Alfredo Benavidez faces Danny Mulvihill at F2W 166. Austin, TX.
Attending jiu jitsu competitions brings an internal joy and learning experience that is difficult to explain. While photographing competitions, I find myself looking for new things to learn and new perspectives to consider. Given that every promotion and every venue are different, there is always an element of surprise that I'm searching to work with once I arrive. During F2W 166, the new challenge was a raised platform (hooray for being able to stand for once!) and some incredibly colorful lighting. Ok that last one is more of a blessing than a challenge. And while all the colors made for some vivid imagery, I am deeply in love with making black & white images of competitors that evoke a mood more than capture the action of jiu jitsu. This is something I've been slowly working towards since my first competition, where I am now looking for shadows and colors that will reduce to greyscale very nicely with every match I photograph. The abundance of light and varying sources at this event made for some interesting choices in black & white, highlighting some of the light beams excellently.
I find myself seeking shapes more often when I consider making images for greyscale. When shapes take precedent in this manner, I'm not sure if it's an innate, natural reflex or if it's just dumb luck. I'd wager it's a little of both. Shapes seem to take form more gracefully when my eyes are set on a lack of color. Relaxing the eyes a bit help me see light and shadow better which then lead me to focus on shape rather than action. While capturing the locks, sweeps, and submissions are important, sometimes you just want an image that will capture the essence rather than the play-by-play.
I learn something new every time I do this. Sometimes it's about photography, sometimes it's about jiu jitsu. Either way, I've always got my awareness levels high to see what will be taught to me.