Sports Photography: Win some, Lose some – Sometimes it Rains…

 (Update 30th Aug.: click to see  a small (iPad compatible) gallery. Will be updated daily.)


If I remember correctly that was Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams” describing baseball… Well, professional sports photography is like that as well. You really push hard – or don’t do it, but then you will be history pretty fast in this field… :-) – and most of the time it pays off – but sometimes it doesn’t. That happened to me  (and about 400 other photographers) yesterday in 100m final as I positioned myself behind the finnish line waiting for the start.

I had a choice of 800, 600 and 400mm lenses. First thought that I shoot the start with 800mm and quickly switch for the 400mm on the fly. But: it takes c. 5-6 sec. from start to the point when you’d start shooting with a shorter focal length and I decided against it: either I would break some equipment or at the very least, I would disturb colleagues with these big, heavy lenses. I chose 400mm over 600mm as I know that when he (Usain Bolt) comes over the line he spreads his hands – and he has got quite a (wing) span on them. So, my choice: horizontal 400mm on 1.3 crop (Canon 1D mrk4) so that I’d have the time board behind him on one of the images as he’s flying by…

Well, we all saw what happened. He was disqualified over a false start and the whole competition was one of the biggest anticlimaxes I’ve ever experienced. I mean: dramatic, yes – but the usual buzz over the “fastest man on earth” was not there. Even the winner (Blake) seemed to sense it and did not do any serious jubilation.

Somebody asked “why didn’t you make a dash for the start (like, it’s only 100m… ;-))?”  Weee-ell, takes about ten minutes to push thru the crowd. Unless you are standing on the field – which is VERY, VERY limited access only (i.e. the agencies,SI, l’Equipe, couple of the biggest locals… and that’s about it). Not to mention the 20+ kg’s of equipment you might have with you. So I hope you forgive me my lame attitude on this one… ;-)

But, in the end: considering this, I was pleased to see my client (Iltalehti) doing a good job with the images – they took the cover shot  from an agency as they should do – and used my other stuff extensively.

It’s just – you know – I take this (way too) seriously sometimes. And even if I knew there was nothing I could have done, I was just totally furious to myself for the whole evening and it wasn’t until around 2 o’clock in the morning I managed to hit the hay.

But – as I started:  ‘This is a very simple game… Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.”

Holding on to that thought: today the sun is out – I mean, literally out.

Practise, practise, practise…

I also said that I push hard, so let me tell you what I mean about  that.

The whole of yesterday morning I spent shooting the qualification of women’s pole vault. Why, as it was not intended for publication? Well, because: I felt I needed to practice and get ready for the actual competition. I searched different angles, tried out different  lenses, watched how the sun moves across the field and tried to make use of backgrounds which were not in the sun; looked for geometric patters I could use as  background, looked for details, etc.

I’ve done this for a while now and one thing I have learned is that one has to be prepared and have a vision of what one is about to try out. Whether it works out or not is another matter – but good images are not (typically) streaks of luck: You cannot change lenses anymore when the action on, you cannot move from one place to another if you haven’t planned it as it may take 15 minutes…

I also tried to familiarize myself to the all the possible things which might happen in the final, all the possible images one might want to pursue…

You gotta bear in mind: when you choose to do something, at the same time you also choose NOT to do something else – as the 100m example above clearly demonstrates. Had I opted to do the image I did in the first round (see my previous post); it would have been a killer shot today…

Also: I knew that Elena Isinbajeva would probably jump only once (as she did) in the qualification,  so I would not have a second chance if I wanted an image of her for Tuesdays paper.  I got the image, nothing spectacular, but your basic image – but more importantly, I am much better prepared now when the final comes on Tuesday. I have shot her now in four WC’s in a row as well as two Olympics and I always enjoy it very much. Well, look at her… who wouldn’t?

Some of the best stories are in images which never see the light of day – as they are of athletes which do not make to the final, let alone the podium. Below are couple of my favorites.

Also ; sometimes just details tell a story… or is it just my typical male, professional eye?

Elena Isinbajeva jumped only once and over 4.55 to qualify

Cathrine Larsåsen of Norway did not qualify for the final.

She's hard one to shoot... as this is 90% of the time the way she is while on the field. I.e. the hands of Elena Isinbajeva.

"So flat a tummy and yet...." Kristina Gadschiew of Germany.

And the two sides of Yarisley Silva of Cuba:

1 Comment

  1. Bjorn Paree
    September 20, 2011

    Yes, sometimes you win, sometimes you loose.. and seeing the false start of Usain is someting crazy no one would ever expected. Sometimes you are lucky and sometimes not and sometimes… you make fantastic pictures and your memorycard brakes (happened to me at the World Championship 100km running in Winschoten last week…)


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