Rachel Soh: Shane Young

The Image

Rachel Soh

City Kickboxing, Auckland, New Zealand

Time / Date:
September 2014

The Technical

Camera Body: Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Sigma 35mm f/1.4

Camera Settings:

Shutter Speed: Various
Aperture: Various
ISO: 1600
Focal Length: 35mm

The Story


I’ve loved taking photos ever since I was a tween and documented anything and everything with my little point and shoot camera. Once I got my hands on my first DSLR I was hooked. I approach everything I shoot with a photojournalistic style, whether it’s music, travel or fashion. Effective storytelling is the aim for all the work I produce, and I am constantly drawn to people who are passionate about something they’re doing or chasing.

Though I have a fair amount of experience photographing musicians and dancers, up until this shoot, documenting someone in the sporting arena was always on my to-do list for a personal project. So once I heard about Shane and his aspirations, I knew I wanted to photograph him.

On a day to day basis I’m normally shooting a lot of lifestyle and street photography, especially when I’m traveling. I’m one of those annoying photographer friends that brings their camera everywhere and takes photos of everything. What I would love to shoot more of is music photography, and it’s one of my dreams to document a world tour.

The Scene: 

Shane Young is a mixed martial artist who trains up to 6 hours a day, starting from as early as 4.30 in the morning. I wanted to photograph him outside of the arena, doing what he does everyday. So we decided to document him in the gym where he spends most of his days training. While I was still photographing him, he was in the midst of preparing to fight for the Australian Professional Featherweight MMA title, which he currently holds.

I documented him a couple of times before this particular shoot so that I could have a better idea of what sort of movements I should expect to see him perform.


I shot this series with my Canon 5D Mark II along with the Sigma 35mm 1.4f. This is my setup for about 80% of my work. Especially in regards to my lens – I’m a lover of shallow depth of field and the Sigma produces sharp images even when shooting wide open. I also feel like the 35mm is the perfect focal length for my documentary style of photography.

Making the Shot:

Though the lighting in the gym was minimal, I wanted to avoid using any artificial light in order to keep it ‘real’. However we did our best to work with the natural light that we did have by staying as close to the windows as possible.

I gave him the freedom to workout as per usual however I did request that he repeat certain actions if I couldn’t quite find focus fast enough the first time or if I just wanted to experiment with different angles and composition. Aside from the lack of light, timing was an element that proved to be a little tricky due to his fast movements. I overcame this just through repetition and experimentation.

I wanted to capture images that gave people a better understanding of the variety of training that goes into being an MMA fighter, but most of all to portray Shane’s story and his zealousness to be the best fighter he can be. I felt like the best moments to capture photographically were the ones where the audience can easily imagine what would have happened immediately before and after that specific moment – like when his arms are in mid air in-between a swing. I also tried to be intentional about shooting in a way that would allow people to view the photos and feel as if they were there.

Editing & Processing:

I decided to photograph and post-process all of the images in black and white for a couple of reasons. Firstly, his surroundings and clothing were all very colourful and I wanted to eliminate any unnecessary information that could distract from the main focus, which was Shane’s physical strength and passion in training. I also felt like having the images in monochrome helped to convey the overall sense of intensity.

Looking Back:

Instead of choosing just one image, I selected a few of my favourites because I felt like it would be more effective in conveying the story of how hard Shane and other MMA fighters alike train.

Though I do like the shots that I have of Shane so far, I do know that I have only scratched the surface of telling Shane’s story and I want to continue to document his life in order to fully capture what it means to be an MMA fighter. Shane loves the images we have enjoyed working together thus far – so we’re both enthusiastic about making this an ongoing project.


Whenever I’m asked to give any advice to photographers. I say two things, just keep shooting and always stay observant to what’s going on around you.


Without trying to sound cheesy or overly dramatic, I truly believe that photography possesses the power to affect change in society. Of all the storytelling mediums, it is the only one which can capture a precise moment in time and history.

There’s a long list of photographers that I find inspiration from, but the greats like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Steve McCurry are always worth mentioning. Trent Parke and Markus Andersen are recent favourites.


About the Photographer

I am a documentary, lifestyle and music photographer based in Auckland, NZ and I love capturing moments and the people around me. Telling stories through photography and film is by far my favourite thing to do. I’m a self-proclaimed jet setter and will jump on a plane with my camera any chance I get.

Website: www.rachelsoh.com
Blog: www.rachelsohphotography.tumblr.com
Twitter: @rach_soh
Instagram: @rach_soh

Submit Your Images

The Image Story is all about inspiring images. We want to share and showcase your very best images—the ones that you’re most excited to share and the ones that tell us who you are as a photographer. Submit your images to be featured on the Image Story


Leave a comment