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 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 on FOX open workouts gallery

Nate Diaz works out for the fans and media during the UFC on FOX open workouts at Church Street Boxing Gym on May 2, 2012 in New York, New York.Today was my first day covering events for the UFC on FOX card on Saturday night here in New Jersey. We got up really early this morning to drive into the city to Church Street Boxing Gym where the workouts were being held. This was my first time at the Church Street Gym and I was really impressed with the layout. It worked out really well for my lighting ideas as there was a balcony above the mat area that allowed me to mount a light. My plan from the outset was to shoot everything using high speed sync flash, which I’ve done several times in the past, but this time I wanted to push the limits even more and try a couple techniques I haven’t before.

Aside from a couple minor hiccups in the beginning, everything went very smooth and overall produced the results I was looking for. If I had to change anything, I would have probably narrowed my triangle a little between myself, the fighter, and the light. But I still think this looks really good. Most of these shots were taken with the following settings, though there was some variance – ISO 800, 1/1250s, f2.8, white balance 5600K. The light mounted on the balcony was a single Canon 580EX speedlite, running at 1/2 power. The face of the light was probably setting about 15-20 feet from the center of the mat. For the blurred shots, I used second-curtain sync at 1/15s, f16.

Take a look at the gallery and let me know what you think.

UFC on FOX 3 Open Workouts – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC on FX 2 open workout gallery

Ian McCall - UFC on FX 2 Open WorkoutsHello again from not-so-sunny Sydney, Australia. Today was a complete wash-out, so I never made it out of the hotel. Here’s hoping for better weather the rest of my stay here. My wife Jody and her sister will be arriving in the morning, and I’m hopeful their first trip to Australia will be filled with all the great sights I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. Luckily, the bad weather allowed me to focus on getting some work done. I shot a number of portraits of with some of the guys on the card and prepped the final headshots for the production team.

As I mentioned previously, we hit the ground running yesterday and shot the open workouts before even checking into the hotel. The workouts were held in a dimly lit corner of the casino back behind the 24/7 sports bar. A selection of the top six fighters on the card and a couple of the native Aussie’s worked out for the media contingent.

Below is a selection of shots from the morning’s workout sessions. As always, check out the full take on UFC.com and Getty Images.

UFC on FX 2 Open Workouts – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC Japan Open Workouts

Greetings from Tokyo, Japan. I arrived here on Tuesday afternoon to cover all the events during the week for UFC 144: Edgar v Henderson, which takes place Sunday afternoon at the Saitama Super Arena. This marks the UFC’s first visit to the Land of the Rising Sun since December 2000, and promises to be a huge event. Several notable Japanese fighters are featured on the card, including Yoshihiro Akiyama, Yushin Okami, Takanori Gomi, and Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. In the main event, UFC Lightweight Champion Frankiei Edgar continues his quest to be the most traveled UFC Champion as he defends his title against former WEC Champion Benson Henderson.

Yesterday, I covered the open workouts at Gold’s Gym in the Harajuku district. The area the gym set aside for the workout was quite small, a room that measured maybe 30×30 feet. The media turnout was good, including a strong contingent of North American press, as well as the expected Japanese websites, magazines, papers, and TV networks. The room proved to be far too small for the crowd that gathered, but everyone was polite and friendly, so it all worked out good. The mat area only measured about 15×15, so the fighters really didn’t have a lot of room to workout. Most guys just did short shadowboxing routines and hit pads for just a few minutes.

Below is a gallery of the images I captured throughout the day. Lighting was a single 580exII speedlite on a 7′ stand. Most shots were captured using high speed sync at 1/1000, f4. As always, I encourage you to check out the full take at UFC.com and Getty Images.

UFC 144 Open Workouts – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC 141 Open Workouts Gallery

With UFC 141 coming up this Friday, I wanted to share my coverage from all the events this week leading up to the fight. The first of which were the media open workouts which took place over at the Ultimate Fighter Gym on Tuesday. Only four fighters were scheduled to appear, and of those four, only three worked out. I’ll give you one guess who the individual was that chose not to participate. I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the first time he’s done something like this. That wasn’t the only drama of the afternoon though. Due to the shift in scheduling, Donald Cerrone was brought into the gym early to begin his workout while Nate Diaz still stood some 30-feet away doing interviews. Through his entire workout, Cerrone continually looked over Diaz’s way and muttered various obscenities to himself, while hitting and kicking the pads harder and harder each time. Eventually, Diaz left and Cerrone finished his pad work, wrapping up the somewhat abbreviated workouts.

My lighting setup in the dimly lit gym consisted of two Canon 580EX II speedlites, raised to about ten feet high and shooting almost straight across from each other. One was set to 1/8 power and the other 1/16 to create a little bit of shadow. I shot most of the images perpendicular to the lights to further enhance the shadows.

Below is my selection of favorite shots from the afternoon. You can see the full take on Getty Images or UFC.com.

UFC 141 Open Workouts – Images by Joshua Hedges

UFC 138 open workouts

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m across the pond in Birmingham, UK for UFC 138: Leben vs. Munoz. After a lengthy day/night of travel, I arrived at my hotel around 9am Wednesday morning. I had just enough time for a quick shower and breakfast before heading downstairs to photograph the fighters during the open workouts. The open workouts for UK based events are typically very low key. This one was no different. A group of 15-20 people was on hand to watch as the main event fighters – Mark Munoz and Chris Leben – as well as a handful of UK based fighters worked out. Most of the fighters didn’t do anything intense, with the exception of Jason “Shotgun” Young and Brad “One Punch” Pickett. As you can see from the gallery below, these two were the highlights of the afternoon.

Lighting was minimal in the small meeting room, so I setup two Canon 580ex speedlites at opposite ends of the mat. I like doing this when I can, because it gives me the ability to control the lighting just by walking around to different spots around the fighter. Want really harsh shadows, just move around so that the light is directly to the side. Want it more flat, just stand so that the light shoots the same direction your camera is pointed.

UFC 138 Open Workouts – Images by Joshua Hedges