How I Got The Shot

Greetings from Tokyo, everyone. As I sit here in the airport lounge awaiting my flight home, I’m catching up on the social media happenings from last night. A couple of my shots from the Mark Hunt vs Stefan Struve fight have received quite a bit of attention.

So, I thought it would be a little fun and interesting to start a new feature on my blog where I give you a little insight into what I was thinking and how I made a particular picture. I’m going to call it “How I Got The Shot”. This could be a one-and-done thing, but I hope not. Hopefully some of you find this educational.

For anyone who may not know what I’m talking about, here is “The Shot” from yesterday’s UFC on FUEL TV 8 even in Saitama, Japan.

SAITAMA, JAPAN - MARCH 03:  (L-R) Mark Hunt knocks out Stefan Struve with a punch in their heavyweight fight during the UFC on FUEL TV event at Saitama Super Arena on March 3, 2013 in Saitama, Japan.  (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
SAITAMA, JAPAN – MARCH 03: (L-R) Mark Hunt knocks out Stefan Struve with a punch in their heavyweight fight during the UFC on FUEL TV event at Saitama Super Arena on March 3, 2013 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

I wish I could say I planned everything out perfectly and positioned the fighters exactly where I wanted them, but it just doesn’t work that way. There are so many variables that are within my control. I’ll start with the basics and work my way towards the actual sequence that ended the fight.

First and foremost, you have to get your exposure right. This is a very easy task, but one that people somehow still mess up frequently. UFC has a very consistent lighting scheme for all their shows. I know before I walk into the arena on fight day what I’m going to set my camera to before I ever fire a shot. And, for the most part, it doesn’t fluctuate much from venue to venue or country to country. I can usually count on the following being my settings for the night, within about 1/3 of a stop over or under – ISO 3200, 1/2000s, f2.8, 3400K white balance. I set all three of my cameras to this exact setting at the start of the night.

Before the fights even start, I try to take test shots under the full show lighting setup. This means being at the arena during walk-in rehearsals, which are typically 2-3 hours before the first fight. This gives me a chance to not only check the exposure, but also to check the white balance. UFC uses tungsten lights for all the overhead lighting in the truss, though the blue color of the canvas mat tends to skew it just a bit. I find that setting the white balance manually to around 3400K provides me with the look I prefer. Using the “tungsten” setting in camera (approx. 3200K) looks too cool to me. Sometimes, the color fluctuates too depending on the age of the lights and whether or not the riggers used any gels when hanging them. So, it’s always good to check. Just a side not too, I know a lot of people who set custom white balance using a white piece of paper or a towel. If that’s what works for you, that’s fine. I feel like that also is too cool for my taste, so I choose to do it manually. Look at the images on your computer screen too, not just the back of your camera, to decide what looks right.

Ok, so we’ve got the exposure and white balance dialed in, time for some fights. My assignments always require me to shoot every fight. I sometimes wish it could be like in boxing where people only really care about the main event or the last couple fights. But then again, there have been plenty “Fight of the Night” awards handed out for the first fight of the night. And for this fight in Tokyo, that looked to be the case as Marcello Guimaraes and Hyun Gyu Lim put on a nice performance in the opener. It will likely take you some time to get your timing down and figure out any focusing issues throughout the night. This is where it helps to have a number of preliminary fights before the “important” fights.

I had some good moments throughout the night, but I didn’t really feel like I had my timing nailed down until the Diego Sanchez v Takanori Gomi fight. Diego’s fights are always good for photographers. He comes forward, stays in the pocket, and has a really good chin. If you can’t make at least one good image from a Diego Sanchez fight, maybe you should think about trying something else. Or maybe you were stuck behind a pole and in a bad position for all the good action.

Anyways… Mark Hunt v Stefan Struve followed the Sanchez v Gomi fight. Hunt has been loved by Japanese fans for years from his days of fighting in K-1 and Pride. He’s always had an exciting style. You never have to guess how a Mark Hunt fight will go. He will get hit and he will hit back harder. His fights are typically either a test of how good his opponent’s chin is, or if his opponent would like to showcase their grappling. Knowing this about Mark and having shot a number of his fights, I found myself “sitting on” him, in a matter of speaking. What I mean is that I would put one of my focus points on his face at all times and track him waiting for him to throw something. Unless of course he was turned away from me, then I would follow Struve for those few moments.

