For a few years as part of my work with Thai Boxing Store I was provided the opportunity to photograph some top level Thai Boxing (Muay Thai). I had previously photographed some local Thai Boxing shows that most of the time equated to enjoyable scraps in a Thai style but I never really had the chance to photograph a fighter who had good form. When Thai Boxing Store started to do the sales stall at the Bolton shows I acquired a photo pass and proceeded to spend 12 hours at a time in front of the screaming crowd witnessing some truly incredible flights from ring-side.
Photographing sport is technically challenging. You need to be able to track the movement and anticipate key moments. At the higher ability levels athletes move faster and everything tends to be more tactical and deliberate. Having some degree of observational experience or direct experience helps so if you are planning on photographing any sport do some prep work. For me, I had been practicing Muay Thai for fitness and for fun for several years. I am in no way any good at the sport, but having an understanding of the basics helps with anticipating what is going on. Understanding that fighters go from probing attacks to 3/4 strike combos and the defensive methods used with ring craft helps with trying to capture at least a handful of decent shots. Factors you have to work around for this type of indoor event are the lighting, finding a place at ring side to setup, the ropes, the people in each fighter’s corner (they can get a little saucy at times), the audience behind you and the sheer length of time these shows ran for (12+ hours). I started off using my D800 and quickly worked out that it didn’t have the ISO capability for the light levels and the speed of movement of the fighters. This was one of my reasons for buying a D750.
There were many memorable moments, but my top three are:
1) Bernise Alldis vs Tanya Merrett
Getting splattered with blood from Bernise’s spinning elbow. Initially I thought it was sweat before realising that Tanya Merritt has just worn a belter of an elbow and blood from a cut in a previous round covered those within about five foot of the corner.