Discipline and confidence in boxing photography

Sparing

Boxing. I’ve never really been a fan, and I still wouldn’t classify myself as one, but I did enjoy the opportunity to photograph some sparing at the California Street Boxing Club in Stockton.

It isn’t that these kids want to learn how to fight. Or maybe it is, as long as it is the right way. Some of them come from some pretty tough neighborhoods. But what they are really going after, and what the program teaches, is discipline and confidence, the kind of self-discipline and self-confidence that comes from individual accomplishment. And, believe it or not, learning boxing develops character.

The California Street Boxing Club program isn’t just about learning how to throw punches. The young people involved in the program have academic expectations that they have to meet before they can fully participate and enter tournaments. This also teaches discipline and increases self-confidence.

The program also isn’t about taking hardened street thugs and trying to turn them into productive citizens (whatever those are). I watched as kids as young as 5-years old got into the ring to spar with each other. They were pretty serious too. I also saw girls in the ring. So, throw away your stereotype of boxing clubs. Boxing is a youth sport as legitimate as little league baseball, youth soccer or youth football.

This was my first experience with photographing boxing. One time, I did shoot some photos at a hockey game. I guess that’s kind of the same thing.

Discipline and confidence is also needed in boxing photography. The action is fast and, in this case, the light was low. I needed a fast shutter speed with the aperture set small enough to capture some depth, yet wide enough for proper exposure. For many photographers, myself included, it takes some discipline to pick a setting and basically leave it while you fire off shots to capture action, much of it at close range. This means being confident in the decisions you make about settings.

Though I do so in the past, I no longer talk about specific settings. I have come to the conclusion that giving out too much detailed information stifles creativity. I will tell you I used a 50mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8. Fast and wide with a high ISO. That’s why I chose black and white for this image. Some of the other images in the set are color.

I still learn photography the way I did in the beginning. By doing. When aspiring photographers ask me the best way to learn photography I tell them to do three things, “shoot, shoot, and shoot some more.”

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