Praying for pictures as Jon Jones defends his UFC Light Heavyweight title
Steve Russell - Staff Photographer - @RussellPhotos
The photo positions beside the octagon at the Ultimate Fighting Championship 165 presented me with a new wrinkle. It was something I had never seen before, rather than photographers standing beside the octagon platform, or sitting, we had a low padded bench.
The bench is to kneel on, much like the kneelers in church pews.
It was appropiate though, because shooting a fast moving sport through the octagon cage had me praying for a picture.
The fence was a little more of a challenge because it is painted with a black glossy paint which reflects light like crazy and makes an irresistible target for our autofocus cameras.
The solution is to use a combination of autofocus and manual focus.
The solution to shooting through the fence, that is solved by shooting with a shallow depth of field or wide open or with a large aperture. We talk about this in a Master Glass tutorial.
You still can see a little bit of the chain-link fence but it doesn't dominate the picture.
It is funny, there are photographers at the paper who never shot film, digital is all they know.
I'm part of the generation before that where many have always shot auto-focus.
I started with the Minolta Maxxum 7000 which was billed as faster than the human eye, it wasn't.
I was glad the there were 13 bouts on the card which gave us a chance to get used to shooting through fance and aclimatize to shooting the sport.
But I was also a little concerned that 13 bouts might mean a lot of work. I was using boxing as a reference.
Boxing exercises your motordrive, you react to every little move a boxer might make and in a three minute round might have 200-400 pictures to go through. UFC with three five minute rounds on the undercard fights looked like it might produce an avalanche of images.
I was happy to see that, for the most part, the fighters were not throwing as many punches as a boxer and when they went to the ground our shooting slowed. There was also the quick knock out that kept the clicks low. I averaged about 400 clicks per bour over the first 12 fights.
All this was thrown out the window for the main event between Light Heavey Weight champion Jon Jones and challenger Alexander Gustafsson. Their five round fight, where neither was interested in going to the ground generated about 1,800 clicks. It was also one of the loudest fights I had ever been to.
Before shooting this I called up Rene Johnston who had covered a few previous UFC nights. His advice, bring some sanitizer to clean the blood off yourself between rounds.
The Undercard fights
The main event - warning, things get a little bloody