Just uploaded a new GoPro POV video at Gallo Boxing. This time with Ty, a boxing promoter with great swag and bling.
The story behind what happened is that initially I was photographing another boxer, and I was going to take some photos of him working the punching bag. Then I saw Ty on my way over, and was blown away with his outfit (his sunglasses, his patent-leather shoes, and the plethora of rings on his fingers).
Without hesitation, I asked if I could take some photos of him– and I commented how awesome I thought his bling was. He was open and willing, and I took a ton of photos with him– some with flash and some without flash.
I tried to pay extra attention to what I thought was his most valuable asset and sign of strength– his fist. To me it embodied his power, essence, and soul. He was an ex-fighter for several decades, and I feel that the rings on his fist are also a great detail to show more of his extravagant side as well.
After my first mini-session with him, he had to tend to some fighters so he went away for a while. I told him jokingly that I would bug him to take some more photos later, and he laughed and agreed.
After I shot some photos of the other fighter, I walked up to Ty and asked to get more photos of him– this time shots that included his face and posture. It was funny how when I asked him to pose for me, he already had a bunch of poses ready. I joked that he must have been a model– and he told me he actually did model for a long time (this explained his natural talent for posing). At the end, we exchanged contact info– and I agreed to send him some photos and to keep in touch.
Some lessons I learned from this session:
1. Focus on the details
I think to capture the soul and essence of a person– it is often to focus more on the details of the person rather than showing their entire body.
For example, focusing on a fighter’s fist, or focusing on a woman’s lips, or focusing on a child’s hand spilling over with ice cream.
The benefit of also showing less (by focusing on details) is that it adds more mystery to the photograph. It makes the photograph more open-ended, and makes the viewer curious what he/she is looking at. Then from that, they extrapolate to make some sort of story about the person. This makes the viewer more involved.
When focusing on details, it is often good to use a camera that has a close-focusing feature or ability. If you shoot with a DSLR, you have the luxury of focusing extremely close. If you are a rangefinder user, it is trickier as your minimal focusing distance is generally only .5-.7 meters. And if you have a point and shoot you should rejoice the most, because most cameras have a macro function that can focus ridiculously closely.
In this series of videos I am using the Ricoh GRD V, which has a great macro feature. However it has some trouble hunting with autofocus when it is dark, at a close-distance.
2. Don’t hesitate
I think a lot of shooting is based on your gut. What you find interest may not make any logical sense. However I find myself drawn to certain people or characters– and feel an urge to want to photograph them.
The issue I generally face a lot is the issue of hesitation. For example, I see someone interesting I want to photograph and I get nervous– and never end up photographing them. When in doubt, it is best to simply approach someone and share why you think they are interesting– and ask for permission to photograph them.
For example when photographing Ty, I was a bit intimidated at the back of my stomach (the guy looked tough, was very tall, and had a strong presence) but I swallowed my hesitations and simply approached him.
3. Take lots of photos
It is very rare that we make a good photograph. We have to take a lot of bad photographs to get the very few good photographs. Like Henri Cartier-Bresson once said, “Sometimes you have to milk the cow a lot to get a little bit of cheese.”
So when I was lucky enough to get Ty to agree to photograph him, I tried to take as many photos of him as possible (before he got annoyed). I was fortunate enough in getting him to participate — and was also fortunate that he was quite willing.
I often find your subjects are more patient when you photograph them when you narrate what you are doing. For example, telling them you want to take a shot with and without a flash. I also make it a point to count “one, two, three” when my autofocus is a bit slow and I want them to stand still.
I also try to photograph at different angles and poses. Get a bit closer. Take a step back. Shoot a horizontal, then a vertical. Use a flash. Don’t use a flash. What you don’t want to do is just take one photo and move on.
I have always wanted to do a documentary project series– and it is a bit of a shame that I was only able to spend around 2 weeks at Gallo Boxing. However in addition to street photography, I hope to try to pursue more documentary-style work when I move to the Bay Area.
Also for those who are curious, I shot these all on a Ricoh GRD V in “P” mode, at ISO 3200. The reason I didn’t shoot this on film is because I wanted to make this behind-the-scenes GoPro video for you guys to get an inside look. I hope you found it educational and informative :)
You can also download the Neopan 1600 preset I used for these photos for free here.