Best of 2013 – Fight Action

UFC 166 - Melendez v SanchezCapping off my “Best of 2013” series of galleries is the one you’ve all been waiting for. This is a collection of my best fight action images from this year. I limited it to the top 50 images – ok, 52 in total, but one is a 3-image sequence. Some will say that’s probably too many, but I had to cut out so many good ones just to get to that number. It’s amazing just how many fights I shot this past year.

The obvious choice for my favorite would be the renown sequence of Stefan Struve getting his jaw broken at the left hand of Mark Hunt. But, I have a different one that has stuck in my head ever since I captured it. The Diego Sanchez v Gilbert Melendez fight was one of the best fights of the year, if not in UFC history. As soon as I knew I had this shot (at right), I tagged it and set it aside for this gallery. I knew nothing else would top it.

Here is a slideshow of the full gallery. Please click through to my site and view everything at full resolution to get the full effect.


Best of 2013 – Fight Action – Images by Joshua Hedges

Best of 2013 – The Features

TUF 17 Finale Open WorkoutsContinuing with my recap of 2013, I wanted to do a gallery that encompassed some of my favorite feature images I captured over the last year. This includes portraits and pretty much anything that’s not fight-action. I really enjoy trying to make interesting photos outside of the fights themselves, and I relish every opportunity I have to shoot something different than fights, whether it be for fun, for charity, or for another assignment.

One of my favorite feature images from this year is the image at right of Cat Zingano stretching before a workout leading up to her UFC debut.

Here is a slideshow of the full gallery. Please click through to my site to view the full-size gallery.


Best of 2013 – Features – Images by Joshua Hedges

Best of 2013 – The Reactions

UFC 156: Volkmann v GreenKicking off the first of a few “Best Of” galleries for last year with my favorite emotional reactions I captured. It was hard to narrow it down to a healthy edit of 40. I photographed so many great events this past year and saw so much emotion on both the winning and losing end. My favorite overall for the year still remains the Bobby Green celebration shot (seen at right) from his come-from-behind victory over Jacob Volkmann. I was up the fifth-floor press box of Mandalay Bay shooting the fight with my 400mm 2.8. Most of the action was turned away from me, and I was really regretting my decision to go upstairs for this fight. Then, as soon as Green mounted his comeback and finished the fight, he turned as if he meant to line up perfectly for my lens and let out an incredible scream. This ended up being my favorite frame of the night and one of my favorite overall shots of the entire year.

Here is a slideshow for the rest of my favorite reactions from 2013. Please click through to my website and look through the entire gallery at full resolution.


Best of 2013: The Reactions full gallery

CarrySpeed Camera Straps Review

I was recently turned on to CarrySpeed straps by a recommendation from photographer Gary Fong. For several years, I have religiously used BlackRapid straps for all my assignments, and for the most part, have been happy with their performance. Sure, there have been some nuances here and there, but overall they served their purpose. I turned a number of people on to BlackRapid, though I had no agreement or compensation to do so. I just liked their stuff. Now that those straps are getting old and worn out, I’m in the market for a new set of straps. I thought before buying more straps from BlackRapid, I would see what else is on the market before investing more money in gear.

I will make the same declaration here before I start getting into the meat of the review. CarrySpeed has not compensated me in any way, and I have no agreement or deal with them. I bought these straps with my own cash to try out, and I feel obligated to give an honest review.

After careful consideration, I decided to order the FS-PRO camera sling strap, as well as the CS-Double 2-camera strap system. I also purchased a handful of various mounting plates and adapters for all my different bodies and lenses.

The customer service from the start was quite pleasant. I placed my order on a Wednesday before my trip to China. I wasn’t sure if they would arrive in time, but had hoped for the best. I was very surprised when they arrived the next day. I unpacked everything right away and familiarized myself with all the pieces and assembly. CarrySpeed pays close attention to the small details. The straps were packed neatly, with all pieces wrapped and labeled individually; along with a complete and detailed instruction set for assembly and operation. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the unboxing. Frankly, I was too excited to get them out and use them.

Setup took just a minute or two, and then I was able to attach the cameras and begin adjusting the straps. The construction is very high quality. They are very comfortable on the shoulders, especially the double strap. There is quite a bit more padding than other straps on the market, and they are very beefy and secure. Additionally, the FS-Pro has a non-slip material on the underside of the strap that really does a good job of keeping the strap in place.

