UFC 152 Weigh In

Today saw the official UFC 152 weigh in taking place at the old Maple Leaf Gardens here in Toronto. Was cool to be inside such a historic building, though I was kind of bummed they have completely gutted it and rebuilt it inside to a modern university sports facility. Still cool though, and not just because we were sitting on the ice.

All fighters made weight, thought it took Charles Oliveira some extra time to come in under the limit. The remotes worked out well. I can only imagine how cool it would have looked had we been in a huge, packed arena. Stage left camera was a Canon EOS 1D Mark IV with a EF 16-35mm 2.8L lens set at ISO 2000, 1/400, f4; stage right remote camera was a Canon EOS 1Dx with a EF 14mm 2.8L II USM lens set at ISO 3200, 1/400, f5. Most of the images in the slide show are cropped in quite a bit to lose some of the clutter and dead space.

Huge thanks to my friend Ed Mulholland for lending me his EF 300mm 2.8L IS to shoot the front shots on the scale. I originally planned to use the 70-200mm from the floor up front, but decided last minute to move to the camera platform in the back for a less extreme angle. The 300mm/1Dx combo worked out perfect for the distance.

Also, another thank you (not!) to the commissioner who knowingly refused to get out of the shot after each guy weighed in, even after he was asked to move. Really frustrating when that happens, but what can you do?

Here is a slideshow of shots from the afternoon.

UFC 152 Weigh In – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC 152 fight week

Greetings from Toronto, Canada. I won’t bore you with all the details of my exhausting week up here thus far. I’ll be covering UFC 152 on Saturday for UFC and Getty Images, and have been here since Tuesday night covering all the events leading up to the fight. Below are a couple slideshows from Wednesday’s open workouts and Thursday’s press conference.

I’ll be doing a bunch of new remotes for today’s weigh in, so stay tuned for those shots later tonight.

UFC 152 Open Workouts – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC 152 Press Conference – Images by Joshua Hedges

Greetings from Australia

Hello everyone. Sorry for the lack of updates since I’ve been down in Australia. I’ve been working pretty much non-stop, as usual. The weather down here is beautiful. It’s winter here, so the highs have been in the 70’s and lows in the 50’s. We’ve been blessed with clear skies most days, especially the days when we’ve been scheduled to shoot outdoors.

As you may or may not know, I’ve been demoing the Nikon D800 and a handful of lenses on this trip. I’ll try to write a more thorough review at some point in the near future, but for now, let me just say that I’m very happy with the results and absolutely love the D800 and the Nikon system in general. As a Canon user for pretty much my entire life, it’s very refreshing to change things up. The 36 megapixel sensor is simply amazing, and I think I’ve found a new favorite lens in the 14-24mm.

I can’t share a lot of what I’ve been shooting as we’re filming The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes. The show will begin airing in Australia in September. At that point, most of what I’m shooting will see the light of day. For now, I’d like to share a few images of some of the other stuff outside of the secret stuff for the show. The first couple images are from a media call we did with coaches Ross Pearson and George Sotiropoulos, and the last few were a trip we took to Wildlife Sydney with Junior dos Santos. All of these were shot with the previously mentioned 14-24mm lens, and a Nikon SB-910 speedlight.

Hello from Brazil

I haven’t had much time this week to post an update from Brazil, so now that I finally have internet at the arena a bit of a breather before the first fights start, I thought I should take a few minutes to update you all on my week that has been in Belo Horizonte.

I arrived Monday morning, via connections in New York and then Sao Paulo. All total, from the time I woke up until the time I entered my hotel room was nearly 27 hours. It was very exhausting, but all-in-all a pleasant journey for someone who vehemently hates to fly. I did my best to stay awake as long as possible, so as to get my body back on a normal sleep schedule. I was able to stay awake until about 10:00 pm before finally crashing.

Tuesday was spent preparing for the rest of the week. I did my research on the locations for the open workouts and press conference, and prepared all my templates and code replacements for the shoots throughout the week. As the fighters started to arrive later in the afternoon, I set up a small portrait area and photographed as many of the fighters as I could when they arrived. I think I ended up with 7 or 8 guys in total, but got all the necessary ones, so it was a good day.

Wednesday, was when the real fun started. We loaded up in the van early in the morning to head into the downtown area of Belo Horizonte where the open workouts would be held at Praca da Estacao. Our driver decided he didn’t like the traffic on the main route, so he took his own shortcut and ended up getting lost. After nearly and hour of driving, we arrived safely at the venue. Like past events in Brazil, the workouts were outdoors with mats installed on an elevated stage. Fans gathered in the square relatively early and, in my opinion, there was quite a good turn out. Eight fighters in total worked out, but of course, the star of the show was Brazilian legend Wanderlei Silva. Fans went nuts for him and he put on a great show for them in return. Our drive back to the hotel was much less eventful, taking a total of eight minutes.

