Lights, Camera, Action!


Breaking the MMA Lens: Using the cage

In the last column, we talked about shooting around and through the cage.

The cage is always there in front of you, unless you’re actually in it. Speaking of being in it, one time I was at a fight. The intros were announced, the first round starts, the fighters start to tussle, but something was just off. The round went on for about fifteen seconds before anyone realized a video camera man was in the ring with them. He had been in there shooting the intros and forgot to get out when the fight started. The funny thing is no one noticed him. Not the fans, not the fighter and not the ref. They almost fell over him before they realized he was there. They had to stop the round and let him out.

So, normally, you’re outside the cage doing your shooting. We talked about avoiding the fence and not getting it in your shot. How about trying to get light bouncing off the fence into the shot for effect? Depending on the angle of the light, the placement of the fighters and your angle to the fence, you can get some pretty interesting effects. Now, I have to admit sometimes these things just happen whether you want them to or not. Sometimes they work, but most sometimes they’re just in the way.

I never use a lens hood. I feel I can’t get close enough to the action as it extends the rim edge of the lens a few inches. The lens hood is designed to keep out glare from lights and eliminates those light streaks you sometimes see. Personally, I like those light streaks. Yes, sometimes they ruin a shot, but when they’re right they can make for a fantastic photo.


If you’re positioned just right, the fence reflects the light. The lens is focused on the action, not the fence. So if those lights get in your shot they are out of focus and you can get some nice effects. You also throw out a lot of shots that didn’t work, but when you get good one, it’s a real keeper.

Here’s where some luck comes in. The out of focus fence lights have to be in just right position to get a good shot. They can’t obscure the fighter and they have to be positioned to enhance the fighter or the action. Like all sports shooting, there are a lot of “almosts” and “if only” going on. You throw out a lot of shots that would have been good if not for the light streaks or reflections.

I try to go with the notion that it’s better to take chances and not be afraid to experiment. Fear makes everything stagnant and the same all the time. Always try for something new, it’s what makes the whole thing so much fun. In an upcoming column we’ll talk more about lens flare and how to avoid it or use it.


Joe LoBianco
Joe LoBianco
Joe LoBianco writes the photography column Breaking the MMA Lens for MMA Crossfire. New columns on the 1st and 15th of each month.

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