On Sunday July , Sifu Cory Walken with the Seattle Close Range Tactics martial arts studio invited me to document a few of the seminars.
One was “Gun Defense” with Arjhan David Brown from Houston, Texas. The other, a knife fighting seminar also with Arjhan David and Kru Yai Katherine Holmes.
Arjhan David Brown
© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Arjhan David Brown, center, helps students learn the fine points of gun defense at Seattle Close Range Tactics in Seattle, Wash.
As I have shot many seminars and classes with Total Confidence Martial Arts here in Bellingham, Wash., I was quite familiar with Master David and his teaching techniques. But I wanted to try something a little different.
Sifu Cory Walken
© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Sifu Cory Walken instructs students during gun defense class at Seattle Close Range Tactics in Seattle, Wash.
Rather than stay back a little and shoot with medium and telephoto lenses, I wanted to add some intimacy so I used my 17-35. I wrote in an earlier blog the “3 I’s of Good Photojournalism: Intimacy” how a wide-angle forces you to get close to your subject and adds depth to the image.
© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Sifu Cory Walken demonstrates gun defense during class at Seattle Close Range Tactics in Seattle, Wash.
Also, using this lens gave me a little range in focal length. If I needed to get a touch closer, then I could zoom in. I did use my 80-200 for a few shots, but those were more for close-ups of some of the participants. I used it outside at Gasworks Park to get some sense of place with the Space Needle in the background.
© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Arjhan David Brown, left, teaches weapon removal at Seattle Close Range Tactics in Seattle, Wash. I liked how the one student was holding the gun so I focused on it and used Arjhan David and the student on the left to add depth.
Using a wide-angle lens properly can give you a dominant subject in the foreground with a contributing background. This can also be called “layering ” or “adding depth.” Photojournalist Stanley Leary writes about this in his blog Visual Storytelling called “Depth of Field is More Than Aperture.”
© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Rather than view the mirrors as a distraction, I worked them to find an angle to add depth to a few images. I waited for a moment when all the views had a bit of action.
The key is to use a large aperture of f/4 or f/5.6 so you leave the background a little out of focus which allows the viewer to discern what the image is about. Give hints and clues, but don’t tell the complete story. Let the viewer find out for themselves.
As the participants formed teams of two with Masters David and Sifu Cory observing each, I also looked for patterns to use these in the layering. In a close space such as the studio where the gun defense seminar was taught, it wasn’t too difficult. In the open space of Gasworks Park, it was more challenging.
There was a mirror in the room that at first I thought would be a distraction. But while shooting one set of participants, I noticed I could use it to add depth by getting in more participants. For the result, see above.
Mixed Lighting Sources 1:
© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Sifu Cory Walken demonstrates gun removal techniques to a student at Seattle Close Range Tactics in Seattle, Wash. The left side of the frame is lit by a large, south-facing open window, and the right is lit by various other sources. As the faces on the left are most important, I color corrected for them and let the other elements shift to warmer tones.
But the biggest challenge was getting correct white balance. The mixed light on the students was mind-boggling. There was indirect sun coming into the studio from a big picture window, the lights were a mix of CFLs, tungsten, flourescent, and LEDs.
As I shoot in raw, I opted for auto so I can get close and then fine tune it in Lightroom. Plus shooting at ISO 800, I wanted the raw because if sway from “correct” exposure just a little, the image can look quite ugly.
As I imported the image into Lightroom, I set the white balance to get the best skin tones. This made some of the picture have a touch of funky color. Some had blue caused by daylight entering the room, or some had yellow caused by the mixed artificial light.
Mixed Lighting Sources 2 (A Better Photo):
© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Sifu Cory Walken demonstrates a technique during a gun defense seminar at Seattle Close Range Tactics in Seattle, Wash. This doesn’t show the mixed lighting as well as the above photo, but I cropped in a little and it’s a better moment.
But the skin tones are the most important part of the photo, so I adjusted for the main subject and the dominant light hitting their face. Challenging, but worth it.
Tomorrow for Part 2, we head to Gasworks Park in Seattle.
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Paul “pablo” Conrad
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