Thursday brought the press conference, which was held in an auditorium at the hotel. The same eight fighters participated again and opponents faced off with each other following the festivities. The rest of the day was spent editing and uploading photos and catching up on emails.

Friday, we got our first glimpse of the arena when we headed over to the arena for the weigh ins. The arena reminds me of a bullfighting arena, but with a concrete roof on it. There is, however, no air conditioning. The roof is not completely closed as there are air vents at the top of the seats. But, when the wind is not blowing and you’re standing under several thousand watts of lights, it gets quite warm. Weigh ins typically are quite boring and uneventful, but this time we were treated with two heated exchanges between opponents and one fighter missing weight by five pounds. A quick ride back to the hotel after and then I was back editing and uploading more photos. I had hoped to be able to watch the UFC on FX fights via an online stream, but could never get it to work. I saw a total of about two minutes of the fights. I was able to watch some of the Bellator fights on one of the Brazilian sports networks, albeit with no audio at all. So, it wasn’t a total loss.

And now, here I sit waiting for the first fight in about 45 minutes. The arena looks to be about 1/3 full at the moment with fans continually piling in as fast as they can. When a fighter walks into the arena, they explode with cheers. It gets quite loud, despite not being full. Can’t wait to see what Wanderlei Silva’s walk-in will be like.

Until next time, here are a few slideshows from the week.

UFC 147 Open Workouts – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC 147 Press Conference – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC 147 Weigh In – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC on FX: Johnson v McCall

Greetings everyone. I’m writing to you this morning from the Ft. Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport as I await my 6am flight back home. I barely had enough time to finish and upload my edit before heading to the airport.

The UFC hit South Florida again last night with the rematch of Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall’s controversial 125-pound title eliminator after their first bout in Sydney earlier this year was ruled a draw. The undercard was filled with scrappy fighters who may not be household names (yet), but still bring it.

The biggest surprise of the night, at least in my opinion, was Mike Pyle knocking out Josh Neer in the first round. Neer had been dominating the action and appeared close to finishing the fight himself when out of nowhere Pyle threw a looping overhand right with his back up against the fence and landed it flush on Neer’s chin, face planting Neer for the KO with just seconds left in the round.

In another shocking finish, Eddie Wineland knocked out Scott Jorgensen after overcoming a nasty gash he suffered from a Jorgensen knee. This was by far the most impressive performance of Wineland’s career to date, and was just as impressive of a performance from Jorgensen up until the knockout. The two were rewarded with the Fight of the Night Award for their efforts.

Young Brazilian Erick Silva was fighting for the first time outside of his home country and he didn’t seem to be bothered by any nerves or jet lag as he finished tough wrestler Charlie Brenneman with a rear choke in the first round, adding another impressive finish to his resume.

In the main event, Johnson and McCall went at it again for three fast-paced rounds. This time, Johnson left little doubt in the eyes of the judges, dropping McCall and overall landing much more than his opponent. McCall had his moments, but was only able to win one of the three rounds. After the third round, everybody in attendance wanted it to go to a sudden victory round, but it was not in the cards as Johnson scored a 29-28, 29-28, 30-27 decision victory and earned a shot at the vacant flyweight title against Joseph Benavidez.

Below is a selection of my shots from the night.

UFC on FX 3: Johnson v McCall – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC on FX Open Workouts

I am on the ground in Sunrise, Florida preparing for Friday’s next UFC card featuring the rematch of flyweight contenders Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and “Uncle Creepy” Ian McCall. Today, the fighters on the card made the quick trek across the street to hold an open workout session for fans and media at the Sawgrass Mills Mall, which by the way is probably the largest mall I think I’ve ever been to. The workout was hosted in an atrium area, just inside one of the main entrances into the mall, in a fairly high traffic area. There was a good amount of fans and media there, which was a bit surprising to me being on a Wednesday afternoon.

As I’m sure you probably guessed, I broke out my trusty FourSquare again. The ambient scene was not very pleasing to my eye with the various assorted logos, signs, and banners hanging around the mall, so I decided to load up all four of my speedlites in the FourSquare and really overpower the ambient light. The mat area was a bit larger than normal, so I opened up the zooms on the flash units to 50mm to get a bit more spread. The FourSquare (without baffle) was placed on a light stand about 8 feet from the mat near the center line raised to about 10 feet high and angled down just slightly. For the most part, my position was shooting from one of the two forward corners of the mat such that the angle between me and the light was around 60-70 degrees with relation to the subject. For some shots, I moved more to the side creating a near 90-degree angle and completely side-lighting the fighter. But, as you can imagine, they move around quite a bit, so it’s really tough to get a consistent lighting effect. One other aspect that I really had to contend with a lot today was the trainers holding pads. Often times when the fighter was in a perfect position to me and threw a punch that I caught, he was completely blocked from the light by his trainer. I wish I had a tall light stand to help with this, but sometimes you just have to pay closer attention and be a little more patient.

