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Author Topic: Photographing martial arts  (Read 2189 times)

ookkerpak

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Photographing martial arts
« on: May 22, 2013, 03:47:46 PM »
Cheers!

I'm going to take some promotional pictures for a taekwondo -club and would appreciate any help I can get.

Obviously it's going to be photos about people doing high kicks and fighting etc. It's pretty fast stuff, so I figured that it's better to be shooting in Tv mode with shutterspeed set up to 1/500 for starters. We'll see how fast it really needs to be. I'm going to shoot in continuous mode. When shooting with flash, I'll have the second curtain sync on. But that's about all I can think of by myself.

What I want to do is...
1) get some sharp photos with (maybe) some motion blur on feet when the models are kicking/fighting
2) maybe some silhouettes with a flash lighting the background (with or without a colored gel)

I'm not going to have a studio. We're shooting some of the pictures outdoors in the summer and some are going to be shot indoors at the training place - which is clean and neat, but it's not particularly a beautiful place. Lighting is probably going to be a problem, there's fluorescent lights in the ceiling and there are many large windows, so there's going to be light of two kind.

My gear: 5DmkIII, 35L, 24-105L, 100L, 100-400L, 580EX II flash with Honl gels (CTO's, plusgreen, CTB, bright red, etc.) and Canon ETTL cable (about one meter long when stretched out), circular polarizer filter + some Cokin graduated and not graduated ND filters

There's also an option to borrow 600EX and 430EX II. It's not an option to invest in new lenses, flashes or lights. Or 1Dx :'(

So... What to do? Or try to do?
Am I totally lost?

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Photographing martial arts
« on: May 22, 2013, 03:47:46 PM »

BK

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Re: Photographing martial arts
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2013, 05:36:32 PM »
I'm sure you'll get better responses from other folks but I've shot a few of my son's tournaments and some at his school during tests. My answers are based on your indoor scenario - I haven't been able to convince the teacher to let me shoot outside yet.

Shutter speed is the biggest limiting factor for me. I end up being limited by either the sync speed of my lights or the recycling of the fluorescent lights. With the school's lights I can shoot without a flash at up to maybe 1/160 consistently. Beyond that and I get ugly green bars in random places in the photo. Using flash freezes action to some extent, but karate is one of those things that pushes that to the limit. It freezes most of the body just fine, but not necessarily the hands or feet. HSS might be an option with the 580 or 600 to bump up your shutter speed and really get things frozen. Don't forget to set rear curtain-sync as you mentioned. Einsteins might help.

Practice your timing - using flash at a reasonable power or using HSS will negate the ability to fire off 8 or 10 shots machine gun style. Using multiple flashes off-camera will help you bump up the power.

I tend to bounce off the school's low ceilings or a wall to good effect. I think an on-camera flash bounced off the ceiling coupled with another flash on a stand off to the side would be a nice set up.

My son's school has a mix of pink and baby blue mats. If the overhead lights are on then everybody ends up with a horrible pink or blue cast from below. If you end up with something similar you might see if they can shut off the lights while you are shooting. Black and white can be very effective for karate if all else fails.

They've had me come out a few times prior to a tournament to do some promo shots. The low ceilings aren't a big deal until we get to group shots. Then I'm stuck shooting with a wider lens than I'd like and I have to crop to a panoramic rectangle. My plan next time is to bring in a black backdrop instead of using the school's white walls and beg to shoot outside (threats don't work to well with an nth degree black belt).

They often try to get me to shoot while they hold an awkward pose but I find that I get better shots by timing an actual kick instead of one that's held for 5 seconds.

I hope that helps a little bit. I enjoy doing this kind of shooting a lot. Tournaments can be a lot of fun if you get a chance to do one. Good luck!


BK

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Re: Photographing martial arts
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2013, 05:41:40 PM »
I almost forgot - for camera settings I generally shoot AV and pretty close to wide open. I'll set my ISO to something I can live with that gets me reasonable shutter speeds. It generally falls between 800 and 1600 but might be more or less.

Shooting TV at 1/500 probably gets you very similar exposures in the end. I'm probably doing it "wrong" but it works for me.

MMAshooter

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Re: Photographing martial arts
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2013, 07:33:52 PM »
I regularly shoot these types of promotional  photos and can offer the following advice:
- You single biggest challenge will be maximizing available light - if possible work near open windows at the best time for light to be on your side
- -Strongly suggest a test pre-shoot for practice and to test everything well in advance - as for sure the 1st time around will be owned by Murphy's law!!
- Shoot in shutter priority and the fastest shutter speed available to you which might be your flash sync speed
- Use your 24-105 and open it up to 4.0 to 5.6
- definitely borrow every flash / speed light you can get your hands on - I often gang them up in groups of three and you will need to use all canon compatible ones and or any others that have optical triggers (but this only works if you are the only one shooting with a flash in the room??   
- Don't ask your flashes to do too much - start with getting an ambient meter reading via TV mode with a shutter of 1/200 and walk your ISO up until you have something within 1 stop of being acceptable, then add your flashes in TTL mode for the canon flashes and at 50% power manual mode for any non-canon flashes that have optical triggers. I also shoot with a 5Dlll and have come to appreciate and depend upon going into high ISO ranges as needed - in this case you may need to get a bit higher than 1600 if sufficient ambient light is not there for you.
- Be sure to test that any use of optical triggers is set for 2nd flash versus 1st pre-flash from TTL mode
- Run some tests shots and see  how things look - experiment with adjusting shutter down a bit slower to see some shutter drag motion - also use FEC to adjust flashes
- Use evaluative metering, but adjust focus point to always be on subject's eyes
- Rehearse subject's move/pose to ensure best camera position and angle as with flash you need to carefully time shutter release and shoot ahead of any moving action
- Work on very unique camera angles - try some ultra low angles shooting up to create some drama             
- Practice on getting best possible chemistry with your subjects so that they can work with you, and truly sell their pose or action flow as being completely natural.
- Bring plenty of extra batteries 
- I assume you are shooting in large raw, thus being able to work with greatest flexibility in in post
LASTLY - have lots of fun as your subjects will feed off of your positive energy!
Can't wait to see your results! 
Check out some of my MMA shoots at www.TomHillPhotos.com

