I had an awesome opportunity to visit an old friend who is now an instructor at Watson Martial Arts in St. Louis, MO. I wanted to take this shoot on as a personal project to not only grow my portfolio, but also provide some excellent images for my friend Matt.
Upon arriving at Watson Martial Arts, it was a hot and humid day in St. Louis, not unlike any other day from about May 1st to October 1st. I gathered my equipment and had to make a couple trips back and forth to carry everything in. I didn't know if I was going to use everything that I brought, but I wanted to have it for the "just in case" scenario. I walked through the lobby entrance and into the gym. I started unloading my gear in the corner as to not be disruptive to the class that was going on.
Matt came over and introduced me to Kyle Watson, owner of Watson Martial Arts. Both Matt and Kyle were very appreciative of having me there to capture some photographs. Kyle, the owner and certified bad a$$, let me know that I would have the ability to walk around on the training mat and get some really interesting angles and shots that way.
I then got my camera and the first lens ready and headed onto the mat, but first, I had to remove my shoes. This is required because the owners/trainers/employees of the gym put a lot of effort in to keeping their gym clean. In the gym, the mats are clean, the bottoms of your shoes aren't. Also, if there are any small rocks stuck in the soles of your shoes, those would easily poke holes in the large training mats. Repairs to the mats aren't ideal, so if there were to be any damage done, the entire section would have to be replace, thus causing unneeded costs to the owner.
There were about 30 students training that day, from entry level white belts, to purple belts. I got a chance to be up close to a wide range of quite painful looking submissions such as triangle chokes, gogoplatas, arm-bars, and various other Jiu Jitsu moves.
After several rounds of 1 on 1 training, Kyle gathered everyone in the class and demonstrated other moves and submissions. Not only was the demonstration fully explained while he was doing the submission, but the theory behind the maneuver was also discussed. From my short time at Watson Martial Arts, I quickly gathered that Kyle has a deep respect for Jiu Jitsu as well a deep respect for teaching.
By the time I was finished capturing the photos during the class, I was sweating as much as all the students, moving, bending, and lining up each shot takes a bit of endurance in this type of setting.
When class was over, I wanted to capture a couple portraits of my buddy Matt as well as the owner, Kyle. There was an empty weight lifting area just through a garage door. I set up a simple one light set-up with a neutral grey backdrop. For that I used on of my Yongnuo speedlites attached to a light stand. Diffusing the light was a 48" octabox with grid to keep directional light, and avoid light spill on to the backdrop.
Below are some of what I consider to be the best of the best images I captured during my afternoon at Watson Martial Arts. If you are interested in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, do yourself a favor and contact Watson Martial Arts, visit their website HERE, and check them out on Facebook by clicking HERE.
Again, a huge thank you goes out to Kyle Watson for allowing me to come to your gym and take some fantastic images during your class! Another thank you for sure goes out to Matt Middeke for accepting my request for this short personal project! Thanks Guys!!!