My first Australian Open
When I was first told that I would be covering the Australian Open tennis tournament, I was very excited as it is a major global sporting event and I would get to fly out from Japan where it was cold, to a hot and sunny down under.
At the same time, frankly speaking, I had a feeling of fear and worry, since I had heard scary tales about shooting the event from a photographer who had covered it multiple times. Dreadful stories of heat, the scorching sun, cameras getting too hot to function and sometimes so hot that I wouldn’t even be able to touch it. I was told that one photographer’s computer had broken because of the extreme heat, and that sometimes the photographers’ chairs at the courtside got so hot that it was unbearable.
Another worrisome issue was the physical intensity of the coverage, especially the first few days, as I was told I’d be busy as there are nearly 130 preliminary matches in total. It would be so demanding with no time to rest and eat. When I heard about this, I wasn’t sure whether I could survive what sounded like a major ordeal. So the advice was to never wear short sleeves but instead, wear a white long-sleeved shirt, a hat, put on sun block, drink water constantly, cover up the gear with towels to block the heat and don’t over pace. Everything is a build up to the Men’s final, the finale of the two-week-long tournament.
After arriving in Melbourne’s Rod Laver arena I met my team which consisted of an editor, a processor and six photographers, including myself. Working as part of a team was an extremely valuable chance to learn from them and get feedback and tips from the more experienced tennis shooters. At the beginning, I tended to think the key picture was the classic shot of the player with the tennis ball smacked right on the racket. Soon, I learned that tennis pictures are not just about the player in action, but the reaction and the moments between the action, capturing the beauty of the body motion, the scenery in which the match was fought out in, the reactions of the coach, team members and the fans. Every one of these pictures is as important as each other, creating depth to the story.
There were also pleasant surprises to find out that the strong sunlight was not just literally a pain-in the butt, but you can use it to your advantage when shooting tennis pictures. A good example is this picture of David Ferrer of Spain serving in shadow that was taken from the roof at Hisense court. It was shot with a Canon 70-200 mm, at 1/3200, F2.8, ISO100. I needed to take extra care so that the subject would not be over exposed. The “magical moment” only lasted about half an hour past 5 o’clock in which the setting sun lit the players against a backdrop of the dark shadows which moved across the court gradually from right to left.
Regarding the physically intense elements where I would carry a laptop, a 400mm lens, 300mm, 70-200mm, 24mm-70mm, 16-35mm along with two camera bodies and sometimes three, and a bottle of water, was solved by stretching my tense muscles every morning and night for nearly an hour in total even though I was about to collapse in to bed. Also eating a big breakfast every morning, sometimes more than what the fellow male photographers ate, helped me through the day since there were times we were so busy that we could not eat lunch or dinner.
By the time I felt I had just started to get the hang of it, the tournament had seemed to whisk through to the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final and finally it had ended.
I will surely miss the sound of smashing balls, roaring crowds, sweat and pain, and the tense feeling when the umpire says, “advantage” right before the player’s junction between victory and defeat. With the same feeling as if I am actually the tennis player, all ready to hit the shutter button to catch the moment.