On Saturday night I worked an Ultra White Collar Boxing event at Plymouth Guildhall. With (at a guess) somewhere near 500 people there, this is the largest event photography gig I’ve done – so far.
Individuals – from all backgrounds – undertake eight weeks of boxing training, leading up to a fight of three two-minute rounds on the night. All of them have in common the desire to raise money for Cancer Research UK along the way. It’s a great evening, with a strict dress code and huge emphasis on safety (with three medical staff on hand, and all combatants using specially designed 16 oz gloves and wearing headguards).
This being serious event photography, I was there with two DSLR cameras. I wear an Op/Tech dual harness with plenty of shoulder padding that lets me carry two heavy cameras for many hours without any discomfort – a LOT better than stock camera straps. On one camera body I had my all-purpose Sigma 17-70mm, and the other a Sigma 30mm f/1.4. The first lens covers all ranges I might need, from group or table shots through to portraits. The 30mm is rapidly becoming my favourite lens; close to the standard (50mm) view of an old film camera (or full-frame DSLR), the f/1.4 maximum aperture is a real wonder in low light situations. Unfortunately the ‘standard’ view was often too tight. Unfortunately there were plenty of times where I needed a wider lens and had to go back to the f/2.8 of my zoom (Somewhere on my wish list is either the Sigma 20mm f/1.8 or the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8; probably the latter, which feels like better value. While I don’t plan on making boxing photography a big part of what I do, that 18-35mm zoom may be the ideal ringside boxing lens).
Of course, just because it’s low-light doesn’t mean you can always use a wide aperture; getting everybody in focus at a table needed around f/6.3 – but fortunately you’re not trying to freeze sports action at the same time.
At the interval, a young lady performed an impressive firebreathing act. Being official photographer I got the closest view of this, perching myself up on one corner of the ring. I could certainly feel the heat.
In between boxing bouts and other organised parts of the evening, I circulated to get images of couples and groups. I prefer shooting with available light as I feel it’s generally more atmospheric, but the light away from the ring eventually dropped so far I gave in and added a flash. I never put this on top of my camera. Instead I control it with radio triggers and hold it high above my head to prevent the flat look of straight-on lighting.
It was a long, warm, busy and tiring evening. And I’m looking forward to the next one.