Martial Arts

Photographing a Gun Defense and Knife Fighting Seminar – Part 2

The second seminar I photographed on Sunday afternoon July 27th was the Knife Fighting Seminar. Sifu Cory Walken hired me through my experience photographing other similar seminars with Arjhan David Brown and Kru Yai Katherine Holmes.

A Serious Lesson:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Students practice knife fighting at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Students practice knife fighting at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

For this seminar, we headed to Gasworks Park on the north shore of Lake Union in Seattle. I was a gorgeous day. Beautiful day. Crisp blue skies with just enough clouds to break the constant color, deep green grass, the brown of the rusting structures.

The Wrong Way:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Stephanie, right, watches Arjhan David Brown, left, and Sifu Cory Walken show an incorrect way to block a knife attack as they teach proper knife fighting techniques at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Stephanie, right, watches Arjhan David Brown, left, and Sifu Cory Walken show an incorrect way to block a knife attack as they teach proper knife fighting techniques at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

As the light was simple, mid-afternoon Sun with little clouds,  I used the “Sunny 16 Rule” for my exposure. Basically, at f/5.6, my shutter was 1/2000th of a second. At f/16, 1250th. Read more here: Sunny 16: An Old Rule for a new Age

Some Layering:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Students with Seattle Close Range Tactics work on their knife fighting techniques during a seminar at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Students with Seattle Close Range Tactics work on their knife fighting techniques during a seminar at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

As I wanted to make sure I had details in the shadows, I used my Nikon SB-910 flash in High-Synch mode or Auto FP. This allowed me to use the faster shutter speeds so I can control my depth of field easier. It’s just a simple setting on the camera.

Scene Setter:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - The knife fighting seminar at Gasworks Park on the north side of Lake Union in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – The knife fighting seminar at Gasworks Park on the north side of Lake Union in Seattle, Wash.

For my Nikon D300s, it’s in the Custom Setting Menu under Flash/Bracketing. Then go to Flash Synch Speed and choose either the 1/250 Auto FP or the 1/320 Auto FP setting. This allows you to shoot using the higher shutter speeds.

What the flash does at the higher shutter speeds is pulse in a rapid series to expose the entire sensor/film as the curtain passes over the sensor/film. This allows an even flash exposure over the entire area.

Demonstrating:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Sifu Cory Walken, left, with Seattle Close Range Tactics demonstrates proper defensive techniques at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Sifu Cory Walken, left, with Seattle Close Range Tactics demonstrates proper defensive techniques at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

***TIP:  Dial down the strength of your strobe to -2 or -3 stops. You’re just adding a touch of fill, not trying to overpower the Sun. There is a different technique for that.

The beautiful light also made my white balance issues go away.  I just set my camera on Sunny and left it there. Made it simple for me as all I had to do was concentrate on compositions and moments.

Up Close With Death:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Sifu Cory Walken, right, with Seattle Close Range Tactics demonstrates proper defensive techniques at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Sifu Cory Walken, right, with Seattle Close Range Tactics demonstrates proper defensive techniques at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

As I stated in the post “Photographing a Gun Defense and Knife Fighting Seminar – Part 1,”  the lighting was atrocious. So getting a good white balance proved extremely difficult. Working outside alleviated that so I was able to concentrate on composition and moment.

Another great thing about shooting at the park for this seminar was the wide-open space. I did not have to worry about walls, mirrors, or the cramped conditions. It was magical. I could also effectively use my 80-200 zoom lens for better lensing coverage.

My Favorite Shot:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Arjhan David Brown , left, and Kru Yai Katherine Holmes demonstrate one knife fighting technique at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Arjhan David Brown , left, and Kru Yai Katherine Holmes demonstrate a knife fighting technique at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

As it grew late in the afternoon, the shadows cast by the participants grew longer as well. I used this as a compositional device to add an extra element. In the photo below, the shadows give a sense of a larger crowd as the two instructors demonstrated techniques.

Leading Lines:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Arjhan David Brown , left, and Kru Yai Katherine Holmes demonstrate one knife fighting technique at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Arjhan David Brown , left, and Kru Yai Katherine Holmes demonstrate a knife fighting technique at Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

What are some of the challenges you perceive while photographing in the early afternoon sun? Have you used the flash in FP mode? What were some of the unexpected results?

Do you or anyone you know in the Seattle/Bellingham area need seminars photographed for their business? If so, have them contact me at paulconradphotography@gmail.com, or use the contact form here: Contact Paul Conrad

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

Also, feel free to share and reblog, link to, and add your site in the comment section.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

Follow me on these various Social Networks:

  1. Follow Me on Google+
  2. “Like” my Page on Facebook
  3. Follow me on Twitter
  4. Follow me on Pinterest

Photographing a Gun Defense and Knife Fighting Seminar – Part 1

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 teaches weapon removal on Sunday afternoon July 27, 2014, at CRT and Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© 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 - Arjhan David Brown teaches weapon removal on Sunday afternoon July 27, 2014, at CRT and Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© 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.

Layers

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Arjhan David Brown teaches weapon removal on Sunday afternoon July 27, 2014, at CRT and Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© 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.

Layers 2

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Arjhan David Brown teaches weapon removal on Sunday afternoon July 27, 2014, at CRT and Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© 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.”

 Mirror Mirror

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Arjhan David Brown teaches weapon removal on Sunday afternoon July 27, 2014, at CRT and Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© 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 - Arjhan David Brown teaches weapon removal on Sunday afternoon July 27, 2014, at CRT and Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© 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 - Arjhan David Brown teaches weapon removal on Sunday afternoon July 27, 2014, at CRT and Gasworks Park in Seattle, Wash.

© 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.

Do you or someone you know someone in the Seattle/Bellingham area who needs teaching seminars photographed for their business website? Feel free to contact me or pass on my information onto them. My email is paulconradphotography@gmail.com

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

Also, feel free to share and reblog, link to, and add your site in the comment section.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

Follow me on these various Social Networks:

  1. Follow Me on Google+
  2. “Like” my Page on Facebook
  3. Follow me on Twitter
  4. Follow me on Pinterest