Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Soelden or is it Solden? Alpine Skiing World Cup opening races of the season 2009

The ski race season has started up again, so I jumped in the motorhome and headed to Austria and the resort of Soelden, where the annual opening races for both men and women take place. Due to the fact a few days before I went my grandmother was rushed to hospital I didnt quite prepare myself properly for the trip! I had been sitting by her bedside for 5 or 6 days instead of getting my stuff together properly. So when I arrived in Austria, it dawned on me that I had left behind my main sports camera the Canon 1d Mk3 my flash units (or strobes as they are called in the USA) also my stock of spare memory cards, spare batteries for my Macbook pro my tripod and a few other bits and pieces of camera gear. I also left behind my ski trousers. I use the Spyder Coach Pants as they have padded knees which means my old bones do not get so cold when I am kneeling on the snow.
For the races press conferences etc all I had would be a Canon 5d mk1 a Canon 20d with a built in flash, luckily for me both cameras had 8gb compact flash cards so I could at least shoot in raw (CR2) and download my images after each event.

I went up to the glacier on the Friday to have a bit of practice on my skis and to try and get some of the head and shoulder stock shots of some of the skiers, it also meant I could catch up with a few that I know. At some stage during my skiing I crashed out, nothing unusual about that as I always crash and fall over with a heavy camera bag on my back 40kgs or more sometimes throws your balance out! that's my excuse and I am sticking with it... I had not fully zipped up my bag and good old sod's law took over which meant that one of my lenses escaped and rolled down the mountain into a crevasse great!! all I could do was just lay there and watch a £1200 lens go to it's death.

On the Friday night I went to the womens USA ski team hotel as I had arranged for some of them to cut my hair and shave my beard off, to raise funds to help the ski racer Cody Marshall from the USA in his rehabilitation following a serious head injury. Lots of Cody's team mates and coaches from the mens team came over and also helped out.

Picture of me getting my hair shaved off by Olympic Gold Medal winner Julia Mancuso.

Saturday was the ladies race I was up the top of the mountain by 0730 the aim was to get shots of Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso, Resi Stiegler, Chemmy Alcott, Nikki Hosp, and Kathrin Zettle doing their course inspection. But the fog put paid to that idea!! It had also snowed a fair amount the previous night so we had to wait for them to clear the course before the race could start!! For this event I was working for US Presswire, and also ActionPlus a UK agency. the best shot from Soelden is the one I shot last year with the skiers going past a gate and blue sky in the background.

Julia Mancuso (USA) during the 2008 race.

This year because I was working for a news agency I would have to look for a different position away from the other agencies. I settled for a back lit shot (where the sun is behind the main subject) I had 2 control gates covered from my position a head on shot,

Lindsey Vonn (USA) Canon 5d 400mm f2.8 lens set to manual ISO 400 aperture F5.6 exposure 1/4000

and a more side on shot.

Kajsa Kling (SWE) Canon 5d 400mm f2.8 lens set to Manual ISO 200 Aperture f5 exposure 1/4000
Shooting with the Canon 5d posed a few problems firstly the cold sucks all the life out of the batteries, secondly you only get 3fps or 3 frames per second in theory! for a fast paced sport like skiing that means you are lucky if you get 2 frames in the tight area you are focused on. The other problem is the auto focus is not as fast as a specialist sport camera like the 1d mk3. I found however that by using the back focus button and pre-focusing on the middle of the control post on the post the skier would attack on the first gate I was getting a good percentage of my shots sharp enough to use.
I shot nearly all the racers before my batteries gave out I had used 4 batteries to shoot the same amount of pictures I normally use 1 battery for.

For the second run of the race I stayed in the finish area to try and capture the skiers emotions as they crossed the line, and then also to get the podium shots. Last year I had the Young Apprentice Aislinn working with me and she did the finish area but due to her University studies she could not make this set of races. A real shame as she is Queen of the finish area and always managed to get the top shots..
The race was won by Tania POUTIAINEN (FIN) with Kathrin Zettel (AUT) 2nd and Denise Karbon (ITA) 3rd

Sunday was the mens race and again I had all the same problems as the previous day with batteries etc. Position wise I managed to get a spot in front of the TV cameraman so I could get a nice action shot with a mountain for background, again this was a back lit shot so I was constantly tweaking the camera settings, the race started in cloudy dull light but that changed to bright sunshine about the moment Didier Cuche (SUI) hit the gate I was covering, so my shot got horrendously over exposed. This is where shooting in RAW format (CR2) comes into it's own as you can retrieve a lot of information from the image that you have lost for good with shooting JPEG

