Sabres to the right of them, sabres to the left of them

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It relieves me after days of sheer chaos that I finally have some time to sit down with a glass of Glenfiddich and finally write of my experience over the weekend past.  As I had indicated in my previous posts, the weekend of May 2-4 was the 2014 Absolute Fencing Gear ® Korfanty Sabre World Cup at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC).  I had been ecstatically waiting for this for months now, and I can honestly say that it has been one of the best fencing photographic experiences I have had in a long bloody while.

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While the Korfanty began on Friday with the individual qualification pools, I was busy with my daytime obligations downtown for most of the day, which somehow lead to taking my students out for drinks after their mock court arguments.  This in itself lead to what could had been a rather awkward moment when afterward with the evening still young, I decided to head to UIC, which was only a few minutes away by train, to pick up my press badge for my official shoot on Saturday.  This act itself would have been rather benign if not for the fact that I was in a three-piece suit and tie with the smell of oaky Scotch emanating from breath.  Despite that, I managed to arrive and pick up my badge at the organizers’ pit without drawing much suspicion . . . somehow.   There was still an hour or so of fencing left, and I had quickly found two friends on the side of the pistes: fencing referee Stefanie and fellow fencing photographer Adam.  Before heading off for dinner in Greektown, we stuck around for a little while more.  Despite having only my iPhone with me, I felt compelled to take a few shots, especially given my self-appointed challenge in a post several weeks before of using an iPhone instead of a 7D on the side of the piste.

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iPhonography. Not impossible, but with different results.

The next day was the big day for me.  Although my assigned time was 13:00 to 20:00, I woke up early that morning to do a final check on my gear and set out after 10.  When I arrived an hour later, having stopped for much needed coffee first, I found that the women’s individual direct elimination was well in progress.  After getting squared away with Nicole, the press handler for the event and communications manager for the USFA (U.S. Fencing Association), I got my gear out and quickly got to work.  Not long after, I ran into Adam and Stefanie again was well as my esteemed colleague from Indianapolis, Jamie of Stabbysox Photography.

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Gear ready.

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Adam and Jamie.

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A sniping Stefanie.

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No bloody idea who this bloke is or what’s doing with his iPhone, but that is one B.A.L. (Big Ass Lens).

The hours that followed saw continuous shooting left and right, getting up close with world class sabre fencers, including current Olympians.  It did not take long for me to fall into my prediction of resembling Dennis Hopper from Apocalypse Now with three different cameras hanging off my shoulders and neck.  Given my shooting style of roaming [running] around to capture the scene from different angles instead of perching in one spot, by the time of the finals in the evening, I was exhausted in body, yet still full of energy in mind.  I pressed on to the very end, past 20:00 and into the medals ceremony.  I left after a full days work with my legs sore and a smile on my face, with nearly all of my memory cards full to the point where I had only one 2 GB SD card left in my reserves (out of a total complement of three 32GB CF cards, three 32GB, four 16GB, one 4GB, and one 2GB SD cards, plus a CF to SD adaptor for the 7D).  This is the consequence of shooting in RAW where each image file exceeds 25MB.  That and also being surrounded by world class fencers competing for glory and prestige for nine hours.

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Mariel Zagunis. Her prestigious accomplishments are too vast to list here.

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Bloody French . . .

Despite my notoriety of taking weeks—and months recently due to all of the different occurrences in my life—somehow I had managed to sift through the 6000 frames on my digital contact sheets that night and the following morning, ultimately selected 220 from the lot, processed them, and submitted them to Nicole the following Sunday when I returned in the early evening to photograph the team semi-finals and finals.  I will most likely go through the Saturday set again to pick out images that I had missed through my initial screening, but all in all, I was satisfied with the work I had submitted, and more importantly, so was Nicole.

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One of the first of my photographs the USFA used in an article. Many more to come, hopefully. USFA article via:

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Sofiya Velikaya: fencer, Olympian, mother.

I still have Sunday’s set to process, though, which asides from the team medals ceremony I have not even touched given the calamities of the past four days.  Until then, however, and also due to the sheer volume of images I had made over the weekend, I share now only a few, with many more to follow.

All images © K. Dao Photography 2014, all rights reserved.