Sunday, 20 December 2009

A (welcome?) change from fighter portraits

Earlier today I spent a few hours shooting the lovely Emma for one of the top stylists at Glasgow's Rainbow Rooms International hair salon. Emma is a "new face" on the modelling scene and one which I think we'll see a bit more of in the future.

Together we shot four different hairstyle / accessory looks in the space of a few hours; there was supposed to be outfit changes too but we were let down by a stylist who cancelled on us.

1. Porcelain

2. Loud

3. Fringe

4. Daydream

There were hundreds more shots taken but these pretty much are my first choice from the four looks...

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Outsized Pesonality?

So recently I noticed that Dana White, the president of the UFC, had been named number four in their list "The Decade's Outsized Personalities"

Dana is certainly a passionate and opinionated person and has, on at least one occasion, crossed the line with commentary that drew universal criticism. It's clear that he operates in a rare and very direct fashion and that candor is what polarizes opinions of him and lends his personality to be included on such lists.

Here's a case good illustration of Dana as I know him. My very first event was UFC 70 in Manchester. I didn't know anything about mixed martial arts or the UFC at that time, hadn't a clue who the atheletes were or whom was in charge. In essence, I was as green as I could be.

After the pre-fight press conference had wrapped up, I approached Dana and asked if he'd pose for a quick portrait. He stood, posed and then laughed, saying aloud "Man, I never know how to be during these f---ing things..."

I said "Just relax, be yourself and natural..."

"Be natural?" he asks, "Okay..."

And bing, he jokingly flips the bird to the camera very quickly. At that same instant I trip my shutter and the flash pops. I freeze for a moment, wondering what his reaction will be but he just laughs and shrugs it off. UFC UK president Marshall Zelaznik then joins him for some shots together and I more or less forgot about it.

Later whilst editing my shots, I notice that I'd snared the 'bird' frame perfectly... but something in me tells me not to wire it in. It's the sort of picture that only papparazzi agencies shop around and the outfit I was with at the time, Camera Press, are most certainly not a 'pap' agency.

Some months later at UFC 72 in Dublin, I got a chance to speak to Dana and told him I had something for him. I passed him an envelope and waited for his reaction as he opened it. The surprise and laugher that followed were quite genuine. "Man, I gotta get that put in my office!", he said, and then shook my hand to thank me.

To sum up: I've dealt with many celebrities and personalities in my five years working as an editorial photographer, most of whom are cosseted by their PR or management and are told what to say, how to act and what they can and can't do infront of the press.

Love or loathe Dana White, there's no denying that he's one of the most accessible and approachable personalities in the sports and entertainment industry today. Larger than life? Sure. Outspoken? Definitely. Polarising? Without a shadow of a doubt... but I wouldn't want that to change one little bit.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

UFC 107 Predictions

So UFC 107 will air later tonight and I thought I'd post a few thoughts on how I think the main card fights might play out - it will certainly be interesting to see how right/wrong I am in my calls!

1. Diego Sanchez vs. BJ Penn
My heart says that Sanchez' fire will outlast Penn's cool in this fight. Sanchez is an incredibly determined fighter who just doesn't give up and I feel he's got the tools to frustrate Penn in the early rounds so that he'll be worn down come the fourth of fifth. This fight will only end early if Sanchez makes an error and goes to the ground, in which case it'll be game over as Penn sinks in a a sub of some sort. Sanchez knows this danger and will have trained extensively to avoid it.

