close and the environment often provides an uncluttered background to the images. It is very challenging to get really good action images during the actual tournaments. Cluttered backgrounds are unavoidable in the venue, and bouts of sparring can lack a lot of action as the competitors suss each other out, meaning action sequences are often few and far between. The stakes are high, so competitors don’t take big risks and the resulting images can be pretty hit and miss. Natural light is often fairly inadequate in these venues, and since I detest the limitations imposed by using flash, I avoid it unless there is no other option.

In covering these events, I am always trying to capture as much of the emotion present as possible. Stakes are high and moods range between exhilarating highs to major disappointments. These are a part of the sport. If you have an emotional response to these images then I’ve been successful.