Didier Cuche (SUI) Canon EOS 5d 400mm f2.8 lens Settings: Manual, ISO 500 aperture F4.5 Exposure 1/2500

Tommy Ford (USA) Canon EOS 5d 400mm f2.8 lens Settings: Manual, ISO 400 Aperture f6.3 Exposure 1/4000

Just after the last American racer passed me on the first run, I got a call from my sister to tell me my nan had passed away. So I walked off the hill and went back to the press room, I then shot the second run from the finish area the same as the womens race but my heart was not in the shoot.

Tha race was won by Didier Cuche (SUI) with Ted Ligety (USA) 2nd and Carlo Janka (SUI) 3rd

Saturday, September 26, 2009

British Touring Car Racing

I recently had the chance to shoot British touring car racing at Rockingham Motorspeedway track in Leicestershire.

It was my first attempt at car racing of any description, I chose British Touring Cars to shoot as NORMALLY there is heaps of action crashes etc so I thought I may get some decent shots that possibly ESPN would be interested in but alas it was not really my weekend ;-) no matter where I went accidents did not happen the nearest I got was when I had set up my camera to do what we call a pan shot, so slow shutter speed to make the background look blurry and the cars going fast, so I didnt get anything really worthwhile.

Motor racing poses it's own problems different to shooting the usual sports, for starters it's bloomin loud plus due to safety reasons you are limited to where you can and cant shoot from, obviously all the places I looked at that would give me a good clear shot was poo poo'd by some jobsworth marshal another problem with motor racing is the distances you have to walk with all your kit and most times you are stuck in that position until the end of the race, which means fighting your way through the crowds after to get to the podium... luckily I am king of speed walking and tapping people out the way using the base of my monopod...

At first I got a typical frosty reception from the other photographers there, this is so typical of shooting sports in the UK where everyone is guarded about their shots and dont like outsiders!! However it soon became apparent to me that 99.9999999% of these alleged photographers were weekend warriors most shooting on semi automatic or even automatic mode.. I ended up given a few advice about camera settings and picture composition, then a problem developed... I had a trail of photographers follow me where ever I went to get the same shot so they could compare!! That soon fizzled out after I went to stand in an area full of stinging nettles to get a good angle.. Always dress for extreme conditions is my theory so long socks and heavy duty trousers means no stings for me ;-)

As always when I shoot a new sport I try various different cameras and lens combinations I am always tinkering on the training runs somethings work some dont. for instance the shot below I wanted to get a different view of the finish line as everyone was the other side of the chequered flag getting a head on shot so I went wide and from behind to incorporate the car, flag, crowd and also an advertising for the racetrack (for future sales opportunities)

All in all after 6 days out of 7 shooting sport (3 cricket 1 football and motor racing over 2 1\2 days) I was very tired and happy with the results. Next stop is the British Superbikes at Silverstone so stay tuned for the next riveting read ;-)

Motor racing BTCC 19 - 20/09/2009 - Images by .

Friday, September 25, 2009

The good the bad and the ugly.

Well following my trip to the home of cricket Lords I was off in my motorhome to Nottingham for 2 more of England's cricket matches against Australia... needless to say the Aussies creamed us but again I had some good shots.

Ricky Ponting scored a century in the 1st match, again I was playing with various focal lengths and lens camera set ups, a 7 hour match means you have a bit of time!! I also decided to do some old school stuff with manual focus.

After the match I drove up to Liverpool as I had managed to secure accreditation to cover their Champions League match with Hungarian team Debreceni VSC. As a school kid I had been a bit of a fan of Liverpool with Kenny Dalglish my hero. So to actually stand on the pitch as 60000 people sang the Liverpool Anthem "you'll never walk alone" was possibly the highlight of my sports photography career so far. Prior to the game I had a brief chat with a guy called Michael Reagen from Getty Images, he is also the official FA photographer, and possibly the best football photographer in the world. He gave me a bit of advice about best position which was nice of him.

I chose to shoot facing the KOP with the away fans behind me, and about midway between the goal and the corner flag. For the first half Liverpool attacked the goal my end, the match was fairly boring Liverpool eventually winning 1-0 with Dirk Kuyt scoring the winning goal.