Sanchez via decision
2. Cheick Kongo vs. Frank Mir
Frank didn't look too comfortable at UFC 100 when being pressures by the strikes of Lesnar. A lot of that discomfort was attributed to Lesna'rs "lunchbox" fists and whilst Cheick doesn't sport a the same dimensions when it comes to his rack of knuckles, the sheer power he packs behind each punch and kick will be telling (just ask Cain Velasquez about that)

Kongo via TKO in round 2
3. Jon Fitch vs. Mike Pierce
Fitch is a solid fighter that has a rounded toolset which allows him to frustrate his opposition both standing and on the ground. Jon's last five fights have all went to the judges but, in this case, that's not a bad thing as the same thing has happened with Pierce in his last two matches. I'm not expecting fireworks of this fight, and I know Fitch will have his hands a little full with the power of punches that Pierce can land.
Fitch via decision
4. Kenny Florian vs. Clay Guida
Explosive. Fight of the Night. A barn-burner. That's my core expectation of this fight between two lightweights who never disappoint the fans. Both fighters have changed their training camps from their last outings and I feel it may well be Guida who will bring more to the war from spending time with Greg Jackson & Co.
Guida via TKO, round 3
5. Stefan Struve vs. Paul Buntello
Struve showed heart and fortitude in taking a hellacious beating from Denis Stojnic in the first round of theif fight at UFC 99, only to come back in the second and pull a spectacular reversal that ended in a second round submission. His sheer size will pose problems for Buntello that could only be solved with a knockout blow. Looking and Buntello's records shows he has the tools to make that happen but I still feel Struve will be able to overwhelm Paul with his size and pull of a submission on him.
Struve via submission

Friday, 11 December 2009

UFC Fan Expo, mark 2

Announced today over on, the second UFC Fan Expo will take place at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on 28-29 May 2010 (that's Memorial Day weekend, in case you didn't know)

The first Fan Expo was a blast and even though it was a bit rough around the edges, I had a great time documenting the scene for ESPN and Fighters Only Germany as well.

I don't know what fights they have planned for that show which - if I'm right - will be UFC 112/3 or thereabouts. There's been rumours that Quinton "Rampage" Jackson will make his 'return' to the UFC in May to finally face "Sugar" Rashad Evans in a long-delayed match that (in my opinion) has lost much of its lustre.

Anyways it's almost pointless to speculate on a fight card so far away in the future. All that matters is that fans and fighters will be there in droves, so I'm definitely going to check out what the flight / hotel costs are - perhaps I'll see you there?

Wednesday, 2 December 2009


"Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are in; the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a ttoal mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?"

The above certainly holds true but both and myself are unclear as to the origin of the supposed 'research' - still, it is a fascinating little insight into how we perceive the world around us.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Front page again

Just a quick update - one of my images shot as Randy Couture trained at Straight Blast Gym last night is anchoring on the front page of ESPN's MMA section, anchoring an article by Franklin McNeil.
Don't worry - my promised update regarding today's UFC 105 pre-fight press conference is still in the works...

A (straight) Blast of a session

So last night one Quentin Chong from Xtreme Couture gym kindly invited me along to shoot Randy Couture going through a pre-fight training session at Straight Blast Gym in Manchester; it's not often that one gets that sort of access so naturally I jumped at the chance.

At age 46, Randy is a five time UFC champion, having won belts in both the LHW and HW divisions. His physical conditioning and stamina made me feel almost embarrased to be in the same room as him - Randy rocking a six-pack whilst my own midriff more resembles a keg! :)

The UFC video crew who film the "All Access" segments that you find on the event DVD's were there as well so I got hemmed in a little since I couldn't use flash. Anyone whose ever been inside Straight Blast Gym will tell you that it's somewhat cozy and dimly lit.

To give those photographers out there a better idea - I had to shoot  Randy at around 1/80 sec, ISO 6400 and f/2.8 to get usable frames. T'was one of those rare occasions where I thought that frame-grabbing from a D3S might be a better idea, so if anyone from Nikon is reading this (nudge, nudge, wink, wink)

The rest of the pictures from the session will migrate to my account shortly, just as soon as the bods at ESPN have ran them as part of their UFC 105 fight week coverage.

I'd also like to take a moment to thank Randy Couture, Ryan Couture, Quentin Chong, Gil Martinez and Neil Melanson of Xtreme Couture for granting me access to shoot this session.

