Best Laid Plans

UFC 162 Open WorkoutsAs is often the case with shooting on-location under questionable circumstances, you can only plan so much. Today happened to be one of those cases for me at the UFC 162 Open Workouts. I walked into XS Nightclub at The Encore with the knowledge from my experience of shooting there last July. However, a quick survey of the scene revealed a different setup from last year, resulting in totally different lighting conditions. I always bring along my speedlites whenever shooting a workout because I never know what the light will be like and at least I have the consolation of knowing I can always provide enough light for any situation.

Once I realized how low the ambient light was, I started breaking out my gear and setting up. Shooting in a nightclub can be challenging because those places are designed to cram as many people in as possible and they don’t have a lot of secure locations to mount lights or even put up light stands. I could only find one spot within range of the stage to setup a light stand, so I decided to double up my two FourSquare blocks and concentrate all my light into one source. I put the softbox with six speedlites about eight feet off of the back corner, stage-right from my position. My first plan was to be able to walk around throughout the venue and shoot from multiple locations, giving me a variety of angles for my light source. However, once the workouts started, I quickly realized I would not be able to move at all. In fact, I kind of painted myself into a corner standing on the stage, only having about ten feet of movement left and right. The light source was to my right, about twelve feet above the stage hitting from almost a 45-degree angle. So, it wasn’t bad at all. I had some great ideas for portrait-style shots I wanted to get while in the midst of the workouts. By the end of the shoot, I found myself scrambling just to make any kind of shots.

The real problems began when Anderson Silva prepared to come on stage. He always travels with a large entourage, and today proved to be the biggest yet. He had about thirty people with him, all of whom would be on the small stage while he was working out. So, I was fighting for space the whole time. Being a 13+ year staffer for UFC provides me with a lot of access, but when Anderson Silva is in the building, all that experience and access means absolutely nothing. His trainers and camp will deliberately move in front of you to prevent you from getting shots so their own photographer (with no credential at all) can get the exclusive shots. They will push you around. They will try to have you kicked out completely. I was prepared for all of this as it’s happened several times before, but today was by far the worst situation. Two members of his camp climbed onto the tower where my light stand was mounted and throughout the shoot they used my light stand as an arm rest. So, I tried to keep an eye on that through my periphery at all times. At one point, I was blindly hail-mary shooting over two rows of people who would not let me any closer. Finally, I managed to squeeze myself into a tucked spot on the edge of the mat underneath a documentary camera following his camp. Unfortunately, this meant that I had no chance to get anything of use with 70-200mm lens, which is my lens of choice about 95% of the time. But at that point, I was just in survival mode and wanted to make any photos I could.

When all was said and done, I made it out of the shoot unscathed with a decent take. And all my equipment survived for another shoot. The lesson to be learned here is that you can plan and stress and go crazy trying to make sure everything is perfect, and there will still be a rather large sized monkey wrench thrown in the gears to throw everything out of whack. You just have to go with the flow and try to adapt as best you can. Realize that not every situation will be perfect. But don’t panic and just try to look for other angles and options. And don’t always count on your subject being totally cooperative. It’s nice when they are, but it isn’t always the case.

Here is a look at my take from the day.

UFC 162 Open Workouts – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC on FOX 2: Evans vs Davis gallery

Hello again from Chicago. I’m currently hanging out at concourse C at O’Hare Airport waiting to fly home. I shot the fights last night at the United Center for the UFC on FOX event, featuring a Light Heavyweight Title eliminator between Rashad Evans and Phil Davis in the main event. As I was also the assigned editor, I was not able to shoot every fight, though I got the majority of them, including all three main card bouts.

The main event went about like everyone expected, I think. Rashad Evans really only seems to open up when someone puts a lot of pressure on him. And, after the first round or two, Phil Davis pretty much quit doing that. In the end, Evans won a lopsided decision with all three judges scoring the bout 50-45. I was a little surprised at the shutout. It seemed like at least in the first round, Davis controlled the action and was far more aggressive, while neither fighter landed any significant strikes. But, that’s hardly anything to be upset over.

In the co-main event between Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping, I found myself wishing that fight had been a five-rounder also. Sonnen did enough to win, but I think Bisping really surprised a lot of people in putting on a good performance and making the fight a lot closer than we all expected it to be. In the end, Sonnen is the more competitive match-up for Anderson Silva of the two, and how could anyone not want to see him fight Anderson again? Especially in Brazil.

The first broadcast fight saw late-replacement Chris Weidman taking on jiu jitsu standout and former title challenger Demian Maia. I didn’t really agree with the crowd as they started boo’ing very early on. I thought the performance by Weidman in the first two rounds was fantastic for anyone against Maia, but especially so for taking the fight on only about ten days notice. Both fighters were super tired in the third round and throwing half-speed wild haymakers. Weidman ended up winning by decision, running his undefeated record to 8-0-0. His next fight will no doubt be another big step up in competition, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how he does with a full camp to prepare.

The undercard featured several fun fights, including the fight of the night between Evan Dunham and Nik Lentz. Strikeforce transfer Lavar Johnson scored a big TKO victory over Joey Beltran to grab knockout of the night honors and Charles Oliveira used a series of leg lock transitions to tap newcomer Eric Wisely and bag the submission of the night bonus.

Below is a selection of my shots from the night. Also check out Getty Images and for the full take of all our photographers, including my friend Nick Laham who shot up on the box for the evening.

UFC on FOX 2: Evans vs Davis – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC on FOX 2 Open Workouts Gallery

Greetings from Chicago, Illinois. I arrived in town yesterday to begin covering the second UFC on FOX event for Getty Images and UFC. I’ve been to Chicago many times, but this is actually my first time ever staying in the city. I’m usually stuck in a hotel out by one of the airports or in the western suburbs. But this time, they put us up at the Hard Rock Hotel on Michigan Avenue. And while the weather conditions are less than ideal, it’s really nice to be able to stroll out the front door of the hotel and walk around downtown without having to ride on a train or in a cab for a while to get there.

Today, we drove down to the south side of the city to cover the open workouts at the Chicago Boxing Club. The gym is a second floor establishment without any of the frills and gadgets you see at most gyms today. There were two boxing rings in the center of the room, flanked by a few heavy bags and weights lining the walls. It’s what I would consider a classic boxing gym.

All fighters from the three broadcast bouts took part in the workouts, including Chael Sonnen, Michael Bisping, Demian Maia, Chris Weidman, Phil Davis, and Rashad Evans. Also on hand was Chicago-based heavyweight Mike Russow. The workouts lasted for nearly three hours, though that mostly consisted of interviews. Each fighter, as is typical at these events, only worked out for about 5-10 minutes.

UFC veteran Shonie Carter was also in attendance. He told me he’s “giving this journalism thing a try.”

Below is a selection of shots from throughout the day. You can also view the full take at Getty Images or

UFC on FOX 2 Open Workouts – Images by Joshua Hedges