Just before the ending sequence, the guys were a little bit more than 15-feet away from me when Hunt threw a big right hand that landed flush. I had a bad angle for it, Hunt was completely hidden and all I saw was Struve’s back, so I didn’t fire my camera. But looking through the eye-piece, I noticed this look on Hunt’s face as Struve absorbed the shot without going down. If I could put it into words what his face said, it would be “What the hell do I have to do to beat this kid?” At that point, I told myself to get ready. I had that feeling he was going to throw another right with even more power than the previous shot.

I was right. Hunt blasted Struve with a massive right hand, followed by a ridiculous left hook. My angle was still not favorable for the first sequence, but I managed to capture it nicely still. I caught these in two 3-shot bursts. For the first sequence of the right hand, I had my focus point over to the right side of the viewfinder up a little from center, dead on Hunt’s face as he launched the punch. I did my best to keep tracking him with the AF point, but to be honest, I’m surprised any of the shots after the first were sharp. For the second sequence of the left hook, you can see the second frame is not as sharp. The action was so fast, I couldn’t switch the AF point and remained on the right side. So then Struve jumped into focus. Below are scaled down shots of each sequence. These are exactly as they came out of the camera, only sized down. No sharpening or cropping at all.

Click on the images to blow them up larger.

SAITAMA, JAPAN - MARCH 03:  (R-L) Mark Hunt punches Stefan Struve in their heavyweight fight during the UFC on FUEL TV event at Saitama Super Arena on March 3, 2013 in Saitama, Japan.  (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
SAITAMA, JAPAN – MARCH 03: (R-L) Mark Hunt punches Stefan Struve in their heavyweight fight during the UFC on FUEL TV event at Saitama Super Arena on March 3, 2013 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
SAITAMA, JAPAN - MARCH 03:  (L-R) Mark Hunt knocks out Stefan Struve with a punch in their heavyweight fight during the UFC on FUEL TV event at Saitama Super Arena on March 3, 2013 in Saitama, Japan.  (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
SAITAMA, JAPAN – MARCH 03: (L-R) Mark Hunt knocks out Stefan Struve with a punch in their heavyweight fight during the UFC on FUEL TV event at Saitama Super Arena on March 3, 2013 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Aside from the focus, I also got really lucky with the distance. Had the final shot been just a few inches closer to me, my 70-200mm lens would not have been able to focus and I would have been out of luck. Sometimes, you have to decide when to switch or when not to switch to your wide-angle lens. I made the decision to stick with the 70-200 as soon as the first punch landed. It cost me the chance to get any sort of jubilation shot immediately after, but I think it was a worthwhile sacrifice.

Once I did switch over to the wide angle, I was able to catch this gem of Struve telling Herb Dean his jaw was broken.

SAITAMA, JAPAN - MARCH 03:  (R-L) Stefan Struve points to his jaw as referee Herb Dean stops his heavyweight fight against Mark Hunt during the UFC on FUEL TV event at Saitama Super Arena on March 3, 2013 in Saitama, Japan.  (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
SAITAMA, JAPAN – MARCH 03: (R-L) Stefan Struve points to his jaw as referee Herb Dean stops his heavyweight fight against Mark Hunt during the UFC on FUEL TV event at Saitama Super Arena on March 3, 2013 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

And that’s how I “Got The Shot”. Hope you enjoyed reading. Feel free to leave me any comments or questions.

Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal

I apologize for my tardiness in posting this blog entry. I had wanted to get it done on Monday or Tuesday, but I just couldn’t find the time. As most of you know, I covered the Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal fight down in San Diego last weekend for Getty Images, Strikeforce, and Showtime Sports. The fights were held at the old San Diego Sports Arena, now called the Valley View Casino Center. It’s a decent venue to see fights, but unfortunately the crowd for this show was not as large as expected. It’s a shame too, because there were some great fighters on the card.

