Sunday, August 1, 2021

Having fun photographing fencing at these Olympics - and getting a money shot!

Yesterday was a free day for me since there were no games for USA Water Polo. I decided to get up in the morning and head to fencing, since I always enjoy photographing this sport at the Olympics. I woke up and checked the bus schedule, only to find out that using the TM bus system, it would take me two and a half hours to get to the venue. was time to burn another one of my free taxi tickets. I am currently down to seven tickets left.

The taxi took about an hour to get me directly to the venue, and then I had about a 15 minute walk to the media center for fencing.

The fencing (foil) team competition started at 10:45am here. Luckily, because of the taxi ride I was at the venue early and determined the best shooting position before the US team came out for introductions. Unlike previous Olympics, I was surprised how close we were to the competition.  I was planning on using a Canon RF 70-200mm lens but I was so close, I ended up using the Canon RF 24-105mm lens instead.

Here is the team huddling for the beginning of the competition.

And a high-five as well.

Since this was qualifying, there were numerous teams going at one time. So most of the time I would wait until the American and German fencers moved to a position where the other athletes in the back were not a distraction. But I also had this lit doorway in the background (when the door was open) I had to deal with.

I was trying to include the display when possible.

And, of course, any time I can include the Olympic Rings in the shot, I will. 

I photographed the fencing for about 5 or 10 minutes before switching the multi-exposure mode. My plan, even before arriving at the venue, was to shoot in this mode here at fencing. I did this in Rio and it is still one of my favorite Olympic images. My goal was to match or beat it here in Tokyo.

For this shot, I zoomed back to 29mm to include the rings, the American flag and the American athlete's name.

And then I zoomed in to 105mm to isolate just the athletes in action.

Most people do not use the multi-exposure mode in their cameras, but many of the cameras on the market today have this. It works best in environments like this, where it is theatrically lit. The advantage here is that there is a really dark background and the athletes are in bright clothing. I set the mode this way:

Mode: AV
Multiple exposure mode set to Average
Number of exposures: 4 images
Aperture: f/4
ISO: 2000
Exposure comp: -2 (otherwise the image is too bright when combining them together)

I tried setting the number of exposures to 5 to see how that looked, but I found that in most shots, it was too much.

I switched it back to 4 exposures. The trick when shooting this is to hold the camera as steady as possible, so that the background does not get blurred. I had the Canon camera and 24-105mm lens on a monopod (tripods are not allowed at Olympic venues) and held as steady as I could. I kept shooting when both athletes would move. I was waiting for that one moment with the perfect amount of movement on both sides.

And I got it! This is exactly what I was hoping for. It took me more than a hundred images to get this one, but it was so worth it!

After I got my multi-exposure shot, I decided to try something different at fencing, so I started motion panning. I changed the camera to ISO 100 and set the shutter speed to 1/15th of a second. 

I really like the way that the slow shutter shows the movement of the fencers.

After winning the competition, the American fencer ran towards his teammates. I panned that too!

Since the Americans had finished, I then photographed some of the other teams that had yet to complete their competitions. I did a little more playing around and then decided to try different angles.

For this shot, I stood at the far end of the arena and used the Canon 200-400mm lens to capture the action all the way down the mat.

I liked that I could see through the mask of the Italian fencer, which is a rarity these days with the colored masks. And it was awesome to catch the Japanese team in action.

I captured this shot of the Japanese fencer as he made his move.

And then the competition was over and Japan had a surprising win over the Italian team to get into medal contention. The athletes and coach were ecstatic. 

Luckily I had switched back out of multiple exposure mode to capture this elation.

I love the raw emotion that you see in this image. It really tells a story. And the Japanese actually went on to win the Gold Medal for the first time! Congratulations to them - and the Americans for winning the Bronze Medal!!


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honson said...

Good job ,l love the Multi export image

OnlyInCA said...

What great shots! Love the multiple exposures. They really capture the spirit of fencing.
Catherine Dalessio

Anonymous said...

Outstanding work. Really appreciate the detailed descriptions to go along with the wonderful images.

Anavista said...

Thank you for being so honest about your struggles!

Ralph Hightower said...

Fencing is a great sport for multi-exposure. I handed a coworker my new (to me) camera, a used Canon New F-1, when I heard the shutter fire. That weekend, I went to a boat landing and photographed the lake. The resulting image looked like she was rising from the lake.

Anonymous said...

Once Again....Super

Once again, SUPERB !!!
The multiple exposure shots really pull in the viewers eyes for a great, long look !!!