I shot everything with two cameras running Pocket Wizard MiniTT1 units with AC3 zone controllers on top. all four speedlites were set to zone A and initially set to full power. I used the AC3 to dial down the power to 1/4 power for most of the shoot. Camera settings varied a bit throughout the day, but the most common settings I kept going back to were ISO 800, 1/2000s, f2.8. That was about 2 1/3 stops over the ambient exposure, which is exactly what I was looking for to make for a less distracting background. I could have used fewer flashes at a higher power setting to achieve the same exposure, but I wanted the faster recycle time. At 1/4 power, the flashes recycle in about a second or less, as opposed to nearly 3 seconds at full power. And of course, at the lower power setting, you have less heat and longer battery life. I ended up shooting about 400 shots in total today and the flash units all still had plenty of power to keep going when it was over. For some shots, I decreased the power even more and slowed my shutter to bring in some of the background. The wider zoom on the flashes also lit up a little bit more of the background and the white ceiling and walls than I wanted, but that was the compromise I had to make in order to cover the most mat space.

Below is a slideshow of the shots from today. Please post your comments or questions.

UFC on FX 3 Open Workouts – Images by Joshua Hedges

The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale

Hello again everyone. I wanted to post a brief update after last night’s fights at the Palms for The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale. I covered the festivities for UFC and Getty, as usual. The fights overall were great. There was a good mix of great submissions, great knockouts, and great drama.

The Pearl Theater at the Palms is a great venue to shoot in for a few different reasons. It’s a very small, intimate venue. When it’s full, the crowd feels like they are right on top of you and gives a great energy. The Octagon for shows inside the Pearl is a smaller Octagon by five feet across. So, you can shoot really tight on everything, even all the way across the cage. The light inside the Pearl is also very good due to the lighting truss being about two or three feet lower than normal. This gives you about 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop extra exposure, which for me means shooting at 1/1600 or 1/2000 shutter instead of the normal 1/1250.

This season of The Ultimate Fighter introduced a number of talented fighters to the world, as well as a number of emotional storylines. It was announced near the end of the season that all the fighters who were not medically suspended would be competing on the show’s live Finale, which I don’t believe has happened since the very first season finale in 2005. Unfortunately for Mike Rio, Andy Ogle, James Vick, and Vincent Pichel they were not able to compete due to commission-mandated suspensions. They will all have their chance at a future UFC though.

The preliminary fights started off with a bang when debuting Erik Perez pulled off a slick submission against John Albert in the night’s opener. However, the controversial finish was boo’d heavily by the crowd as referee Kim Winslow ruled that John Albert verbally submitted to an arm bar. Albert and everyone else protested, but to no avail. UFC President Dana White tweeted that Albert would receive his win bonus after the “ridiculous stoppage”.

Massachusetts native Joe Proctor made short work of Jeremy Larsen, earning the TKO victory in the first round with a knee followed by punches on the ground.

The third bout matched up Team Faber’s number-two pick Cristiano Marcello against Team Cruz’s number-two pick Sam Sicilia. The fight quickly turned into a slugfest. Sicilia seemed to be tiring in the second when all the sudden he started landing heavy shots, eventually finishing Marcello with a knee followed by a few punches.

Next, making his long-awaited UFC debut was Myles Jury as he took on Chris Saunders. After a bit of feeling out, the two started engaging and Jury ended up securing a guillotine choke submission in the last minute of the first round.

The last preliminary fight pitted this season’s resident bad boy, Chris Tickle, against the flashy Tae Kwon Do fighter Daron Cruickshank. While this fight had it’s moments of excitement, it also was a slower paced grappling bout at times. Tickle lost a point in the first round for an illegal upkick, and in turn lost the fight by a 29-27 score on all three judges’ cards.

The main card opener was a real treat as Team Cruz’s number-one pick Justin Lawrence battled Team Faber’s John Cofer. The back-and-forth stand-up battle went into the third round where Lawrence landed a highlight real head kick knockout. The fight earned Fight of the Night honors, as well as Knockout of the Night for Lawrence.