One simple piece that I’m really happy with is the strap lock that you use to set the position of the camera when it hangs to your side. On other straps that I’ve used, this lock was weak and would often come unsnapped so the camera would just slide all around and pull the strap forward or backward off your shoulder. In fact, on all my BlackRapid straps, I gaff taped all the strap locks to stop them from coming undone. There is no fear of that on the CarrySpeed straps. Their locks are much stronger and stay put when you lock them. They hold so well that they take quite a bit of force to get them unlocked if you need to move them. That’s a good thing. This is one of those things that you’re going to set it once and not want to mess with it again.

All the straps have double stitching, and the quick release buckles have an extra locking mechanism as a failsafe for the straps. The fact that the straps are detachable is a wonderful feature in itself, and the extra locking mechanisms to prevent them from accidentally becoming unhooked are a great extra bonus.

The triple locking quick-release buckles are very secure.

Installation of the various ballhead attachment points is straightforward and easy. They’ve made all the slots in the screws wide enough for any coin to fit in, so you don’t have to go hunting for a screwdriver to make adjustments or install/uninstall them. Of course, I’m more likely to have my leatherman on me than a coin these days, but that works just as well.

There are various different types of attachments to mount on the bottom of your cameras and lenses, and all have their benefits depending on the situation and how much money you’re willing to invest.

(L-R) The F-1 foldable mounting plate, the D1 stainless wide platform ballhead nut, and the C-3 mounting plate with ball head lock nut.

I elected to install the offset folding camera plate on the bottom of both my Canon 1Dx bodies, and the standard offset plate on the bottom of my 70-200mm lens. The folding post is a brilliant feature. I really love the flexibility of that plate, and I like the creative thinking of the designers who came up with the idea.

A big advantage CarrySpeed offers over many of the other strap makers in this class is the offset mounting points on the plates. This allows you to leave the plate mounted to the camera or lens when you want to attach it to a tripod, monopod, floor plate, or anything else using the 1/4-20 mounting screw. For me personally, this isn’t a huge advantage, but I do use a tripod from time-to-time. For others who use a tripod more often, this will be a welcome feature to improve efficiency.

The F-1 foldable mounting plate mounted to the bottom of my Canon EOS-1Dx.
The C-3 mounting plate mounted to my Canon 70-200mm lens.

The camera plates do present one challenge for me, though. The cameras don’t fit into my ThinkTank bags quite the same as normal now with the mounting plates attached. I could always take the plates off every time I pack the cameras, but that becomes tedious after a while, and sometimes you just don’t have the time to fiddle with it. Luckily, I was able to adjust the dividers a bit and flip the camera position to fit comfortably, and thus far it has worked just fine.

My two 1Dx bodies with F-1 mounting plates attached, resting in their places inside the ThinkTank Airport International v2.

One note on the installation of the folding offset plate. At first, it might seem like the proper way to install the folding plate is with the ball joint folding towards the back of the camera body. This is not correct though and will create some issues for you if you try it. I wanted to try it both ways and see what was more comfortable. I can’t see a reason you would ever need to turn it around facing the rear of the camera. Just point it forward like the photos illustrate in the instructions and on their website.

The F-1 foldable mounting plate mounted both ways on a Canon EOS-1Dx.

Now, the folding plate is a bit bulky and is a little awkward to hold when shooting vertically. Not a huge issue for me, it just takes a little getting used to. I have big hands, so perhaps it could be more of an issue for people with smaller hands.

The Ball joint locking mechanism itself is very secure and I feel much more comfortable letting the camera drop during a quick change. However, the ball joint presents a few challenges – 1) there is not a lot of side-to-side play in the ball joint, which is good because it prevents the metal pieces from contacting the camera or lens and scratching them, but it also is a bit awkward feeling at first. After a bit of use, I got used to the new feeling pretty quick; 2) connecting and disconnecting the ball joint is tough to do quickly, if you don’t plan to remove the cameras at all then it’s fine, but I find myself throughout an assignment removing my cameras and re-installing them from time-to-time. After a few hours, I was able to get it down pretty good. It would be nice, though, if there were some soft of quick connect/disconnect mechanism.

