Kendo photography

I started taking kendo pics back around 2003-4 with a small point and shoot camera and, after a few iterations of pretty low-end cameras, have settled on reasonably cost effective setup that allows me to take pics in a variety of situations, both for pleasure and images for use on this website. Since I get a lot more likes on pictures than articles on facebook, and because a lot of people ask me about the equipment I use, I thought I’d share my current setup as well as some sample images over the last 10 years using a variety of (mostly very) cheap cameras. Putting this post together has also allowed me to look to see how my technique has (or has not) matured over this time.

Basically, my current setup is as follows –

Digital: Sony Nex 5n (kit lenses 16mm/2.8 and 18-55/3.5-5.6; also use a nikon lens adapter)
Film: Nikon FM2n (primarily Nikkor 50mm/1.8; still experimenting with films; negatives self-scanned)
Mobile: iPhone 5 (instagram and/or KitCam for processing)

Nothing special nor professional, and nothing too expensive!

Please note that all photos are copyright yours truly. Downloading for use as desktop wallpaper is cool, but no unauthorised commercial use please. Cheers!

2003-7 Casio ExSlim-z40

2004-6-casioexz40

2007-8 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30

2007 February. Panasonic Lumix.

2007-5-panasoniclumixdmcfz30

2008-11 Nikon D40

2008-2-d40

2008-5-d40

2009-5-d40

2011-5-d40

2011+ Sony Nex5n

2012-1-sonynex5n

2012-5-sonynex5n

2012-10-sonynex5n

2013-2-sonynex5n

2012+ Nikon FM2n

2012-11-nikonfm2

2012-12-nikonfm2

2013-1-nikonfm2

2012 Point-and-shoot test with a Nikon Coolpix P310 (i.e. can I pull some decent images from a point and shoot?)

2012-12-nikoncoolpixp310

In my experience…

For me, personally, a good kendo picture is about timing and location rather than the sharpness or quality of the image produced.

As you might have noticed in the above selection, all the kenshi are in kamae or are watching/waiting rather than actually striking. With the nex5, I can easily put the shooting mode on continuous and take a burst of 10 shots/second.. in fact, I had great fun doing exactly that when I got the camera at first. Wading through the hundreds of images I would produce per fight, I could easily find 1 or 2 of clear strikes. However, the whole thing became old and rather boring quickly. Not to mention the hassle involved. Looking at the pictures I produced I also realised that I preferred to see my pictures showing ‘semeai’ or to catch the kenshi in a moment of reflection (catching facial features can be hard). Of course, I do like to take the odd ‘exact strike’ shot, but when I am doing that I stand in kamae with my camera, and take the shot as if it is a debana-men… !

Location, also, I think is vitally important. For me, kendo has to be done in a dojo. There nothing worse (for me) than seeing kendo photography done on a colour-lined basketball court or something similar. I realise that this isn’t always possible to avoid (I take pics like this as well, though I don’t like to), especially for kenshi247 readers abroad without a ‘real’ dojo. My access to a variety of dojo is probably my only advantage over other camera-loving kendo friends abroad. A way to get around this of course, is to bokeh the background out.

There are a few other things I could chat about here, but nothing extraordinary – my kendo-photography philosophy is pretty simple… just like my kendo style!

Other pics from yours truly can be seen on:

instagram
my public kendo photo album on facebook

Also check out the flickr ART OF KENDO group for brilliant kendo pics from around the world.

Published by

George

I'm the founder and chief editor of kenshi247.net. Amongst other things I am a high school kendo club coach, an avid practitioner of classical swordsmanship, a history student, and a vegetarian.

8 thoughts on “Kendo photography”

  1. That’s cool =D Looks like kinda pictures i’m taking now LOL. I started (trying) taking kendo pictures 1 year ago
    You take pretty awesome pictures now so maybe i’m having a good start hahaha

  2. Understand that this isn’t a criticism of you guys! I also take pics like this (see the first example) … especially when it comes to shiai. I personally prefer shots taken in dojo however.

  3. Oh, what happened to the D40? Did it meet greif, or did you just decide for a change/upgrade? Bit of a coincidence you raise this topic as I am in the process of upgrading, with an emphasis on upskilling to go along with it.

    I like your comment about debana waza with a camera! I so know what you mean there. 🙂

  4. The D40 I bought from a friend just to test the waters DSLR wise. It was a good learning experience but left me wanting more… a lot more. I started looking at mega expensive cameras and lenses… Also, the bulk really started to put me off. If i’m carrying bogu and shinai I don’t want to carry an extra (heavy) bag for camera and lenses…. and if I upgraded to another camera it would have been larger/heavier. So I paused and used it longer than planned. Then the mirrorless cameras started coming out and bang, I got an nex5n. I think it was a good decision to buy that than go to a more expensive nikon. As my main digital camera, I’m very happy. Its light and takes great quality pics. I may upgrade in the future, but at the moment I’m a lot more interested in playing with film.

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