Blackbelt In Photography

Sam Davies (4th degree blackbelt Kickboxer)

My daughter took up kickboxing a few months ago, and being a proactive photographer I saw an opportunity for some kickass shots, excuse the pun lol.
After getting to know the instructors a little better I asked Sam Davies the chief instructor and founder of Titan Kickboxing if he would allow me to come along to his Dojo and take some pictures of the fighters.
I was a little nervous and apprehensive about asking but Sam made me feel very welcome and to be honest I was a little shocked how approachable the instructors were.
Perhaps I watched too many kung-fu movies as a kid as I had this vision of being beaten up just by looking at a blackbelt lol, (Drunken Master springs to mind).
Anyway my apprehensions were unfounded and so far I have been allowed into the Dojo twice with my camera gear with an invite to come back again.

Colin Hayes

Normally I like to take my time and capture posed shots but I was allowed to to capture the fighters exercising and sparring during a lesson so there was a various range of skills and belts.
This was not only fun but a big learning curve for me as normally I would only grab a handful of posed shots but I knew I had to take loads of pictures to try and capture some good shots of the high impact and fast paced lesson.

To get a fast enough shutter speed I had to do something outside of my comfort zone, I had to up my ISO to areas Ive never ventured into before, most of the time my camera is firmly fixed to ISO 100-400 but today I was going into ISO 5000, combined with my f/2.8 lenses I could start getting a shutter speed of around 1/200 sec to 1/400 sec.
I worked in manual and as the light levels never changed I dialed in the settings I need to get a ball park exposure and just concentrated on focusing and grabbing the shots.

With the high ISO's the shots where very grainy especially as my Nikon D7100 a cropped sensor camera was pushed to its limits at this range, but converting them to black and white not only suited this genre of photography it helped by using the grain to give a more gritty feel.

On both occasions I photographed the Kickboxing I took hundreds of pictures, this was alien to me as I like a more patient and methodical approach firing off a few shots here and there, even though this was new territory for me I absolutely loved the high octane situation of trying to capture a fleeting moment when a glove or foot made contact with the opponent, I can only imagine what the adrenaline must be like at a big fight where the fighters are going at it hammer and nail and trying to capture that split second shot for a title.

After the lesson on my first visit I wanted to do what I do best the posed shots with off camera flash, unfortunately, there wasn't any time to do this at the end, I was a bit gutted especially as I carried in loads of gear from my car, still I had learned loads and got lots of awesome shots, this would have to wait until next time.

Next time came and once again I took loads of shots of the fighters sparring, using high ISO's, wide apertures and swapping lenses between ultra wide and zoomed.
This time I managed to grab some individual time with the fighters to pose for me, time was limited as another class would be starting soon, so I had 30 minutes to set up my gear, take the shots and pack away, bring it on :-)

The Posed Shots

Lee Gambrill
For these I used off camera flash with a beauty dish as my main light, I had 2 lights either side with reflector dishes and honeycomb grids but to be honest I was struggling to place the rim lights with the limited time I had.
My lighting consisted of three Yongnuo 560 IV flashguns which were fired using a Yongnuo 560TX trigger, the great thing about this combination was I can alter the power of each individual flashgun from the trigger on camera.

Barry Saxbee

I set up in manual mode with a starting point of around f/9-f/11 and a shutter speed of 1/250 sec which is the sync speed of my Nikon D7100 then played around with the power of the flashgun to get in the area of exposure I needed to be, then I just grabbed what shots I could before packing away.

Jake Heasman

I'm really pleased with some of the shots I got especially with such little time, so I'm already looking forward to going back and trying out my new Pixapro 40inch silver collapsible beauty dish on these guys, Sam has already invited me back to get some more posed shots, we just have to arrange the time and day, as soon as it happens I will post the pictures on my social media so dont forget to follow me or check out my links at the bottom.

Sam Davies

A big thank you to Sam and his fighters for their hospitality at Titan Kickboxing.
Please check them out on their website

 Don't forget to follow me on twitter Click Me
Check out my Flickr stream Click Me
My Youtube channel Click Me
My website Click Me
My 500px Click Me
My Instagram Click Me