Next up? Words and some pictures from the pre-fight presser for UFC 105.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Some friendly advice

Anyone heading to Manchester for UFC 105 might have to contend with some major roadworks that started in the city yesterday; seems that Great Ancoats St - Swan St - Miller St are being torn up so do bear this in mind when you're heading to town - this will affect anyone trying to get to hotels like Travelodge Ancoats, the Crowne Plaza and other areas close by.

Hope none of you get snared in it :)

Manchester here I come...

So in just over five hours from now I'll be starting my jolly jaunt to Manchester, England to cover the fight week activities of UFC 105 for ESPN.

Kicking off and 1pm, there'll be the first of two media work-out sessions with headlining fighters participating - I'll shoot Brandon Vera, Michael Bisping, Mike Swick and Ross Pearson before noon, then Randy Couture, Dan Hardy, Denis Kang and James Wilks in the p.m.

Hopefully I'll have some more details to share with you later on but, for now, I'm off to try and get some shut-eye. Take it easy!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Working hard, or hardly working?

At some events, you get a nice little press area to work from so you can download / edit / caption and transmit your photos - tonight at the 2009 BAFTA Scotland Awards was no exception... though I have to say that the mini buffet and the Smirnoff Ice that I helped myself to seemed to make the whole process fly by :)
Props to Gillian and all the crew at Material MC for all their hard work in making this event run like clockwork

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Seven days from now, I'll likely have finished off breakfast at my hotel and be going through the ritual of ensuring my gear if fully cleaned and charged, ready to go There's a definite buzz when it comes to fight day - a sense of anticipation.

Strolling from the hotel, it's easy to spot other fight fans as they head to the arena - the sense of cameraderie is palpable. With eleven fights on the card there's plenty to be excited about; I'm already counting down the days and hope to see some of you there.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Machida-Rua called as it was seen

MMA Reporter Franklin McNeil (no relation) has an excellent write-up regarding the controversy surrounding the Machida - Rua result from UFC 104; specifically, that the judge's decisions are solely reflective of how they saw the fight.

First off, I'd like to say that I've not seen the Machida-Rua fight yet; therefore I have no opinion on how the fight was scored.

That said, I've been sat next to judges whilst shooting UFC events - literally elbow-to-elbow with them - and have first hand experience of the issues that they face when trying to read and score a fight.

There have been a few occasions where I've thought a fight went in favour of one guy (based on my vantage point) only to be surprised when the scores came in.

If I've simply shooting a fight and thinking "Hey, this guy's got in it the bag" based on what I saw... well the same must hold true of the judges. How else to you explain split decisions or differences in how many rounds are scored for which fighter?

I'll tell you what it's not: it's not incompetence, it's not fight-fixing and it's not corruption.

Read the article, think a little and then hopefully it might clear up some of the trash talk that's been going on about the judges in the Machida - Rua fight. I'd invite anyone to try doing their job from their vantage point. It ain't easy.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Brock Lesnar Knocked Out...

seems that Brock Lesnar is mortal after all; he's been knocked out of UFC 106 by a case of flu (no-one knows for sure if it's H1N1 but hey, he's had it for going on three weeks now)

A side-effect of this is that ESPN have ran my shot of Brock at the pre-fight presser for UFC 100 to anchor this article. It's always nice to see my archive work getting used from time to time.

Anyways, here's hoping that Brock makes a full recovery and gets to square away against Shane Carwin soon enough.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Almost come full circle

I can't begin to tell you how much I'm looking forward to getting back to the MEN Arena for UFC 105; not just because of the fight card itself, but also because it's where I shot my first ever UFC event - UFC 70, back in April of 2007.

Many years had passed from the day that I first saw UFC 1 on VHS. As a contributing photographer to the agency Camera Press, I received regular emails detailing what events of note were happening in the UK - mostly centered around the London scene, but occasionally further afield.

