Tournament Photos

Miss Walker Go Pei Sho
Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.

The Academy of Okinawan Karate hosted their winter tournament last Saturday, and I took several pictures, most of which you can find here.

Once again, I just took pictures and did not compete. I’m just not a big fan of tournaments, or of paying for the privilege of looking like an ass. Not to mention I’ve got this ‘spensive camera rig that I don’t use near as often as I’d like…

The tournament — and the school’s Peoria dojo in general — pose a particular challenge to getting good photos. Now, I realize “good” is subjective, so let’s say “good” means “pics Mike is happy with”. This can be frustrating at times, but it also makes for a fun challenge.

The first problem is the backgrounds, especially the crowds of people. For example, the picture of Ms Walker above is a terrific picture of her, but the background is very cluttered. I had to crop the picture way down to reduce clutter (though to be fair I may have done the same crop anyway), and I had to tone down the brightness of the camera a woman is holding over Ms Walker’s left shoulder because my flash had turned it into a bright silver reflector. The pose would be suitable for framing in an office, but would the picture as a whole? The same goes for this picture.

Unfortunately there’s not a lot that can be done about this first problem. The dojo is very long and narrow, and there is very limited seating near the entrance. This means the crowd — and competitors — have to wrap around three sides of the mat. And if I shoot from the back of the mat toward the judges and the fourth wall, I’m shooting the competitors’ backs 90% of the time.

The next problem is the lighting. I was able to get away with not using a flash in the Morton dojo, but the Peoria lights are placed wider apart and one of them is out over part of the mat. Thus, you’ll see few action shots in the photos because I have to try to time the action with the flash (and the flash has to recover between shots). I’d love to catch some burst mode shots and even go for some slight action blur as in this photo of Sensei Miller breaking boards, but I just couldn’t pull it off with the lens I had. There’s a fine line between “motion blur” and “what the hell is that?”

Not that the pics I did get suck. I’m very happy with several of them. I’m thinking for next time, though, I’m going to try to get my hands on a prime lens with a very low f-stop. In English, this is a lens with no zoom capability but much better performance at low light. I’ve got my eye on a 50mm f1.4 that should do the job nicely.

Santa better be paying attention, or I’ll be hiding a fat, bearded, dead body in the near future.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

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  1. Noah L says:

    Dangit, I didn’t know Sensei Miller was up to four boards tetsui already–he’s caught up with me now! I will have to start beating on things again :P. Anyway, there are definitely some nice pictures on there, and I have several of them saved on my computer. Good luck with the new lens–if Santa makes it past you to Arizona, I will see if I can throat-chop him for you, lol

  2. Mike says:

    Yep, 4 boards! Was a good break.

    I’m probably going to say heck with it and buy that lens Friday afternoon. We’ve got the Eureka dojo Xmas party on Saturday, and it will come in handy there. And with the rugrats’ Xmas concerts on top of it, I may as well be ready to go.

  3. Noah L says:

    Well crap–there goes my novelty of breaking 4 boards. Mr Johnston only had me beat by 1 board, and I was pretty much ready to try 5 or some concrete. I REALLY wish I had a makiwara!

    Yeah, I would say that if you have two events coming up that will be in low-light conditions, you might as well get the lens. Plus, you’ll be prepared for the Spring Tournament

  4. Randy K. says:

    Now, I realize “good” is subjective, so let’s say “good” means “pics Mike is happy with”.

    I’m with you on that… my future wife gets mad at me because she doesn’t get see everything I shoot, just the stuff I convert to JPG after post processing.

    The 50mm Primes are nice, I have the less expensive f1.8. The problem I’ve had with it for action shots in low light is depth of field and the Auto Focus. I’ve found that my XTi has difficulty with getting the focus correct in low light, which with a f4 or f5 aperture isn’t a big deal, but when stopped down to f2 or f1.8 the depth of field can be so shallow what I want is blurry anyway. I’ve tried “prefocusing”, but the depth of field can burn you here too.

    Here is an example of what I mean:

    If you look, the woman on the left painting my daughter’s face is in focus, but my daughter isn’t, and that’s only a difference of 2 feet. In this light I was able to tell after a few shots and adjust. In low light, you can’t always tell until your looking at them later.

