May 2016 | Issue no. 25 | by mark shaiken

“Boxing is the only sport you can get your brain shook, your money took and your name in the undertaker book.” Joe Frazier.   And yet, while it is a sport that you may love to hate and hate to love, there is something magnetic and compelling about two athletes in a ring of limited size playing a game of chess with each other as they move, and dance, and study, and defend, and attack, and of course, punch each other.


Shooting boxing is challenging. The lighting is usually not great, the ring is limited in size, you are usually below the action (an unusual vantage point) and there are obstacles in every shot – the ropes and the referee, that third person in the ring who seems to be in more shots than you might prefer. Here are some things to think about if you find yourself ringside with your camera shooting the sport.


Positioning: The ring is elevated. Boxers step up stairs to get into the ring. So, typically, you will be at about ankle and calf height looking up with the ropes between you and the action. The ring extends a couple of feet beyond the ropes.  At the annual Ringside Boxing Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri, they run 6 rings simultaneously as boxers from all over North America vie for the championship in their age and weight class. It is up to each referee to decide how close you can actually get to the ring, with some permitting you to rest elbows on the part of the ring that extends beyond the ropes, while other referees want you a little further back.


Get as close as the referee will permit but make sure that you and your lens in no way find themselves in the ring. And remember, the closer you get, the greater the likelihood that one of the boxers will fall on you so Caveat Pretium. As to the ropes, rather than be frustrated, embrace the obstacle ’cause them ropes ain’t going anywhere.  Shoot under as best as you can or incorporate them into the shot.


Dealing with the Light: High ISO. There really is no other fix.


Aperture: f / 2.8 to f / 5.6 will work nicely to capture a small depth of field and blur some of the background. The boxers are not always in the same plane so often, the needed depth of field is the length of two boxers facing each other. In this case, the higher f / 5.6 will be needed to make sure both boxers are in focus, or stick with f / 2.8 and use the blur for effect.


Shutter Speed: Boxers typically do not move around the ring with great speed but the punches can be fast – maybe 25 – 35 mph. So, a shutter speed of around 1/800 second will be needed.

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White Balance: The lighting can be so bad at times that Auto White Balance is really the only way to go.  Don’t fight the lights; let your camera be your sherpa.


Boxers are interesting people. They come to boxing for different reasons, maybe to get off of the streets, maybe to get in shape, maybe to challenge themselves. They make for great portrait work if you can find one that will let you set up lights and follow them through a work out.

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One such boxer, Jessica Kidd from Denver, let me into her world to shoot her workout. The lighting was simple – 3 speedlights camera left, right and behind where possible, triggered by Pocket Wizard Flex TT5s in hypersync to exceed the usual top sync speed of 1/250th of a second (see do :: or :: diso issue no. 3).


Here is my interview of Jessica in which she describes her journey to boxing.

Did you play sports in high school or college and if so, which sports?

I started playing sports in middle school, both volleyball and basketball. In high school, I attempted several sports, including diving, which I found to not be my strong suit.. cross country, track, high jump long jump and discus along with some relay as well. But, gymnastics was my favorite through high school, which I was a part of until my junior year where I broke my collarbone and was unable to participate the rest of the season. In college I joined a recreational volleyball team at Metro State, more for fun, but I still wanted to be involved in sports.

When did you get into fitness?

Being active is a part of who I am. In grade school you would find me playing soccer with the boys during recess, and in middle school I played basketball at lunch. I was the only girl playing and new to the school, so I was often picked last, until they realized I wasn’t such a bad player!  But as the years continued I wanted to find new ways to challenge myself and take my fitness to new levels, both mentally and physically. I did so in high school, and have every year since, continuing to step up my game in my athletic choices.


When did you start competing?

In 2011 I stumbled upon fitness competitions and decided to give it a go! I haven’t stopped competing since, and received my pro card with the WBFF (World Beauty Fitness and Fashion) organization in August 2014.

How did fitness lead you into boxing?

Again, seeking that next level in my fitness, I started going to drop in classes at a local boxing gym, Touch of Sleep Boxing Gym. Boxing had always been a favorite sport to watch and I though what better workout and way to push myself. But of course it couldn’t stop there, I had the urge to step in the ring. I thought that the training alone would be harder than anything I’d done, it requires both physical and mental strength. It was the hardest, but I loved it.

What is it about boxing that keeps you going back to the gym to train?

Boxing keeps you in check. You leave your ego at the door and accept the fact that you’ll have good days, and not so good days. But it’s also the place you can come to and let everything go, focus all of your energy on your technique and work in the ring and push yourself to limits you never thought possible. There is always something to learn about yourself, to grow from. It strengthens you in life. That is what keeps me going back, outside of the awesome workout itself.

How did you find DaVarryl [Wiliamson of TOS Boxing Gym] to teach and train you?

A friend of mine had told me about DaVarryl’s gym back in 2011. I went on my own one night and fell in love. That’s where I started the drop in classes. I’d gone off and on over the last 4 years, while I was training for fitness competitions I would take some time away to focus in the gym instead. In December 2015, I went to DaVarryl and asked if it was realistic to actually fight. And there started the journey to Colorado Golden Gloves in March 2015!


Describe your boxing routine?

I was in the boxing gym 6 days a week, training for at least 2 hours. About an hour of that was conditioning, which could include running on the treadmill, pull ups, push ups, ab work, suicide sprints, dips, wall sits, handstands, battle rope, step ups, and a variety of other high intensity workouts. The other hour was boxing, in the ring with DaVarryl or Jameson (another coach), holding mitts. Learning the technique, combinations, head movement, feet movement, as much as I possibly could to prepare myself. I trained for three months, which was far less than I needed in order to truly be prepared. I had some unforeseen circumstances come up that stopped me from starting training a few months earlier than that.

Do you lift weights while training for boxing?

I do. I continued to lift through my training, but should have kept it at a much lighter weight routine in order to not fatigue my muscles or create added soreness before heading into boxing training. All things learned through the process, but I think lifting weights helped in areas too. I maintained strength and muscle as I was dropping weight for the fight.


How does sparring differ from competitive boxing?

Sparring is practice for what’s to come. Your sparring partner does not take it any easier because you’re sparring, it’s just like being in the ring for a fight. You are there to learn and practice and rid any fears of getting hit or simply being in the ring with another fighter. I often felt that sparring was harder than the actual fight because I was partnered with people far better than me, which only helped me learn. Most of them I knew, some I didn’t, and you go as long as your coach tells you to versus the given three one minute rounds in masters boxing.

Boxing can lead to injuries not seen in many sports. How do you process that?

While I am aware of what types of injuries can happen, I don’t actually give it much thought or focus my energy on it. That could be good or bad, but I just do my work and if I have learned right and done what I needed to, I shouldn’t be experiencing those types of injuries.


Next month, do :: or :: diso takes a look from behind.



Mark Shaiken skylineDenver based, mark shaiken :: photography
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