Next up were two young featherweights seeking their first UFC win as Max Holloway battered Pat Schilling en route to a unanimous decision victory. Holloway landed a number of brutal body shots that made me cringe at times.

The Ultimate Fighter season 12 winner Jonathan Brookins took on Brazilian Charles Oliveira in the next feature bout. Brookins has to be one of the most calm fighters in the cage I think I’ve ever seen. Always smiling, always having fun. He never panics, even when he’s in real trouble. Brookins managed to land some good punches on Oliveira early and produced a couple cuts, but in the end he saw a guillotine choke attempt of his own get reversed and found himself caught in a guillotine choke he could not escape. Brookins was forced to tap out.

The co-feature was the final bout to crown a winner for this season of The Ultimate Fighter. Team Faber’s number-one pick Al Iaquinta was matched up against Michael Chiesa, who after the passing of his father in the opening days of the show, was looking to finish a storybook ending to his amazing run through the competition. It did not take Chiesa long at all to write that ending as he was able to secure a choke and put Iaquinta to sleep in under three minutes. A stunned Iaquinta sat in his corner in disbelief afterwards as Chiesa celebrated with his mother and sister in the Octagon. Chiesa noted he would have never been on the show if not for his father and said he owed it all to him.

The main event pitted two top welterweight contenders against one another with a potential number-one contender fight on the line for the winner. Jake Ellenberger stormed out of the gates and battered Martin Kampmann with a quick barrage that sent the Dane to the canvas. Ellenberger swarmed him and continued punching on the ground, but was not able to land enough solid shots to warrant a stoppage from referee Steve Mazzagatti. Eventually, Kampmann was able to recover and survive the round. Kampmann came out in round two and began landing punches of his own. He landed a couple nice 2-3 punch combos and had Ellenberger reeling. After a flurry, Ellenberger stumbled backwards against the cage. Kampmann clinched and delivered a knee that dropped Ellenberger. Kampmann followed up with a couple punches on the ground as Mazzagatti dove in to stop the bout. Kampmann earned Knockout of the Night honors in another thrilling come from behind victory.

On a side note, I spent some time with Martin Kampmann after the post-fight press conference as he was being stitched up. I can’t help but love this kid’s attitude and approach to fighting. He is one of the most exciting fighters in the sport today, and he truly fights for the fans. Hopefully now he will get his shot at either Interim Welterweight Championship, or at least the number-one contender spot that he deserves.

Below is a gallery of my shots from the night. Please post any comments or questions.

The Ultimate Fighter Live 1 Finale – Images by Joshua Hedges

The Ultimate Fighter Weigh In Using The FourSquare

Today, I set out to experiment with light during the official weigh in for tomorrow’s The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale card. Unlike previous events I’ve shot at the Palms Casino Resort, this time the weigh in was held inside the Pearl Theater instead of the small ballroom. As soon as I heard about the location, I decided to bring along all my speedlites, mounts, and FourSquare kits. My hope was that the upper level of balconies would be blocked off, and lucky for me that proved true. So, I carried up my gear to the top level and began setting up my FourSquares.

The balcony section is symmetrical, so it was easy to find a spot equidistant from the center of the stage on both sides to mount the two units. I rigged up two Canon 580EX II speedlites in each FourSquare unit. Communications were handled by the PocketWizard FlexTT5 transceivers on each flash, and a MiniTT1 on my camera. The speedlites were at full power and zoomed to 105mm. The rig was mounted on a rail about 30 degrees forward of the stage and aimed directly at the scale.

The FourSquare rigI decided to use the speedlites as my key light and overpower the ambient light, which most of the time at the weigh in is a pretty low exposure and a very overhead light casting bad shadows. The ambient exposure was measured at about ISO 1600, 1/400s, f2.8. I dialed in my preferred exposure on the camera and took a couple test shots. Final settings on the camera ended up being ISO 1250, 1/1600s, f2.8. I kept a second camera at my side in case something went wrong with the strobes, I could quickly switch and at least get salvage some sort of shot. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the range on the PocketWizard units, especially with the amount of wireless gear in the arena already for cameras and microphones. Everything worked perfectly though, and I made some really great shots on the scale. Unfortunately, the position the fighters were put in for the face off was not the normal mark, and thus those shots were contaminated a lot more by the brighter tungsten lights on the backdrop, creating a mix of color temperatures that was very difficult to correct. Had they been about 6 feet forward on the stage, I think the face offs would have looked a lot better. Nonetheless, those even still turned out ok and I learned a lesson for next time.

Here is a gallery of shots from the shoot. I’d love to hear your thoughts and answer any questions you might have.

The Ultimate Fighter Live 1 Finale Weigh In – Images by Joshua Hedges