If you’ll excuse the pun it seemed like a good way to kick-start the New Year. When a friend invited me to her kickboxing class to indulge in some photography while she trained I accepted. Alpha Whiskey needs constant stimulation to get his juices flowing and photography is no exception. Frankly, I’m surprised it took me so long to photograph this subject; having reached 1st Dan in Taekwondo in my youth, I was always enamoured with the flexibility and physical expression these types of sports had to offer, enjoying less the pugilism and more the forms, aerial movement and speed. The various moves were always visually interesting and demonstrative of how capable human anatomy could be.
Purists would argue that kickboxing is more of a martial sport than a martial art, and perhaps they are right. But these guys certainly made it look artistic and to me any kind of expressive movement is an art form regardless of where the blow lands. And when captured in a photograph it summons Yates’ assertion that the dancer is the dance.
While taking these photos I cast my memory back to graphic novels and old martial arts movies, when camera positions and framing were just as important to the visual experience of the audience as the exponent themselves. Indeed today camera angles and editing are what give the likes of Liam Neeson his particular set of skills, enhancing the visceral impact through clever choreography and positioning.
I would shoot from ground level to lend more height to the kicks, sometimes tilting the camera to bring greater dynamism to the movements (a typical technique used in graphic novels). Combined with wide-angle lenses shooting from low enhanced the scope and impact of some of the movements. I even used the good ol’ fish-eye to deliberately exaggerate some of the kicks.
Any student of graphic narrative art will know that the best way to give a sense of motion from a still image would to be to depict the very beginning or the very end of an action, i.e. the intention or the impact. So while I reeled off a few clicks with high speed continuous shooting I tended to select images at the extremes to edit.
When I had finished picking my teeth up off the floor I switched over to longer focal lengths to capture more intimate portraits.
Alas there were no rays of sunlight lancing through overhead skylights and penetrating a fine mist as backlit silhouettes performed reverse roundhouse kicks on a wooden crate. As you can see the lighting in the gym wasn’t ideal, although there was plenty of it, and it occasionally confused the white balance (a good reason to shoot RAW). And the background had plenty of distractions and objects that cluttered the scene, despite using fast lenses. I didn’t want to use a disruptive flash being in such close proximity to the trainees. Thus in processing these images I opted to apply a slightly gritty, urban look, which I felt seemed appropriate to the subject. May or may not have succeeded. And having shot these at a fairly high ISO (to get high enough shutter speeds) I chose to reduce the noise a little bit. I didn’t want shutter speeds that were too fast all the time because I wanted some blur to convey the speed of the movements.
Anyway, maybe in future I’ll have the opportunity to shoot some competitive contests for a little more rush but I had a lot of fun shooting this training session and hopefully I have captured some of the energy in the action. I hope it encourages you to go out and shoot some images of your own (or take up kickboxing). I wish to thank Chloe (featured in most of these shots) and her instructor George, a former world champion kickboxer, at the GTC Studio for their invitation and hospitality.
As usual this has been reproduced from my blog.