I didn't get a good shot of the actual goal as a big Hungarian arse was in my way.. these darn players are so inconsiderate at times... I was working on the wires for this match (images going direct to newspapers etc from the agency) so speed was of an essence in getting images out, what you have to do is shoot some shots then change memory cards download what you have taken to your laptop, then edit / caption and then FTP (send) them to the agency, you do this constantly during the game so sometimes you are relying on things like crowd noise to let you know when something is happening. The big agencies have either editors for their photographers or something called shoot live where the cameras are connected to the laptop and within a second of the image being taken it's transferred to the picture desk back at head office.. As yet I have not worked for an agency with this system but it means no onsite editing so cant be a bad thing ;-)

My workflow was basic for this, shoot the action, chimp (check the screen see if images are sharp and good) then ingest to the laptop using photo mechanic, add a caption, transfer to photoshop to crop adjust colours, and then ftp. I shoot in RAW 99.99% of the time which may be a bit slower but means if you have a good image but it's slightly under or over exposed then you can sometimes save it. This is handy when you shoot on manual settings and suddenly the light may change mid shot.

After the match I returned to my motorhome to find it had been broken into, the police were on scene and waiting for me, luckily I had all my important gear with me and only lost an old pentax slr camera a point and shoot camera, and some tools, the worst thing though was all my clothes had been pulled out of the wardrobe and cupboards and trampled on the floor, also my travel pillow had split with millions of tiny polystyrene balls all over the friggin place. I was gutted but life goes on the door had virtually been ripped off it's hinges so a Mitch repair job with some string a bungy and some gaffer tape secured it for my trip back to Nottingham and the cricket the next day.

Football Champions League Liverpool vs Debrenici - Images by .

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What a week so far..

I have managed to realise 2 childhood dreams so far this week, one was to be on the pitch at Lords cricket ground, and the second was to be on the pitch at Anfield, home of Liverpool Football Club. For Lords I was tasked to shoot an England one day international cricket match against Australia.

Cricket is not the easiest sport to shoot owing to the fact you are a long way from the centre of play, even using a 400mm lens with a 2x converter you still have to crop into the image, also using a 2x converter means your images are generally not as sharp as using a prime lens.

Lords is a funny place, so many old traditions, you cant get into certain areas unless you have a suite and tie, is one of the strangest. photographers positions are not in the best places. for the England innings I was stuck in a gap with a constant stream of people walking past getting in the way!! Like most events I cover I have to try and find a position away from the major agencies like Getty Images, Associated Press, Press Association, Agence Francaise Presse, because for sale purposes why would an newspaper pay for my image if it was the same as they get anyway!

It took me a while to work out the best setup for me to use, and I settled on using my Canon 5d with 400mm f2.8 lens and a 2x converter for the close up shots, and a Canon 1d Mk3 with a 70-200mm F2.8 and a 1.4x converter for general shots. I also had a Canon 20d with a 24-105mm F4 for wider shots and general views. As much as I am a huge fan of cricket I am not really patient enough to shoot it, I normally have the attention span of a 3 year old so I did find shooting the game hard at first, but the sight of Brett Lee the australian pace bowler ripping through Englands batting attack kept me going.

I was fairly happy with the shoot and lucky for me so were the agency I was working for that day as they asked me to shoot to more England matches later in the week. I will write about them later.

Cricket: One Day International 50 over England Vs Australia - Images by .

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Well yet again I am slow at updating my blog sorry, but I really hate all this stuff but so many guys tell me I should do it as it not only helps promote my website and business but some of you guys actually are interested in what a photographer does...

Since my last blog I have only done a few shoots, firstly I covered the Red Bull X-Fighters event in Battersea Power Station, Battersea London, this was fun as I had never shot anything like it before. The X-Fighter series is a freestyle Motocross event, where the best riders in the world compete against each other doing stunts on their motorbikes in mid air...

The event took place on Saturday 22nd August 2009, with 2 days practice beforehand. After collecting accreditations etc on the Thursday we were told that due to high winds the training sessions were canceled, so no shooting for me. On the Friday I got there early as I wanted to work out angles and get some decent stock shots. My main camera a Canon 1d MK3 developed a fault, which meant that it could not read or write to compact flash memory cards, luckily the MK3 also uses a SD (Secure Digital) memory card so I was still able to use the camera. I arranged with Canon Professional Services to get my camera in for repair as I would be heading straight up to Scotland for a week of shooting golf, as the camera could not be repaired quickly Canon provided me with a brand new MK3 to use, which was nice of them ;-) anyway back to the Red Bull X Fighters. I spent the day shooting their training runs which meant for the event I would know roughly where I wanted to stand for each shot I had planned.