The ball joint mechanism is very strong and secure.

The two straps come with an additional support strap for telephoto lenses. I personally won’t use this a lot for my own assignments, but I could see if being a nice feature for someone taking strolling through a park or zoo taking scenic pictures with a longer lens. Nonetheless, it’s another creative thinking solution by the design team, and it comes free with the straps.

My only real complaint about the straps is the length. Being tall, my biggest complaint with all camera straps of this style has been that they are not long enough to hold the cameras at a comfortable position on my hips. I would like to see the straps be 4-6 inches longer with the ability to cinch up some slack. This is more an issue with the single strap, but would also be nice to have the length a little longer on the double straps, as well. Perhaps maybe an option to have custom straps made would be a possibility, or even just an extra strap spacer that could be clipped into the triple-locking release buckles. I would gladly pay a few bucks extra for this.

I was able to put these straps through their paces for a week in China covering the UFC Macao event. All in all, I am very happy with the CarrySpeed straps and would gladly recommend them to anyone in the market for this type of strap. I will be keeping my eye on them for future products, enhancements, and improvements; and I will definitely be purchasing more equipment from them.

For more information on CarrySpeed straps, check out their website at www.CarrySpeed.com.

Canon Flash Gear For Sale

I’m selling some of my Canon 580EX and 580EXII units, and the corresponding PocketWizard Flex triggers to help make room for the new Canon 600EX flash units. Check out my eBay listings for all the info and to bid. I have more that will probably be listed in the next 5-7 days. Click the link below to go straight to my auctions.

http://www.ebay.com/sch/jhedges/m.html?_ipg=50&_sop=12&_rdc=1

Sports Shooter Academy IX update 3

Now that Sports Shooter Academy IX has come and gone, I’ve finally had a chance to let the dust settle. The final day was dedicated solely to baseball for me. We showed up early at Anteater Park on the campus of UC Irvine to get a lay of the land and start setting up remotes. The Eaters were playing UC Riverside again for the second straight day. The first game on Saturday was not incredibly exciting, so I was hoping for more action in the second game. We only had about 5 or 6 guys shooting the game since most people were doing the track meet across the way. This allowed us a lot of freedom to move around and get unique shots. I hung my remote down the first base line, slightly elevated above the top of the dugout and pointed straight at home plate with a 200mm lens. Keep in mind, you should never bank on a remote being your only shot. Never count on it producing something you can use. It’s just an added bonus. Some people the day before setup remotes at the water pool of the steeplechase and that was the only shot they took of the event. The technology allows you to trigger a remote with another camera, so take advantage of that!

Anyways… back to the game. It started out pretty slow. I shot the first 3 innings from the third base photo well, then moved up top with my long lens to get some different angles from in and above the bleachers. The UC Irvine Anteaters, who have their own super fan who was going nuts the whole game, were up 5-2 in the later innings before Riverside stormed back and tied it. The game went into extra innings, so I trudged back down to the third base well hoping for a good shot of a walk-off hit and the ensuing celebration. While I got the shots, I wasn’t completely happy with the angle and reactions. I probably should have stayed up top or gone over to the first base side. But, it was a good learning experience.

After the game, we headed back to the workroom to file our edits and stick around for the slideshow and awards. I had some good conversations with photographers Matt Brown, Mike Corrado, and Michael Goulding about my shots from the game. It’s amazing how much you can learn from just sitting down for five minutes with someone and showing them your shots and talking about them. Seriously, take advantage of those chances and do it as often as you can. If you ever see me somewhere and want to pick my brain, by all means do it! They helped me narrow down my top 8 shots to the final 4 for the slideshow, and I’m very happy with the ones we came up with. You can see those four shots below.

I just want to take the time again to thank everyone who put this event on and made it THE coolest photography event I’ve ever been a part of. Bert Hanashiro, Matt Brown, Christy Radecic, Rafael Delgado, Rod Mar, Michael Goulding, Dave Black, Jon McDonough, Shawn Cullen, Wally Skalij, Sean Haffey, Deanna Hanashiro, Sara Moosbrugger, Ian Ray, Ron Tonawaki, Grant Brown, and all the wonderful sponsors, including Nikon, ThinkTank, PocketWizard, Samy’s, Honl, SanDisk, Camera Bits, LiveBooks, and anyone else I’m forgetting. If you ever have a chance to participate in one of these events, please please do. It is a priceless experience.

