Thursday, August 11, 2016

Photographing fencing and getting a shot I REALLY wanted!

Yesterday I made the trip over to the fencing venue to get a shot that I have wanted for the last couple of years. I have photographed fencing before at the London Olympics and really enjoyed it. It is one of the few venues that is lit theatrically. But, if you read the last blog, you know that I was playing with the multiple exposure mode of the Canon camera. I knew that this would really work well here in the fencing venue.

I actually spent the first hour shooting in multiple exposure, and once I was satisfied with the results, I then shot a little bit without it. I am going to start with a handful of regular images and then go into the multi mode shots.

I shot the action at ISO 1600, which still gave me a shutter speed of 1/1250 sec. First it was women competing and then the men came on.

This is a shot of Daryl Homer, who ended up winning a silver medal last night, in his semifinal match.

The moment of victory!

He ran and jumped into his coaches arms. What a great moment.

He then did a celebration run on the mat.

Homer came in 6th place in London and progressed to bring home silver this time around. Look at the elation on his face. Priceless.

OK - now to the multiple exposure mode. In the blog post I wrote 3 weeks ago, I talked about some of the photos I wanted to capture in Rio. One of them was this shot. I love that the newer cameras can combine multiple exposures in the same frame, but it can not be used in many situations. It generally works better in dark environments, and with minimal distractions in the background. Perfect for fencing. So I have envisioned this shot for way too long. Time to get it.

The trial and error

First of all, if you are a Canon camera user, you may wonder where this feature resides. On the newer camera models (generally in the last 3 years or so), there is a menu option for multiple exposure mode. And in this mode, you can control lighting, how many shots you want in the frame (from 2-9), whether you want the individual frames and the combined one, and an option to leave the feature on for many shots or just one time.

I know that some Nikon cameras have this option as well, but I am a Canon guy, so not sure which models.

Multiple exposure mode is a tricky feature, but also takes some experimentation to get good photos with it.

This was my first shot. It is overexposed, but got me excited that this could be really cool.

I switched the camera from aperture priority to manual mode, adjusting the settings to darken the background more and keep the white outfits from blowing out. But I also needed the right moment. In this photo you can see that the action was not right.

I tried using the high speed burst mode of the Canon 1D X Mark II and also the slow burst mode. This shot shows the slow burst mode, which separated the ladies too much. The frame was too chaotic.

I then switched the camera back to the fast burst mode, but this did not give me enough separation.

But, after taking numerous frames, I started getting what I wanted. And yeah, I was loving it.

Using the setting to combine 4 images in the shot, I waited for this moment and got this shot. Not only did I get the action I wanted, I also had the logos lit up at the bottom of the stage area.

I was packing up to leave for the night when I saw that Daryl was coming out next. I figured that I needed this multiple exposure of an American athlete.

So I shot a bunch more frames to get two more that I really liked.

Now the problem is, which one of these do I like the best. Feel free to chime in and let me know your opinion. I think I need some help here.

I hope that this inspires others to try this feature in the future. Pretty cool, right???

I know that I am happy to have these in my portfolio.


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David Robinson. said...

Cracker of a shot Jeff!

Unknown said...

You've probably seen Joe McNally's multiple exposure image of the same fencing event. It seems his Nikon gear results in a little more contrast, and more 'pop'. I also like Joe's composition a little better;not directly in the middle of the fencers, but a little off to one side which shows the American fencer's facemask fuller.

Unknown said...

I really like the next-to-last one in your post ! Great action plus logo.

M Patrick said...

Nice Shots. I honestly like the last shot the best. The foil above the competitor's head seperates the two subjects.

Anonymous said...

I really like your post!
Would be interesting to get a little bit of tutorial how to shoot and create such an image (for newbies)!

Ninad said...

M a canon user....thanks a lot for sharing ur personal experiance till u got that result....thanks is a very small word for this explanation.....we all r lucky to see RIO Olympics through ur eye n vision.

BigPhilUK said...

