Punching Things, Lighting Things, with Mike

Originally Published February 10th, 2017

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” -Muhammad Ali

Several months ago, I was lucky enough to photograph two amazing people. A sort of “photo-triathlon”, capturing them together and separate on the same day. We began with a couples shoot. I photographed Mike and Ashley together, sharing tea and laughs. We followed those with a short portrait session of Ashley in her studio. Finally, I wrapped up the three hour shoot by photographing Mike.

Upon Ashley’s request, we shot a few portraits in his study. Slightly cramped, I carefully wiggled my 60 inch convertible umbrella into place. Using a canon 5D MKii & 50mm lens and shooting through a doorway, I captured these.



Mike is a super friendly, super chill guy. He has one of those laughs you can feel; loud and reverberating. We’ve only hung out a handful of times but I’ve always been fascinated by his career and travels. Mike climbs very tall things and repairs them. When he comes home after a rough day, he likes to hit things. That’s when the beast comes out. Motorcycles, tattoos, and a beat up duct taped punching bag; doesn’t get much cooler than this. I was ecstatic to walk into Mike’s neatly kept garage and see him sweaty and punching away, UFC glove clad.

For these portraits I set up two separate lights. One, a bare speed-light placed behind the bag. The other, an Octobox placed just outside the camera’s frame to the right.




Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth. -Mike Tyson

I dragged my shutter, hoping to capture a ghosting effect as Mike quickly and powerfully struck the bag. I knew that even with a slower shutter speed, the flash would freeze the action.


As Mike waled away at the bag, I attempted to time each shutter with his punch. I was using my Canon 5D again for these shots. Wait, punch, click. Wait, punch, click. Dodge bag, punch, click. Until finally, boom, we got the shot.

“A lot of times you have your frame very much in mind and you’re waiting for things to fall in place.” -Vincent Laforet


Mike talked about his years in Vegas as a fighter. He told me, “what I really like is getting hit back.”

My voice cracked as I told him I wouldn’t like that very much.

Finally, I pulled out my Fujifilm X100T and positioned Mike in front of the bag. I wanted to create a high contrast look with light wrapping around him from both sides. I placed two octoboxes just outside the right and left of the frame.



I learned two important lessons from my session with Mike. Lesson one: one light is great, two lights are pretty sweet too. Lesson two: if you like your face, don’t make Mike angry.





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