Here are my final four shots from day four that were submitted to the slideshow. Stay tuned for a larger gallery of my overall experience coming soon.

Sports Shooter Academy IX update 2

We are sitting in the work room as I write this, wrapping up the final day of SSA IX. It has been an incredible experience and I have met some wonderful and talented photographers over the last five days. I have had the priceless opportunity to work with and learn from some of the best sports shooters in the world. And I cannot say thank you enough to all of the people who have made this workshop happen, including but not limited to, Robert Hanashiro, Matt Brown, Shawn Cullen, Rafael Delgado, Christy Radecic, Wally Skalij, Rod Mar, Michael Goulding, Sean Haffey, Ian Ray at PocketWizard, Ron, Michael, and Sara of Nikon, and a number of other people I know I’m forgetting.

Let me quickly recap what happened yesterday before I get into today. I was scheduled to just shoot soccer with my good buddy Rod Mar who is the team photographer for the Seattle Seahawks football team and Sounders soccer team. I’ve worked alongside Rod at several UFC’s and always enjoy absorbing his knowledge. We headed over to UC Irvine for a 7-on-7 women’s soccer tournament featuring a number of current and former Division I NCAA athletes. The short fields made for lots of action. It was very hard to follow at first, so I ended up just sitting on goal keepers and waiting for shots. This proved a good strategy to get a feel for it. There were a number of diving saves. Eventually, I started feeling more comfortable and started straying a bit and following different players. I also mounted a couple different goal remotes, though I didn’t get any great shots from those.

After a while in the hot sun, the soccer started getting a bit stale so I walked over to the baseball stadium to catch the game between UC Irvine and UC Riverside. I’ve shot some baseball before, so I took a different approach than normal. I walked around various points of the park shooting with my 400mm lens, with and without the 1.4x teleconverter. Unfortunately, it was a very lackluster game and I was really exhausted, so I didn’t make the best shots.

After the conclusion of the baseball game, I headed over to the track meet to see if I could get anything good over there. I’ve never shot a track meet before, and can’t really say I’ve ever wanted to. After being exposed to it now though, I have a strong desire to go back and try again. The long jump produced the easiest pictures. We had a nice back light later in the day during the finals which gives you a really nice sand splash shot. Of course, everyone wants that shot, so it’s quite competitive fighting for a straight on position. I ended up leaving the men’s final in favor of the women to get a better position. I also attempted to shoot some pole vault and javelin, but couldn’t really find the light I was looking for. the sun was still a bit straight overhead and flat for my tastes. So then, I decided to head down to the water pit to setup a remote for the final event of the night, the steeplechase. Everyone raved about this event, so I had to see what was up. The remote shot didn’t do anything for me, but I did grab a couple of nice frames with a long lens. By the time we finished up there, it was after 7:00pm, so I dropped Rod off at his hotel and hurried back to the Crowne Plaza to get to the workroom and start editing. By the time I finished my edit and had food in my belly, it was nearly midnight. Below are a few shots from the day.

After falling asleep with my laptop in my lap, I got about 6 hours of sleep to prepare for the final day. Today, I just had baseball on the schedule. I went in with the plan to make pictures I have never made before. I strayed way out of my comfort zone for shooting baseball and I shot a lot of stuff very tight. I used a lot of different angles and tried to tell more of a story. Luckily the game had a lot of drama, ending with a walk-off hit in the 11th inning. I’ll post some pictures from that game tomorrow.

I’ll be hitting the road as soon as possible tonight or tomorrow morning to drive up and see my wife and kids for a few hours before hopping on a plane to New Jersey tomorrow night for UFC on FOX 3.

Here are my favorites from day 3 of SSA IX.

Sports Shooter Academy IX – update 1

Hi everyone. I had hoped the updates would be more frequent through this week but Bert and the crew have just been running us ragged. It’s been great though. We’ve been getting to work with some top notch instructors and shoot a ton of new stuff that I’ve never had the chance to shoot before. And most importantly, I’m learning to think differently. Shooting the same thing over and over for 13+ years develops bad habits over time. Re-training my brain to avoid those bad habits has been the biggest challenge, so far.