I like the last shot slightly more Jeff mainly because of the v shape above the right hand competitor. I also find it staggering that people are so rude as to criticise your shot versus Joe McNallys when you're taking the time during your horrendously busy schedule to provide the likes of us with very entertaining and FREE content. Unless of course "unknown" is actually Joe McNally!�� Cheers Jeff really enjoying reading your Olympic blog.

Larry Brandt said...

I'm with Roy, I like the next-to-last one too. Great idea!!

Tibault Sheppard said...

I like the before last one. I am a fencer and for me in this photo both fencers have finished their lunge so it feels more "complete". In this photo you have also picked up on the fact that the double hit isn't exactly simultanious, there is a maximum of 120 milliseconds difference.

Unknown said...

Hi Jeff - great work overall! I have some comments from the perspective of having been a competitive fencer (long ago, in a body 30lbs lighter). I also have a suggestion for improving multiple exposure in camera on the part of manufacturers, which I'll save for the end.

76 is the 2nd pick from a fencer’s perspective. It shows good, smooth form and appropriate blade action. You can make out the attack and parry easily, and there’s a pleasing balance to the composition.

72A is great graphically, but you see the saber’s blade on the ground - fencers don’t want to see that because it’s generally bad form due to the rules of the sport.

75 is actually pretty cool. While the exposure stops before action is completed, you just know where it’s going. Unfortunately, the American fencer’s blade *looks* like it’s contacting his own foot - also a no-no!

42 Rocks, and is my top pick. Shows both attack and counter attack, and the cut from the left landing beautifully. Form is gorgeous on the lunge (a little foot drag, but whatever). It also illustrates the insanely small timing differences between attack and counter attack.

So my suggestion for Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Fuji is to build in an option to tweak the ISO successively like bracketing. Just like changing the curtain sync gives a completely different motion effect, changing ISO progressively through a sequence would give you either darker or lighter changes throughout. So if you start just a tiny bit under exposed on the first frame, then properly exposed by the final frame, the final action would be nicely overlaid as the finish.

You can do this with continuous shooting in post, of course, but not in camera. The creative possibilities there are incredible, as you could easily fire one time and effectively build a more recognizable movement through time. I'm certain the processors are fast enough to manage this, but I don't think anyone has tried, yet.



Unknown said...

Really love those multiple exposure shots. I'm going to have to figure out how to do that on mine. My favourites are images 12 and 15 of 16

Steven B said...

Jeff, great shots. I like the second to last shot. As a former competitive fencer, I was excited to see you posted some shots of the fencing competition. This shot reflects the stability of the camera as the fencing strip is not blurred, and you capture the green signal indicating the touch was scored. The multiple exposure reflects the action of the attack and the retreat on defense with of course, the point scored, reflected by the signal with the Olympic logo clear. Im looking forward to having you capture our daughter's bat mitzvah in April!

Unknown said...

Love the motion effect and the energy of these! I think I am most attracted to the symmetry and spacing in 42. Just a beautiful shot and the logos are like the icing!

So much fun to read this every day! Thanks for all the great posts!

mcfotosfo said...

#42 gets my vote Jeff. Great shot plus you have the Olympic logo sign lit up on the bottom of the photo. Keep on keeping on!!

Unknown said...

I apologize for not mentioning how grateful I am for the daily posts! I look forward to them for than the events. I especially enjoyed the post showing the Canon gear room. I liked the final image; thought the 'V' formed by the two fencers was cool.

Linda Allen said...

Awesome shots! My favorite is the last shot. Keep up the good work and THANK YOU for bringing us on this journey with you!

Unknown said...

I loved the effects of the burst mode, really cool.
I'm thinking, to try a few without so many "subjects" at once. Looks like there are more than 2 competing.
Might be fun to try and make it ghostly type image of movement, by two people.
Just a suggestion...sure you of all people can make it work anyway!

patsjazzpix said...

Hello, Jeff-Always love your work- I love it...I'm shooting my first USA Fencing event Nov 8-11 2019 in Milwaukee...and I'm reading all about it before my first met tomorrow! Thanks for your insight and examples!