At many of the top BJJ competitions, you will see Blanca Marisa Garcia crouched mat side, catching the match action with her camera.
Blanca trains jiu-jitsu at New Breed Academy with Johnny Ramirez in Los Angeles. She is one of the top photographers in the BJJ world, and she manages to capture the split-second moments in high level competition.
Blanca shared her insights on having the best seat in the house at the matches and what it takes to get those images.
Jiu-jitsu Times: Blanca, what is your background in professional photography?
Blanca : I have studied photography since I was 16 and I have an MFA. I have freelanced for NBC Sports, Warner Bros, ESPN, and Fox Sports.
Jiu-Jitsu Times: How did you get involved in the world of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and shooting the events?
Blanca: I started jiu jitsu with Rener and Ryron Gracie in 2009. I received my blue belt from them and have been their official photographer for four years.
The person that actually introduced me to photographing jiu-jitsu was Kenny Jewel from Grapple TV. Since then, I have been working with different magazines and clothing lines in the sport.
Jiu-jitsu Times: You are a staff photographer for some major jiu-jitsu publications. You are also a media coordinator and official photographer who is mat side at big events. Which events are you involved with? What is a day like photographing the competition?
Blanca : I am the media coordinator for EBI and their official photographer. I am also the official photographer for SUBCON.
I work closely with Jiu Jitsu Style Magazine and also Jiu Jitsu Magazine.
I also work with JJGF, NABJJF, JJWL, IBJJF, Dream, and Copa Pacifica to name a few.
A typical day starts with making sure I have enough battery life and memory cards to get me through the day. I check on my clients that have booked me for the day to make sure I am at their mat on time and get some before photos of them.
I try to keep hydrated because it is a long day on the mat.
I do take a couple of breaks, because when you are intensely watching these matches, your eyes are being worked overtime.
Jiu-jitsu Times: What goes into getting the best possible photos at a jiu-jitsu competition? What techniques or tips do you have for capturing the split-second action in a match?
Blanca : Getting the best photos at a jiu-jitsu competition has to do with knowing some jiu-jitsu to begin with to know what to capture. I always try to tell a story with my photos. I try to relate to what is going on with the people.
To catch the split action, I sit on the side mat and observe all the matches. When I see someone going for a move, I start to shoot.
Jiu-jitsu Times: For the photography tech nerds who want to know: what equipment do you work with at an event?
Blanca: I have a Canon 7D, and it shoots 8 frames per second and works with a 70-200mm 2.8, which is a fast lens with a wide range to capture all the action around.
Jiu-jitsu Times: What motivates you to be so involved in all of these major events? What aspects of Brazilian jiu-jitsu are you most passionate about?
Blanca : I have always been a huge fan of empowering other people. Jiu-jitsu keeps a lot of people grounded. It has changed my life a lot from losing weight and keeping my stress level down.
I love supporting women in jiu-jitsu, especially those who came in for self-defense classes. I started jiu-jitsu for self-defense and love the fact that it has helped a lot of people in that aspect.
Jiu-jitsu Times: How do people in the Southern California area get in touch with you if they want you to photograph their event?
Blanca: Web : http://blancamarisagarcia.smugmug.com/
Instagram : https://instagram.com/blanca_marisa_garcia/
Twitter : @Latinadesign