I realized that between rolling with the homies and being in photographer mode, I sure spend a lot of time actually on the mats when I’m at the gym.
People are interested in the photography that I do and I get a lot of questions. I thought it might be cool to lend some insight into what goes on in my mind while I shoot by showing you some good and not so good frames from the last couple of visits to J2L.
If you’ve watched me in action, I have a whole system of movements with a camera in my hand. I got the back roll, the shrimp and the bulldozer side roll. It’s really quite complex. But really, I realized that 99% of photographing jiu jitsu is being in the right position at the right time. If you want to take photos like this, here’s a few tips.
Tip #1: Show a Face
If you can’t tell who it is, there’s really no point. No one wants to see a photo of someone’s faceless body in gi. You need the intensity of the guard pass, the grimace of top pressure or just the concentration of a skilled player. One face is great, both faces is even better.
Tip #2: Get Close But Not Too Close
I spend most of my time moving in and out of a match trying to get as close as possible to fill my frame without getting kicked in the face. I shoot with an attachment lens on my x1ooF that’s an equivalent of 28mm, which is moderately wide. I sometimes like to shoot with the 35mm or 50mm to get in tight. I honestly like the look of a narrower lens but when there’s other people on the mats, it helps to get close and use my subjects to block out everyone else. See #3.
If helps by laying down on the mat, so you can get a slight upward angle too. I think that little difference in perspective really makes you feel like you are there as a participant rather than a spectator.
Tip #3: Subtract the Unnecessary
This really should have been Tip #1.
If the mat’s are super crowded, I don’t even try to shoot. I end up with too many random limbs in the corners of my photos or even worse, someone sitting on the wall whose head is randomly poking out someone else. That’s why you’ll see me trying to shoot against the white wall more often than not. It’s just a cleaner look and the viewer can then focus on your subject better. The windows at the gym are ok too but I hate the OPEN sign from Kamal Palace, you’ll see it sometimes in the background. Same with the clock, and the emergency fire switch. Lastly, that surfboard in the corner, I’m at least happy that it’s not that blue SUP board anymore. It actually kinda looks cool with the white board and plant now. Thanks Kevin!