Aside from a fairly odd night of fights, I had to deal with a number of issues throughout the night. For the first 4-5 fights, it seemed like the lighting would change for every fight. It was very difficult to get a consistent exposure and I found myself worrying more about my shots being exposed than focusing on getting the best shots. The night had a very frantic pace to it because of this stress. Several of the early bouts were long bouts, but not very exciting. It wasn’t until Roger Bowling knocked out Jerron Peoples that we finally got some excitement. Caros Fodor followed that up with a brilliant KO of Justin Wilcox. Fodor is one of my guys to look out for in the next year or two.

Once the broadcast started, my position was moved to an abnormal placement, directly behind the red corner. This caused me two problems. First, I couldn’t stand on the box during the introductions because the corner men use it to hold their banner and talk to their fighter. Second, I could not get any good shots of the red corner fighter between rounds, other than the directly overhead shots of them sitting on the stool, which are not at all flattering most of the time.

Given all the issues though, I think it was a good night overall. The Melendez/Masvidal fight definitely produced the most keepers. And while I had a horrible angle to capture the Cyborg KO, I did get some great reaction shots of her immediately after the knockout.

So, without further adieu, here are my favorites from the night. Full take is available for viewing at Getty Images.


Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC on FOX: Velasquez dethroned by Dos Santos!

I had the honor and pleasure to shoot the first ever UFC event on network TV this past weekend in Anaheim when UFC on FOX: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos kicked off from the Honda Center. I was shooting second camera for UFC and Getty Images down in the photo pit, and it was a great night of fights and a very fun experience. Spent the entire night shooting next to my good friend Ed Mulholland from ESPN. It’s always nice to shoot events with colleagues and friends. My friend Donald Miralle was up on the box for us and he got some great shots, as well.

I mostly shot with my trusty 70-200 and switched off to the 8-15 fish-eye when it called for it. Have I mentioned yet that I love that lens? I’ll write a review in the next couple of weeks for anyone that’s interested. Ed and I also ran up top for the Semerzier/Peralta fight and shot from the Press Box at the top of the arena. I had a 400mm which I’m really growing to love. If only it didn’t cost as much as a car. That turned out to probably be the best fight to shoot from up top. I’ll give all the credit to Ed for making the choice on that one, I just followed his lead. We also rigged an overhead remote with a 16-35 which I ran all night from a foot pedal.

I think everyone expected going into the fights that the Guida/Henderson matchup could be the fight of the night, and they did not disappoint. What a great performance by both fighters. It’s a shame one of them had to lose. Benson totally deserved that win, and it’s nice to see how his career has turned around since his loss to Pettis in the final WEC event last December. I really like his chances against Frankie Edgar.

Before the main event, I said I thought Velasquez would take it. I really believed he would just take the fight to the ground and grind out a TKO or decision victory. But, I did say to Ed before the fight started, if Junior lands a clean shot, I don’t know how anyone could remain standing. I honestly don’t know how Roy Nelson was able to weather Junior’s shots. If you’ve ever seen Junior hitting mitts, you’ll know what I mean. To say he has some pop on his punch is such an understatement. And he proved me right when he landed what didn’t even look to be a solid shot, but in just the right spot, to drop Velasquez and then pounced and finished him on the ground afterwards. I didn’t get a clean shot of the punch that dropped him from my hand-held camera, but I did capture the whole sequence and Junior’s celebration on the overhead remote, as well as with the fish-eye. Junior’s celebration was about the best you could hope for when planning a remote. He dropped to his knees in the center of the cage with his arms stretched out wide and leaned back looking straight up at the camera.

I’d like to extend a special thanks to Rebecca How for doing a spectacular job with the edit. And again, huge thanks and appreciation for my friends Ed Mulholland and Donald Miralle. Always fun working with/for you guys. And lastly, for Mike Roach and Kari Hubert. They help me out at practically every fight, mostly shooting backstage and behind-the-scenes stuff. They both delivered again with some really awesome, intimate shots.

Here’s a teaser of my take from the night. Check out Getty Images for the full take from all our photographers.


UFC on FOX: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos – Images by Joshua Hedges