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Chris Billam-Smith | World Boxing Champion Title Defence Fight - ThruDark/Fujifilm GFX

Chris Billam-Smith | World Boxing Champion Title Defence Fight
Sean Oliver / ThruDark / Fujifilm GFX

From the moment I picked up a camera, I knew that visual storytelling was my calling. It started as a simple hobby, like it does for many others, however, I quickly realised that it was something that I wanted to turn into a career.

Being self-taught, I took on every freelance job that came my way, honing my skills and refining my techniques with each project. Over time, I began to build a reputation for myself, and eventually, I landed a position as a filmmaker at a creative agency on the south coast.

Working at the agency was a turning point in my career. It gave me the opportunity to work with some of the biggest international clients, providing me with invaluable experience that I couldn't have gotten anywhere else. During my time there, I further developed my skills and love for cinematography and lighting, taking on more challenging projects and pushing myself to be the best that I could be.

I have since managed to combine my skills in photography and videography with my love for adventure and sports, working as a full-time creator with Thrudark.

Medium-format cameras have been a popular choice for professional photographers who require high-resolution images for their work. They are typically used for studio, portrait, or landscape photography and have been available as either film or digital systems. However, digital medium format cameras have been expensive, bulky, and slower in function.

Recent years have seen significant advancements in technology, and Fujifilm has been leading the way in this regard. They have introduced digital medium format cameras that have become more affordable, compact, and faster in function. With the GFX system, Fujifilm has narrowed the gap between medium format and smaller sensor cameras, which means that the cameras are now more useful across various disciplines.

The GFX50S II has an impressive 51.4-megapixel sensor with a large format, which allows for sharper and more detailed images. The camera also has a wide dynamic range, which is excellent for capturing high-contrast images. The compact size of the GFX medium format system makes it easier for photographers to carry their equipment around, which is ideal for on-location shoots. Additionally, the camera has a tilting LCD screen, which provides more flexibility when shooting from different angles.

Overall, the digital medium format cameras from Fujifilm offer a perfect balance of image quality, functionality, and affordability, making them a popular choice for professionals across various disciplines.

Earlier this year (2023), Chris Billam-Smith, the WBO World Champion and Thrudark Athlete, had his first title defence. As a member of Thrudark's content team, I had the honour of capturing the champion's story from the dressing room to the ringside.

As a content creator, I knew I wanted to create something unique and different for this fight. I wanted to make the images feel more immersive by using the best quality possible to capture this moment in boxing history. The first fight I covered for Thrudark was the title-winning fight, and this one was no less exciting.

Live events can be unpredictable, and there are many factors to consider when capturing the perfect shot. You don't know what the space will be like, the arena, the dressing room, lighting, and on top of that, you only get one chance to get the shot and make it look good. But with experience and preparation, I was able to capture the essence of the event and tell the story of the champion's journey to defend his title.

I had the option of shooting on a Canon R5 with its swift autofocus, but to me this system feels like a computer in your hand that does all the heavy lifting, rattling off 10 frames per second. I wasn’t optimistic it would give me the visual feel I wanted.

The GFX50S II camera system appealed to me because it is a more considered and deliberate camera system. I paired it with the GF45mm and GF110mm lenses, which allowed me to keep the kit minimal and capture images with a cohesive feel. I found that the 45mm lens was quick to focus and allowed me to capture wide images that gave context to the photographs. The 110mm lens was perfect for getting details, portraits, and extra reach if needed.

It is worth noting that the latest GFX100S II camera may have been better suited to this kind of event due to its updated autofocus system that supports low-light situations. However, I found that the autofocus on the GFX50S II worked flawlessly for portraits and slower moments in the dressing room. When it came to capturing Chris warming up, using the pads, and during the fight itself, the continuous autofocus wasn't quite quick enough. This was easily managed by using the large EVF and focus peaking, which allowed me to capture the shots I wanted.

To give my images an immersive feel, I often shoot at F8, which was easy to do because of the high ISO performance of the medium format. I enjoyed using the GFX because it helped me slow down and think about what I was capturing. It allowed me to be more deliberate in my approach, which is something I enjoy when using more considered camera systems, such as film. The available light, composition, and lower FPS played into my hand because I could watch and observe, waiting for the shot I wanted. As a result, I was able to tell the story from beginning to end in the way I imagined, creating a set of images that truly captured the essence of the event.

FINAL THOUGHTS

When capturing a fast-paced sports event, it may seem logical to use a camera system that is specifically designed for such activities. However, in my case, I found the GFX50S II to be the perfect tool for the job. Its ability to slow down the action allowed me to carefully consider the images I was capturing and to witness the first title defence fight in real-time. The system's capabilities enabled me to tell the story of a champion boxer, from behind closed doors, moments before the fight, to the excitement of the ringside. By understanding the strengths and limitations of my equipment, I was able to produce high-quality images and capture a historic moment that will be remembered for years to come.

Explore more of Sean's work: Click here

Fujifilm GF 45mm F2.8 R WR

Fujifilm GF 45mm F2.8 R WR

  • FUJIFILM G Mount
  • 36mm (35mm Equivalent)
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/32
  • One Aspherical Element, Two ED Elements
£1,579.00
Fujifilm GFX50S II Body

Fujifilm GFX50S II Body

Includes £900 saving until 31/03/24
  • Impressive 51.4MP BSI CMOS Sensor
  • Quad-core CPU X-Processor 4
  • 3.0fps Continous Shooting
  • 1080/30P Video, 4:2:0 8-bit (SD/HDMI)
  • 6.5-stops In-body Stabilisation
  • Smaller Focal Plane Shutter System
  • Nostalgic Neg. Film Simulation
  • Mode Dial Controls, Weather Resistant
  • 3.69M-dot Electronic Viewfinder
  • 205MP Multi-shot Pixel Shift
  • Weight: 900g
£2,599.00
 
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