docholliday

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Re: Photographing martial arts
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2013, 07:39:19 PM »
Well, the "proper" way to do it would be to gel the windows with PlusGreen or WindowGreen to match the fluorescent temperature, set the camera to that temp in K, gel strobes that way also and shoot. That's how I shot a promo for a dojo locally. I was pumping about 8000ws of strobe power to stop large group sessions. And, I shot these on Hasselblad - 0 fps. Zone focused, waited for the action to be in the focus zone and fired. Slides were used for posters, ads, etc. Almost shot it all with my 1D/Ds 3's, but decided to challenge myself and use film...no chimping and 12 shots per back!

However...can you shoot at night? That takes the daylight out of the equation, making it pretty much so you can shoot using the ambient fluorescents and gel your 580 (and/or 600ex borrow) to match. Drag the shutter out at short DOF (the background can be black, blurred, etc without care) and use the flashes to stop motion. Use something like 1/8-1/30 for the shutter and f/5.6 or less - the flash is fast enough to stop kicks, jumps, etc. Full manual, that way, bright spots and dark spots don't affect the metering. It's about setting the flash to be above ambient and the ratio that determines how much blur vs sharp is recorded. Your shutter speed controls the background/environment brightness and the flash compensation/adjustment (or chosen aperture) controls the subject illumination.

You can also be creative and incorporate motion into some of the shots. In roundhouse style kicks, let the motion of the movement create fluid patterns and the rear-curtain sync to stop the moment of contact for sharpness. Done properly, the subjects can appear to be in a "beam" of light - distance to subject to background.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2013, 07:55:14 PM by docholliday »

ookkerpak

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Re: Photographing martial arts
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2013, 10:32:58 AM »
Hi, and thanks for the replies.

Unfortunately I live in Finland, and the nights here are not so dark in the summertime, so the otherwise good idea about shooting at night would have to wait until winter. So maybe I'll try to use sunlight instead, maybe even turn off the lights in the dojo and use max amount of flashes with gels. I hadn't heard about gelling windows before, don't know where to get that kind of stuff. Got to check out different webstores.

I just started to worry about the flash performance. As you pointed out, it limits my plan to shoot thousands of photos at full speed. I think I'll just have to borrow all my friends flashes and work with minimal power settings possible to balance this. I've read Syl Arenas book about flashes, and I think I understand what's the role of adjusting aperture and shutterspeed etc. I was going to have the flashes (and the camera) on manual mode to make it easier for myself. I'm still practising using flash(es) and I'd like to make all the adjustments one at a time to gain better understanding about how stuff really works. ETTL can wait for now.

I train with the guys who are going to do the modelling, so the chemistry is not a problem as I've known them for years. We'll be shooting in June or July, so don't hold your breath waiting for the results. I'll try to remember to post the good ones here.


docholliday

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Re: Photographing martial arts
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2013, 11:24:16 AM »
Hi, and thanks for the replies.

Unfortunately I live in Finland, and the nights here are not so dark in the summertime, so the otherwise good idea about shooting at night would have to wait until winter. So maybe I'll try to use sunlight instead, maybe even turn off the lights in the dojo and use max amount of flashes with gels. I hadn't heard about gelling windows before, don't know where to get that kind of stuff. Got to check out different webstores.


It doesn't have to be *that* dark...just darker than the interior lights. 2 stops will usually do it. The higher shutter speed you'd have to shoot will cut the background light (ambient coming in from the windows). It's about learning the exposure compensation vs. the flash exposure compensation). You can dial the EC down -2 stops to darken the whole ambient exposure, then dial the FEC up to +2 and get some really neat shots that drop out the background.

As far as gelling, try any theatre supply company. They are just thin transparent sheets of plastic that are coloured a certain amount. They come in big rolls, so you just unroll them on the outside of the windows and tape them in place. Rosco (Roscolux) and Lee are the names to look for. Here's the light correction gels list from Lee: http://www.leefilters.com/lighting/technical-list.html. They all have a sample book that is a spinner with each color that you can try. Wait until a sunny day, turn on the florescent lights, then hold one of the strip to the left or right side of your lens. Shoot a shot. That way, half your image shows what the "natural" light is and the other half will show what happens if you add that filter to the lighting.

Once you find the right colour, you'd get a few rolls of that stuff and tape it to the windows (hint: it'll be a green tint to change the daylight to match the florescent lights). Now, the incoming outside light and the interior lighting will be close in temperature, so your camera can white balance just one color.

The trick to it is to get a book about lighting color correction, learn some basic color theory (color wheel!), and #1: get some practice testing in before actually shooting!

When we shoot architecture, we commonly gel the windows so that all the lights look natural and crisp. It's also how all motion pictures are done!

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Re: Photographing martial arts
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2013, 11:24:16 AM »