I was a little surprised to see that the UFC was still going strong as I had stopped training in martial arts about seven years earlier. Curious as to what the modern incarnation was, I asked my agency to credential me to the show. I booked my rail ticket and a B&B on the outskirts of the city, not knowing what was in store for me.

Suffice to say the event was a trial by fire for me. Believe it or not, this was my first time shooting MMA and it was very challenging. I learned some harsh lessons quickly and, to this day, I'm surprised that I got any material worth filing. Still, it was such a rush that I was instantly hooked on the sport!

Well that's enough rambling. Here for your enjoyment are some of the (very few) gems that I nailed that night.

Edilberto de Olivera vs. Paul Taylor
Taylor def. de Olivera, TKO (strikes), 0:37 R3

Jess Liaudin vs. Dennis Siver
Liaudin def. Siver, submission (armbar), 1:21 R1

Alessio Sakara vs. Victor Valimaki
Sakara def. Valimaki, TKO (strikes), 1:44 R1

Junior Assuncao vs. David Lee
Assuncao def. Lee, submission (rear naked choke), 1:55 R2

Terry Etim vs. Matt Grice
Etim def. Grice, submission (guillotine choke), 4:38 R1

Cheick Kongo vs. Assuerio Silva
Kongo def. Silva, maj. decision, 5:00 R3

Michael Bisping vs. Elvis Sinosic
Bisping def. Sinosic, TKO (strikes), 1:40 R2

Andrei Arlovski vs. Fabricio Werdum
Arlovski def. Werdum, unanimous decision, 5:00 R3

Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic
Gonzaga def. Filipovic, KO (head kick), 4:51 R1

Note: I'd like to say that I've put up this shot of Mirko "Cro Cop" looking bewildered after his KO loss for its emotional content in lieu of an 'action' shot from his fight against Gonzaga, but the truth is... I missed the headkick KO on account of sheer stupidity.

Towards the end of the round, Filipovic was pressed up against the cage, grounded, with Gonzaga in full mount, raining down a seemingly endless barrage of elbow strikes. Whilst some slipped through, Mirko was managing to deflect most of them. Referee Herb Dean decided that the action had stalled and stood the fighters up.

I knew the round was close to an end but I wasn't sure how many seconds were left. I dropped my camera away from my face, turned my face to look at one of the big screens to check the round time and then "THWACK"; a big, wet, meaty thump of noise which I felt more than heard. Snapping my head back round, I saw Filipovic crumpled on the canvas, his ankle twisted at an odd angle beneath him. I raised my camera and tried to focus on the downed Croatian, knowing all too well that I'd just missed a brutal and spectacular KO.

The big screens quickly replayed the action and I was forced to watch what I missed; the slow motion showed Gonzaga's leg extending, Filipovic tucking his elbow in to his midsection (expecting a kick to the ribs, no doubt) and then having his lights turned out as the Brazilian's left foot caught him square on the skull.

So the lesson was learned: I'd never again take my eyes (and camera) off the action, no matter what was going on.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Starter for 10

The old phrase of "better late than never" applies; whilst I've been tardy in getting a blog off the ground, I figured that now is as good a time as any - especially when the next few weeks will see a flurry of photo related activity.

What's on the menu for the next month? Well obviously the main event is UFC 105 at the MEN Arena on November 14; I'll be down for the "fight week" activities from the 11th right through to the night of the fights themselves, shooting as usual for ESPN.

That said, MMA is not all I shoot.. hard to believe, huh? Some other choice events I'll be at are
  • The 2009 Scottish Style Awards - October 31
  • The BAFTA Scotland Awards 2009 - November 9
  • Nordoff Robbins Tartan Clef Awards 2009 - November 27
... plus the occasional live music shoot, celebrity do and so on.

I'll be tweeting as I go and you'll get some other updates from me on Facebook too.

Should you be going to any of these events, drop me a line or keep an eye out for me on the night.