This is the first combat sport that I have ever photographed, although certainly not the first one I've seen live. Unlike the ball games and race sports I've done before, wrestling (and perhaps combat sports in general) has the element of unpredictability. Of course, every sport has some level of unpredictability but wrestling totally caught me off-guard. For example, with basketball, you know that the player who has the ball will either dribble, pass or shoot the ball. In tennis, when the other player hits the ball, you can expect the player on the other end of the court will chase the ball and hit it back. In other words, there is a series of indicative action prior to the peak moment. In a race, the racers always pass by the same course that all you need do is wait for the right moment to shoot.
Combat sports, wrestling in this case, is somewhat different. At one point, the combatants will simply be sizing up each other and then, all of a sudden, someone will lunge forward and take the opponent down. Such action could happen very quickly and it will usually be over before you or your camera can have the time to take the picture. I said "your camera" because even DSLR's, fast as they are, still has a little shutterlag. I knew my 20D's shutterlag is just a teeny tiny fraction of a second and is usually unnoticeable. However, for something like this, that lag gets magnified especially when you know you've pressed the shutter at the right moment and yet fail to get the action you were trying to capture.
The venue for this competition was a relatively small arena with two rings. Two simultaneous competitions are being held. The one being held in the ring farther from my seat is still acceptably close so I was able to take some shots from two separate combats. My lenses certainly did not felt short.
First thing that came to mind when as I took my seat was that scene from "Born on the 4th of July" where Tom Cruise was in a college wrestling match. He was pinned down by his opponent, unable to move yet his facial expression shows he's trying really hard to escape from that pin before the referree taps the mat. He failed. I wanted to capture something like that and I have a couple of times. They just did not came out quite like what I wanted to. That scene from the movie was perfect because it was all set up. In my case I had to work with what was presented to me - with all the obstacles.
The first one I captured, I did not have a clear view of the pinned wrestler's face. The second one, I have a good view of both athletes' faces and their expressions but part of the referees behind was capture in the frame as well. Yes, the referee could be a big problem to your otherwise excellent shot. When you have a good angle, you can expect that the referee might be looking at the action from the same angle to make the right call.
Another peak moment is during a take-down or when one sweeps the other off his feet. This is actually more common than a wrestler being pinned.
This was a first for me. I have not photographed any combat sports for me so I basically just had my camera glued to my face and shot on impulse. I took plenty of shots with some decent results. It was a different challenge for me as a photographer.