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UnderGround Forums >> Josh Hedges: 'How I got the shot'


3/4/13 5:30 PM
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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.

(Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

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.

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.

Mark Hunt v Stefan Struve followed.

You never have to guess how a Mark Hunt fight will go. He will get hit and he will hit back harder. Knowing this about Mark, 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.

Check out Josh's Blog to see the two 3-burst shots.

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.

Check out Josh's Blog to see the fallen Struve...

And that’s how I “Got The Shot”. Hope you enjoyed reading.

Read entire blog, comment, and ask questions...


3/4/13 5:35 PM
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Sherdoggystyle
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That's why he's a professional photographer and I'm not.
3/4/13 5:48 PM
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Mulletron5000
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I understood like four words of what he said. Phone Post
3/4/13 5:48 PM
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MikeMorganMMA
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Great job. I wanna see more of these please, really informative! Phone Post
3/4/13 5:55 PM
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nostripewhite
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So. Dude knows his shit it seems. Phone Post
3/4/13 5:55 PM
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ASBELTOMATO
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great pic
3/4/13 5:58 PM
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Team GDP
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Edited: 03/04/13 5:58 PM
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he had 2 series of photo which i put together in paint. looks incredible

http://i.imgur.com/k85awyL.jpg

3/4/13 5:59 PM
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Scott Rotem
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Very cool.

Love hearing about what really goes into capturing these photos. Esther Lin has videos where she gives some brief narratives about some of her personal favorite shots. Good stuff.


ufighting.com 4 life!
3/4/13 5:59 PM
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Sex Chicken
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Great picture and great post. Thanks Josh. 

3/4/13 6:49 PM
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bluekyle
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great post.  Thank you Josh!

3/4/13 7:02 PM
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slamming
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Im guessing most photographers would use the "AI SERVO" mode on their cameras to track the moving targets continuously but it came across that he was just trying to autofocus normally while keeping a AF point on Hunt.

That seems ridiculously hard and frustrating. Not sure if that's what he was getting at.
3/4/13 7:11 PM
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the geek
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This is soooooo incredibly helpful to someone like me. Every environment requires different technique and settings, it's tough to prepare for shooting cage side without experience or a resource like someone who has.

So many question I have had were answered perfectly. I would LOVE to see this article be a regular thing. Phone Post
3/4/13 8:03 PM
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Richard Tuck
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This is one of the best posts I've ever read here.
Sub for VTFU later Phone Post
3/4/13 8:17 PM
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Sakuraba belt
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That would be one of the best jobs in the world, being a sports photographer.
3/4/13 9:28 PM
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snowman95
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YEAH BRO BUT WAS IT AS GOOD AS MY CANON 50D SHOTS OF MY LUNCH????
3/4/13 9:29 PM
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snowman95
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great shots!
3/4/13 10:10 PM
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slamming
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the geek -  This is soooooo incredibly helpful to someone like me. Every environment requires different technique and settings, it's tough to prepare for shooting cage side without experience or a resource like someone who has.

So many question I have had were answered perfectly. I would LOVE to see this article be a regular thing. Phone Post

Me too! I've actually messaged Esther Lin about the quality of her shots, which always look distinct from the rest.
3/4/13 10:37 PM
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the geek
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Edited: 03/05/13 12:34 AM
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slamming - Im guessing most photographers would use the "AI SERVO" mode on their cameras to track the moving targets continuously but it came across that he was just trying to autofocus normally while keeping a AF point on Hunt.

That seems ridiculously hard and frustrating. Not sure if that's what he was getting at.


Not to difficult at all bud. I have my Nikon always set to single point AF and if I'm shooting in landscape I keep the AF point to either the top left or right (rarely in the center) to try and line it up with and eye of the person I'm shooting. I just keep following the subjects eye as they move (or should I say try to haha) and move the focus point if/when necessary. I don't trust any camera to know what I want it to focus on so this technique outs the control in my hands.

Keep in mind that I have yet to shoot cage side ;)

Feel free to check out my work, this isn't a portfolio page just random stuff I post to share with friends and such (you don't need to have a FB account to view this).
https://www.facebook.com/SDHPics

3/4/13 11:59 PM
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Enemies
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For those who are interested I'll give a walkthrough of my photo-taking steps as well.

Take your cell phone out of your pocket. Start the camera app. Point and shoot.

With enough patience and practice you guys can be just like me. Til next time!
3/5/13 1:22 AM
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slamming
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the geek - 
slamming - Im guessing most photographers would use the "AI SERVO" mode on their cameras to track the moving targets continuously but it came across that he was just trying to autofocus normally while keeping a AF point on Hunt.

That seems ridiculously hard and frustrating. Not sure if that's what he was getting at.


Not to difficult at all bud. I have my Nikon always set to single point AF and if I'm shooting in landscape I keep the AF point to either the top left or right (rarely in the center) to try and line it up with and eye of the person I'm shooting. I just keep following the subjects eye as they move (or should I say try to haha) and move the focus point if/when necessary. I don't trust any camera to know what I want it to focus on so this technique outs the control in my hands.

Keep in mind that I have yet to shoot cage side ;)

Feel free to check out my work, this isn't a portfolio page just random stuff I post to share with friends and such (you don't need to have a FB account to view this).
https://www.facebook.com/SDHPics


With objects darting around the cage, having to manually adjust your focus all the time also seems like a nightmare, especially with a shallow DOF. Seems very hit and miss to me when two guys are constantly moving.

You have some great pics there. Good stuff.
3/5/13 1:57 AM
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the geek
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Thanks bud.

Definitely it can be difficult at times but you get use to predicting movement, and once you get use to it you will find that you have a higher keep rate than when using 11/39/54 point auto AF. I am constantly taking photos of my kids playing and that's a lot of chaotic movement haha, but I still find single point AF to gets me more keepers.

Having said that we are all different and if you have a technique that works for you then stick with it bro.

Cheers Phone Post
3/5/13 2:21 AM
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CindyO
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Josh is a UGer. I think Geek or someone should set up a forum Q&A session with Josh like Chris and Kirik have done with others in the past:)

Geek, I'm going to e-mail you his contact info.

 

Cindy

3/5/13 2:24 AM
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the geek
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CindyO -

Josh is a UGer. I think Geek or someone should set up a forum Q&A session with Josh like Chris and Kirik have done with others in the past:)

Geek, I'm going to e-mail you his contact info.

 

Cindy

Love it Cindy.

I'll reach out to him set that up ASAP.

Cheers Phone Post
3/5/13 5:59 AM
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Fraser_Finlay
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Team GDP -

he had 2 series of photo which i put together in paint. looks incredible

http://i.imgur.com/k85awyL.jpg

Bad ass! Phone Post
3/5/13 8:07 AM
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Kirik
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The UnderGround, Mayor

I would love to have a Josh Hedges Q&A. I think him and Joe Silva are the longest running UFC employees.


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