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.