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

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

The Ultimate Fighter Live Open Workouts

Today, UFC hosted an open workout session for members of the media featuring fighters from this Saturday’s live season finale of The Ultimate Fighter. I covered the action at the UFC Training Center for Getty Images and UFC.

This was my second shoot using my FourSquare units, made by Paul Peregrine’s company Lightware. The gym was a much more ideal location to feature this lighting setup, and I’m very happy with the results. I loaded each unit with two 580EX II speedlites, each running at half power. I can’t wait until I can afford to add four more speedlites to be able to fully load each FourSquare, or even double up and make an “EightSquare” like Dave Black did for his surfing shoot. The lights were positioned opposite each other, about 16 feet from the center of the Octagon and about 15 feet high, angled down. I zoomed all the flash heads to 105mm, which created a fairly narrow strip of light that ran across the Octagon. I’d say the section of best illumination was about 8 feet wide in total. Anywhere outside that section, I had to adjust my settings to accommodate the fall off.

For most of the shots, I positioned myself centered between the lights, about 10 feet in front of their plane, so that the light was shooting directly across my frame. I moved around a little and just followed the fighters wherever they went, so some shots the light wraps around more than others. I put each FourSquare on a separate zone so that I could control their power independently, or turn one off completely using the PocketWizard AC3 zone controller, which by the way is an awesome product for a fraction of the cost of the Canon controller.

For the most part, I kept my camera settings at ISO 400, 1/1600, f2.8. Ambient light was pretty low in the gym, so I decided not to try to incorporate it and just used the FourSquare as my main light source. The backgrounds were also crowded with people and gear at times, so all the more reason to not expose for the ambient.

I think the only thing I wish could have gone differently was to have the fighters do more intense workouts. Most only did short shadow boxing routines. Of course, it’s the day before their weigh in, so it’s understandable that they don’t want to go crazy hitting pads or anything. I’m hoping to get into some training camps with these units soon and then I think they will really make some great pictures.

I’d love to hear your opinions and answer any questions you might have. Post a comment here or email me through my website.

Here is a slide show of shots from the shoot.

The Ultimate Fighter Live 1 Open Workouts – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC 146: Dos Santos v Mir Gallery

I spent the better part of the day and night Saturday at MGM Grand shooting UFC 146: Dos Santos v Mir for UFC and Getty Images. There was a lot of hype behind this historic card, being the first time in the modern UFC era that a main card had consisted entirely of heavyweights. And when it was all said and done, the card lived up to the hype, and then some.

Despite the emphasis in marketing the heavyweight fights on the card, there were several really good undercard fights, as well. Longtime UFC hopeful Glover Teixeira made his debut, putting away Kyle Kingsbury very quickly in dominating fashion. Paul Sass pulled out yet another triangle choke submission against Jacob Volkmann. Late replacement Jamie Varner finished the previously unbeaten Edson Barboza.

The main card kicked off with the tallest fighter in the UFC, Stefan Struve, jumping guard on two-time KO of the Night winner Lavar Johnson and quickly arm barring him. This earned Struve another Submission of the Night bonus and pushed him another step up the ladder in the heavyweight division. Next up was a battle of two unbeatens, as 8-0 Stipe Miocic battled 11-0 Shane Del Rosario. Del Rosario looked good in the early goings, landing a lot of kicks. The first time Octagon jitters didn’t seem to bother him. As the fight drew on, though, Miocic began to land strikes of his own before getting the fight to the ground where he ended it with some brutal elbows.

In the third heavyweight feature bout, Roy “Big Country” Nelson made quick work of Dave Herman with a brutal overhand right, sending Herman crashing to the canvas and earning Nelson another Knockout of the Night bonus. That bout was followed up by Cain Velasquez quickly TKO’ing Antonio “Big Foot” Silva in one of the bloodiest fights I’ve ever witnessed. Cain split “Big Foot” open early in round one and jumped on him like a lion on a gazelle. Referee Josh Rosenthal finally halted the bout a couple minutes later after “Big Foot” could not see through all the blood.

Finally, the main event saw Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos trying to do what previous champion Cain Velasquez was not able to do, successfully defend his title. Dos Santos’ original opponent, Alistair Overeem was removed from the card after a pre-fight drug screening denied him a license for the fight. Frank Mir stepped in on about 6 weeks notice to take the fight, and looked to pose an interesting challenge to the champion. As the fight unfolded though, the champ took control. A barrage at the end of the first round nearly ended the fight, but it would come just a couple minutes later in the second round when Dos Santos floored Mir with a straight right and followed up with some crashing hammer fists on the ground. The champ scored another highlight reel KO, and I nailed the shot!

I had a great time shooting the fights again and catching up with friends and colleagues, including Donald Miralle, Rod Mar, James Law, Esther Lin, and Paul Thatcher. I encourage you to check out their shots from the night, as well.