    All that being said, I’m still REALLY glad I got this lens. It allows for a lot creative flexibility because of the shallow depth of field offered, making it great for portaits, like this:

    I just haven’t found it as useful as I thought I was going to in low light. I think my next purchase is going to be a Speedlight flash or the may be this lens:

    I do like the Kata photos… reminds me of when I competed in Tae Kwon Do.


  5. Mike says:

    Thanks for the pics, Randy. In that first pic, it looks like the camera latched on to her earring when I look at the original. I was kind of concerned about that with the low aperture, but was hoping to compensate by using a single point of focus. On your XTi, are you using a single point, or are you letting the camera use multiple focus points? I like to use the center point only, press the shutter halfway to lock in the settings, and recompose the shot. Sometimes I get an odd result depending how the subjects are arranged, but for the most part, it works out. Of course, that’s at higher apertures, too.

    Incidentally, I see a lot of you in your daughter. Spittin’ image!

    Have you played with that 28-135 lens at all? My 55-250mm is a f4-5.6, and the 18-55mm kit lens gets down to f3.5, so I’m wondering if it’s really much of an advantage. This is also why I’m going to talk to the folks at the camera shop before pulling the trigger.

    As a quick example, just now I turned on my XSi in my office. It’s fairly bright with fluorescent bulbs, and is brighter than the dojo. All the way down at 18mm f3.5, the fastest I can shoot is 1/25 with ISO automatically selected at 400. If I lock the ISO at 800 manually, I can get it down to 1/40-1/60, depending on where I’m focusing in the room (up close vs far away).

  6. Randy K says:

    I pretty sure that the XTi (and the XSi from what I recall) don’t use the 9 point multipoint focus when using f2.8 or faster (f1.8 or f1.4) lens. At least that is what I read “somewhere” (trying to find it now), so I have never switched to single point when using my 50mm prime. Seeing that I can’t find my source for that at the moment, I could be wrong.

    Incidentally, I see a lot of you in your daughter. Spittin’ image! I’m hoping she grows out of that! ;)

    I did play with the 28-135 lens a few months back at a CC, but it was attached to a 40D body, so I’m not real sure how much was the body and how much was the lens. I liked it a lot though. Which kit lens did you get? The IS one? My kit lens was the non IS one, so the 28-135 would be my first IS lens. Mostly though I like the range of the lens, it seem to me to be a good walking around lens. I find myself switching lens a lot, which drove my future wife nuts on this trip:

    I’ve found I only need less the 28mm when shooting large groups of people or buildings in Chicago. Aside from the 50mm, I’ve got the 18-55, an old 35-75 and a 75-300. I’ve found most the time the 18-55 doesn’t have enough zoom, the 75-300 has too much and the 35-75 is too slow.

    Anyway, so we’re clear, I am by no means trying to convince you to get anything other then the 50mm prime your looking at, I just wanted to share some of the issue that I came across while using mine, some of which could be self inflicted.

    You’re also welcome to try mine out if you’re in the area during the holidays, just drop me a line and maybe we’ll meet up and shoot somewhere.

  7. Mike says:

    My wife hates it when I go swapping lenses, too. Heh. Too much “hold this for a second” and “can we put this in your purse?” for her. And no worries, I didn’t take your notes as discouragement. I’m always looking for recommendations.

    The new XSi kit lens is IS. The 55-250mm was cheap compared to most teles, and it is also IS, but as I said above, it’s not a very fast lens (f4-5.6). Wonderful for outdoor shooting, kinda useless indoors without a good flash (I have the 430EX external, which has a great range).

    Between the two I’m covered, but in unexpected places I’ve had to juggle lenses. For example, at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, most exhibits were fine with the 18-55mm. But then we’d walk into one of the more open areas, and to shoot the bats and birds and such I had to switch to the 55-250mm.

    Indoors the 55-250mm is almost useless, excepting a gymnasium or similar setting. I thought I’d have a better seat at the dojo with this last tournament, so only brought in the 18-55mm. As a result, I had to crop way down for pics of people in the second ring, which meant their pics were grainy (for example, here and here I was 30-40′ away).

    I just looked up the autofocus in the manual (since it’s pocket-sized I just leave it in my bag). It says “The center AF point focuses the best among the nine AF points. Also, with a fast lens from f/1.0 to f/2.8, high-precision focusing takes effect with the center AF point.” So yeah, you’re right. Which makes it all the stranger that the pic of your daughter getting her face painted turned out the way it did.

  8. […] threatening Santa the other day, I decided to take matters into my own hands after all and went out to buy a 50mm […]