Friday night was qualifying night, which meant for us photographers we could work out where the best light would be as the event was billed to have an amazing light show... well lucky for me that the Canon 1d Mk3 can handle shooting at high ISO's as the light was not as good as we hoped!! I was shooting on manual mode ISO 3200 on an apperture of f2.8 to get a shutter speed of 320th of a second. Normally for sports I like to shoot at least 1000th of a second to freeze the picture and not get a blurred mess.

I also shoot in RAW not JPEG which allows me to reduce some of the digital noise that you get shooting high ISO's digital noise is like little flecks of a different colour that you see when you blow an image up to it's full size.

For Saturday's shoot I had arranged with one of the riders that I attach a camera to his handlebars for some on bike action shots similar to the ones shot by a colleague of mine in the US Mark Rebilas check out his other work he is a VERY talented photographer.

I was advised by the orgainsers that it would not be possible to put a camera on the riders bike for Health and Safety reasons!!! my answer was he's going to be hanging underneath a motorbike in mid air, how is that not dangerous.. Oh well lesson learned do it and ask later is my new motto ;-) The actual event shoot was a bit of a let down the general public were allowed into where the photographers were meant to be so none of the action shots I had lined up was possible, if you can imagine trying to fight your way through a tight packed crowd of 1000s of people carryng 3 cameras plus a backpack because it was not wise to leave anything in the press room!! I gave up after a while as I didnt wat to get my gear damaged, and went and sought new locations. here are a some of the images I took at this event.

Red Bull X Fighters London. - Images by .

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I am bad at blogging

Ok first of I am sorry to all you guys that like to read about my adventures, I really am not good at this blogging lark. I will try harder next time.. hmm sounds like my old shool reports.

Since my last entry I have covered a few European Tour golf tournaments around Europe, The Fina World Aquatics Championships in Rome, Golden League Athletics in Berlin,I have been mainly working with a company called US-Presswire a USA based sports photography agency, and through them I have had quite a few images in newspapers like USA Today, Boston Globe, LA Times, as well as on major sports websites like CNN and ESPN. I am quite proud of this achievement it's always nice when you find out that people actually do use your images.

My next event starts tomorrow, which is the Red Bull X-Fighters in Battersea London, where the worlds best freestyle Moto x riders will be competing, I am looking forward to this as I dont actually do much work in my home town, plus I am sure the stunts and images will be quite cool. I will try and remember to do this blog again after the event and add pictures.

Sporting images - Images by .

Thursday, April 23, 2009

ATP Tennis Monte Carlo Masters 1000

I have just returned to London having spent the past 3 1\2 weeks in France, firstly with the British Alpine ski championships, as the official photographer for SnowsportGB the governing body for alpine skiing and snowboarding in the UK, and then the past week I was in Monte Carlo, Monaco, to shoot the ATP Tennis Monte Carlo masters, this event I was working freelance, with images going to various agencies, including US-Presswire (USA), Action Press (GER) Icon (FRA) EQ Images (SUI) as well as submitting to most national UK newspapers.
One handy thing about shooting the Monte Carlo event is Canon have their pro service team there, which meant I could get my kit serviced, and considering it has been up and down freezing mountains for nearly 6 months it certainly needed servicing, this also gave me the chance to test out some new equipment, like the Canon 50d which I was considering purchasing to use as a remote camera.
I also set myself challenges as I do at all shoots, this time it was to just shoot single shot which was difficult if you take into account the fact the ball is travelling at over 100 miles per hour most of the time. I have never really liked shooting off loads of frames like some guys do, so this gave me a chance to improve my skills and I am very happy with the outcome. my photos can be viewed at

Monte Carlo Masters 2009 - Images by .

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ski season

Well this season is finally drawing to a close, I have been crap at this blog writing stuff, and updating pictures etc. My final event is the British Alpine Ski Championships in Meribel France, which is actually the first time I have shot at a French resort.. This place is a just a little bit too expensive for my tastes!! I will do a full write up soon about the season, and the races I have covered.