Below is my selection of shots from the night. As always, check them out on Getty Images and

UFC 146: Dos Santos v Mir – Images by Joshua Hedges

Urijah Faber v Renan Barao portrait shoot

A couple weeks ago, I was summoned on a day’s notice to shoot portraits of Urijah Faber and Renan Barao for the poster art for their upcoming interim UFC Bantamweight Championship bout at UFC 148. The direction was simple – “get a good face off shot”. The budget was non-existent. The space to be used was our office building, though I was not allowed access to the studio due to another crew utilizing it. With my wife working for free as my first assistant, we setup the seamless and lights in the area of the office which I like to refer to as the “call center”. It’s a crowded space of cubicles that used to house our operations department. It’s vacant at the moment, but there still isn’t a lot of space. We hung the nine-foot seamless against the wall and got a sweep of about seven feet off the wall. This didn’t give me enough room to use separate background lights and hair lights, so I just used a sport-type reflector to light the background while throwing a bit of light on the back of the subject. The key light was a thirty-inch softbox about three feet overhead of the subject and about one foot in front with a slight angle towards the subject. For a fill light, I used a second boom with a thirty-inch octabox centered just above the camera, at about eye-level with the fighters. I didn’t bother with a fill light for the legs since the artwork only called for a knees-up shot and would have a gradient laid over the bottom.

I had each guy for a total of about five minutes, and the two of them together for the face off for about a minute. So, the point was to just focus on the shots that were absolutely necessary and then try to get extras if time allowed.

For this shoot, I used my Speedotron strobes – four 202vf heads, two 805 packs (fill and key lights), and a 2405 pack (background/back lights). This could have easily been achieved with speedlites, as well. I had my speedlites and modifiers with me in case there was an issue with the power, but they never came out of their case. Settings were as follows: key light f11, fill light f5.6 1/2, background/back lights each measured just a bit over f5.6 at the subject and f8 at the center of the backdrop. Camera settings were ISO 100, shutter 1/160, aperture f11.

Here are a few shots from the day.

Playoff hockey

Tonight, I covered game one of the ECHL Western Conference Semifinals between the Las Vegas Wranglers and the Idaho Steelheads. As I mentioned before, these two teams have quite an intense rivalry. This became evident very early on when a member of the Steelheads on the bench pulled a move straight out of the Hanson brothers’ playbook by clotheslining a passing Wranglers skater early in the first period. Somehow the referees missed this, which only led to more brutal hits throughout the game.

Steelheads goalie Jerry Kuhn was the superstar of the first period making some fantastic saves. Early on, it looked like the Wranglers were going to be in trouble after being blanked in the first. The Wranglers finally netted two goals in the second period though. A third goal was disallowed by the referee for some reason unknown to everyone in attendance. The puck hit the pipe in the back of the net and bounced out like it hit the cross bar. The referee immediately waved it off and signaled for play to continue. I guess the ECHL does not have any sort of goal review. Fortunately it didn’t end up being a factor in the final outcome of the game. Kuhn finished the night saving 43 of 45 shots. The Wranglers netted a third goal in the closing minutes of the third period on an empty net to seal the victory.

I didn’t get to spend as much time shooting down at ice level as I would have liked, but I made the best of the situation I was dealt. Luckily, I had a 300mm lens with me tonight in addition to the 400mm. The 300mm proved to be a much better option for this small arena. I barely used the 400mm at all.

Below is a selection of my shots from the night.

Wranglers v Steelheads – April 16, 2012 – Images by Joshua Hedges

The Good Old Hockey Game

You may have seen me post recently on twitter or facebook about covering some of the local sports teams here in Vegas. Tonight was my first opportunity to shoot a Las Vegas Wranglers hockey game, and actually it was my first time ever shooting hockey. I’ve been a fan of hockey for a long long time and have attended a number of NHL games across the country. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to shoot the game tonight, and I look forward to next Tuesday’s game against the Alaska Aces, which I will also be shooting.

In anticipation of this shoot, I rented a 400mm 2.8L lens from Was my first experience renting from them, and I must say I’m extremely impressed. You all know I’m a diehard fan of, but in this case, had the lens I needed and gave me a much better deal for the 10-day rental.

Alas, back to the game. I started out shooting down on ice level through the port holes in the glass. I was nervous at first and felt like I couldn’t control my jumping back any time the puck hit the glass anywhere near me. Eventually, I relaxed and started paying more attention to the action instead of worrying about getting smacked with an errant puck. The first period saw little action, and produced very few photos. I started to worry that I needed to change my position or something, but really all I needed was better action to shoot. And luckily, the action picked up in the second period. The guys came out hitting hard and taking a lot more shots. After a scoreless first, there were three goals in seven minutes to open the second, including a penalty shot. Once I felt like I had enough keepers from down at ice level, I moved up to the concourse level to shoot with the 400mm. For this particular arena, the 400mm was too much lens. Not by a lot, but I think I could have been better off with a 300mm. The 400mm is always my “go to” long lens, and I didn’t really consider that a smaller arena might mean the overhead positions are too close. Nonetheless, I still got a good number of shots I liked from up top. The game ended up going into overtime and then a shootout, which Idaho won 3-2.

I was thoroughly surprised with the crowd. Las Vegas is not really a hotbed for any professional sports, especially hockey. But the attendance tonight was just shy of 7,000 and the crowd seemed to be very passionate and educated on the sport. It was very refreshing to see there’s more to Vegas than gambling and partying. Perhaps a major professional sports team could do well here?

Below is a gallery of shots from tonight’s action. Please let me know what you think.

Wranglers v Steelheads – March 24, 2012 – Images by Joshua Hedges