Photographing ringside at a Boxing match

February 27, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Ringside at a boxing match you can almost feel the punches going in, smell the sweat and possibly get a bit of blood coming your way - the experience is so close that the bravery of those who enter the ring is a dominant thought. 

The first thing of note for the photographer is that the space is cramped and if you have to wire images from a laptop then it gets a bit awkward, add to this the fact that you are bent down all of the night to get the best angle for shots and to stay out of the way of the front row paying spectators - so you need a strong back !

When I am shooting a football match I am a bit more choosy about which frames to take and typically come away with around 800 pictures per game- for boxing at the ringside the action is constant on an evening which will usually have around 8 - 10 bouts so the picture count can reach in excess of 4000 leaving you will a lot of processing (and deleting) to do. On a Canon 1DX Mark II with a 24-105mm lens I was trying to get a shutter speed somewhere between 1\800th sec to 1\1250th sec at a wide open f4 aperture. This necessitated ISO's in the 4000-6400 region. Thankfully the camera copes extremely well with those high ISO's. Noticeably the ability to achieve the faster shutter speeds was very dependent on whether the boxing ring spotlights were in your frame or not.

I was told initially that I would be photographing from the balcony so I had brought my longer lenses and the 24-105mm but when I got to the venue they told me I was ringside, so I was stuck with the lenses I had with me. Had I known I was going to be ringside I would have brought a 24-70 f2.8 and a 70-200 f2.8 but I had to deal with the reality of the situation.

I use back button focus as I find it quicker and I have just got used to the method. With boxers moving constantly in all directions and at close range I had to remember to keep refreshing the focus by pressing the AF-ON button otherwise focus could be lost in an instant if your focus point loses the subject (even with AI Servo mode on), so it adds to the need to concentrate on what you are doing.

I tend to use the nine point focusing area, single point would be ideal but its very hard work to keep one point on target the whole time and the off focus shots would increase markedly if I tried it. The one focusing problem you just have to cope with is that the boxers gloves are very often held close to the face so at a wide open aperture if your focus point(s) hit the gloves then the face can be out of focus which is not good - you need to just be alert to this and keep practicing with your focus to get it right.

On the practical issues you have to watch out when the boxers come very close to the ropes in front of you and back off otherwise you could get knocked and interfere with the actual boxing match. You also need to be aware of how far you are edging out under the bottom rope- you can get carried away with the excitement of it all and not realise that you are encroaching too far out. 

When the fight is finished you can jump up and stand behind the ropes on the edge of the ring to get pictures of the winning boxer with their team but you have to be fit enough to do so.

It certainly is a much better and more full-on experience than photographing from the gallery many yards away.


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