Sports Shooter Academy IX officially opened on Wednesday with the re-launch of the lighting luau and workshop. David Honl (www.davidhonlphoto.com & www.honlphoto.com) was the opening speaker, and one who I was most looking forward to. He talked about his lighting system and modifiers and showed tons of examples of how he uses them in the field. I encourage everyone to check his stuff out. After David Honl, we heard from Matt Bailey, one of the founders of LiveBooks, who talked about internet marketing for photographers. A very informative talk that also got me thinking quite a bit about where I’m lacking in my photography business. Myung Chung, videographer from the LA Times, gave a presentation of a few pieces he’s done for the Times’ website. While I’m not a “video guy”, this was a really fascinating part of the day and very moving. Myung is an incredible visual journalist, in addition to a photographer and editor, and most importantly he’s a great story teller. Capping off the day was Dave Black, a Colorado-based freelance photographer who currently specializes in high speed sync flash photography. You’ve probably noticed I’ve been dabbling in high speed sync over the last year, so this talk is what I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Dave did not disappoint. In fact, he gave a bonus presentation after the main talk that lasted for another hour afterwards, followed by a good question & answer session.

The main workshop started on Thursday morning. We all met in the workroom to go over some procedures and meet the staff. Then, signups started for the various events. Some events were very limited, so a lottery was held to draw names for certain things. Luckily, my name was picked for the event I wanted to shoot – Dave Black’s high speed sync flash with Cal State Fullerton Soccer players. So, after an introductory course from Dave at the hotel, we hopped in the car and drove up to the CSF campus. We were originally supposed to shoot on the infield of the track, but the track coach locked us out and sent us hiking to find a new location. Luckily, the second spot ended up better as they allowed us to use the end zone of Titans Stadium. Due to the number of guys shooting and the limited time we had the athletes, Dave decided it would be best to just use his camera and swap out cards. This was my first chance to shoot with a Nikon D800, so I got a double bonus on the day. The athletes were great and everyone made some great photos. After shooting each night, we return to the work room to file a deadline edit. Our best three shots from the day are included in a slideshow for the next morning before heading out to shoot. I’ve attached a few of my shots down below.

Day two started out with the viewing of the slideshow before heading out to shoot. I was originally scheduled to shoot a track meet at Saddleback College with Matt Brown, Wally Skallij, and Shawn Cullen. However, upon arriving we were denied access by the track supervisor. So, we all loaded up and headed to UC Irvine where there was supposed to be another track meet. After paying for parking and lugging all our gear across campus, we find out there was no meet that day, it had been moved to Friday. Determined to find something to shoot, Matt Broke out his iPhone and found a high school nearby that had both a varsity baseball game and lacrosse match scheduled for that afternoon. So, we set out to invade the games. Those poor kids had no idea what hit them. We showed up with a group of 10-12 shooters, all armed with 400mm and 600mm glass. At the start of the game, there were more photographers than there were fans in the bleachers. We were rigging remotes and going all out like it was a world series game. On the whole, the game was pretty slow, but we all managed to make some good photos of it. I left early and missed the walk-off game winning hit so I could go catch the lacrosse match. It was my first time ever seeing a live lacrosse match, much less the first time shooting it. I spent the entire game shooting with my 400mm and a 1.4x converter, giving me a focal length of 560mm, which on my 1D Mark IV effectively becomes a 728mm lens. I stuck by Matt Brown’s side for most of the first half and just absorbed everything he was telling me. Anyone who has worked with or spoke to Matt before has probably heard him say “Get in TIGHT!” That was his mantra for the day. So, I really focused on getting tight angles and lots of facial expressions. I think I had an OK shoot for my first time ever shooting the sport. Plus, the match started about 5pm and ended just before sunset, so we had some beautiful light for the entire duration. I was able to walk around at times and find some really nice side light. I had a great time and I am so thankful for Matt and Shawn sticking it out and finding us something to shoot. I’ve also included a few shots below from my take for day two.

Check out the Sports Shooter Academy website and facebook pages for more on all that’s happening this week at SSA IX.