Photographers' Blog

Old people and their parents

By Andy Clark

Arriving outside the main gates I couldn’t help but notice there were no crowds of spectators milling around or scalpers shouting their prime seat tickets for sale, in fact all was very quiet. It was roughly 7:45am and besides a couple of birds singing in the trees and a dog barking somewhere out of sight it appeared I was completely alone. My sudden fears of the wrong day and or wrong place were soon quelled as I entered the gates and walked down a small path. There before me was the field of play and scattered across it were the players warming up and preparing for the first day of competition at the fifth annual Pacific Cup Croquet Tournament.

Yes that is correct folks, I said croquet. Several months ago I was searching for a website totally unrelated and for reasons only Google knows, up came a page with a detailed list of the 2012 croquet tournaments across North America. Before I could click the page away, I remembered seeing some interesting images from a tournament at least 25 years ago and thought, I wonder. Sure enough listed halfway down the page was the Vancouver Croquet Club’s fifth annual Pacific Cup.

Like many people, the only croquet I know is what one may have played in their backyard as a child, known as Golf Croquet. The croquet I was about to witness was nothing like that. The game played during the tournament was the full international version known as Association Croquet. I can report that even after it was explained to me on several occasions combined with watching it for three days, all I know is that it involves two players and each match runs just over two hours. In fact my ignorance of the sport became clear on the first day of competition. I had settled down on a bench along the sidelines to watch a couple of players warming up, hoping to get any idea of what to expect once play began. After about 40 minutes I thought this was an unusually long warm up. I approached an elderly fellow nearby and asked when the game might get underway. With a look of disbelief the gentleman replied “they have been playing for 30 minutes”.

Obviously croquet is not a game of action but rather, from what I can tell, a game of strategy and quiet reflection. One player referred to it as chess on grass. Besides the sound of the mallet connecting with the ball there is very little sound at all. No moments of high five joy or shouts of jubilation here. One may hear a player compliment another on his well played turn or you might hear another player curse under his breath on a missed shot but other than that it’s like photographing a sporting event inside a monastery.

Photographing croquet did offer some interesting challenges. As I have said this sport does not involve moments of peak action. Your are not intently concentrating through your lens with your finger on a hair trigger waiting for athletes to fly through the air or crash into each other. Croquet required great patience and sometimes shear willpower not to walk away out of boredom. Observing players and their body language or style of play became the key.

Hanging ten on Lake Michigan

By Sara Stathas

As a photographer, I am inspired to make work about people who have an extreme passion and enthusiasm for something near and dear to them. I seek out the quirky interests that Americans, in particular, have intense love for and use that as inspiration for making photos. I moved back to Wisconsin, the place that I grew up, after being away for a decade, and I’m rediscovering and seeking out some of the passions unique to Midwesterners.

The draw of the largest freshwater surfing event in the country, the Dairyland Surf Classic, held in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, sounded right up my alley as a photo opportunity.

I headed up to Sheboygan on Saturday of the Labor Day weekend, the busiest day of surf and paddling competitions, according to their schedule. I rolled into sleepy downtown Sheboygan at about 8:30am, noticing a Honda Camry with a surfboard strapped to the roof following me east towards Lake Michigan. I parked along the bluff at Deland Park, near a group of dudes peeling off their wet suits after their early morning surf session.

Learning the ropes of Olympic sailing

By Pascal Lauener

When Switzerland suddenly became a sailing nation after Alinghi won the 2003 America’s Cup for the first time and then had to defend the Cup in Valencia, I had the chance to cover sailing. Since a young boy, I have been attracted to boats, more so to container vessels rather then sailing ships. However after covering the America’s Cup in Valencia, I became fascinated by sailing. Challenged by the elements (wind, weather and water) and on a shaking rib (boat) it’s not so easy to get a good shoot of the action. But with the help of my Spanish colleagues and some old sailing photography professionals I made my way to the Olympic sailing in Quindao followed by another America’s Cup and now to the sailing event at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Benoit Tessier, a Reuters photographer from Paris, and I arrived in Weymouth on July 23 and started our coverage of the games with press conferences and training sessions of the different sailing classes. Every morning on our way to the ribs (boats for the media) with our heavy Peli cases, mentally checking that you have packed everything for a day out at sea, the sun cream and the oil gear for the sea spray and rain, you hope you will return with some cool frames.

On board the rib the first thing I do is to get my underwaterhousing and my cameras ready for action. I put the underwaterhousing on the floor of the rib so it’s ready whenever we have the chance to come as close as possible to a sailor. I also have the two cameras one on a 500mm and the other on a 28-300mm lens back in the Pelicase. On the way out of the port you make your plans together with the captain of the rib and your colleagues on board. But as they are also your competitors you need to find a way so that everyone gets the things they need as there is no place for dispute on a moving rib.

It’s a dirty job

By Jessica Rinaldi

Imagine a mountain, the type of thing that you might go skiing on in the winter. Now picture yourself running up and down said mountain for nine miles and just for kicks why don’t you throw in some really sadistic obstacles? Things like fire and mud and just to make it more fun why not throw in some live wires? Yeah, live wires. You know just string them over that mud pit there so that you’ll get zapped as you’re trying to get across to the other side. We’ll call it the electric eel. What’s that you say? You’d like a dumpster full of ice cubes to jump into as well? Done. Congratulations you’ve just entered the world of the Tough Mudder, an event so intense that in order to compete you must sign a waiver releasing the planners from liability should you happen to die somewhere along the course.

SLIDESHOW: ONE TOUGH MUDDER

Let me be clear, this event is a sports photographer’s paradise. The mud alone would be enough to combat every extra inning baseball game you’ve ever shot (what’s that you say, 17 innings and not a single good picture?) but then throw in the ice cubes, the fire, the electrified wires, and a bunch of contestants so focused on getting through the thing that they have no idea you’re even there and well… you get the point.

You might assume that a photographer on her way to cover such an event would think to bring some sort of suitable covering for her equipment. I would love to tell you that I busted out the expensive rain covers for my cameras and wrapped them up lovingly, keeping a microfiber cleaning cloth in my pocket to quickly wipe away any debris that got on my lens. But that would be a lie. I carried three cameras with me and threw caution to the muddy, muddy wind.

Roger and out: Wimbledon 2012

By Toby Melville

After two weeks of rainy, cold and windy tennis, somehow kept on schedule courtesy of early starts, late finishes and a much used Centre Court roof, the traditional tournament highlight of the Men’s Singles Final took place on Sunday.

For the first time in 75 years a Briton would contest the match. The only obstacle in Scot Andy Murray’s path to glory was the huge boulder in the shape of sixteen grand slam winner and six time Wimbledon victor, Switzerland’s Roger Federer.

I was lucky enough to have my name pulled out of the hat for the East Pit photographer’s position at ground level, with Reuters colleague Dylan Martinez shooting the game from one end, near the coaches, and where players often react to provide strong images.

Paralympic spirit

By Nir Elias

When the idea to photograph Israeli athletes for the London 2012 Paralympic games came to mind, the second athlete I met was Pascale Berkovitch.

Pascale, 44, lost her legs in a train accident in the suburbs of Paris when she was 17 years old. She now lives with her partner and two daughters in Tel Aviv and is part of the Israeli Paralympic staff for the 2012 games in the field of Hand Biking.

During my first meeting with Pascale, I was struck by the expression ‘sport spirit’. The more time I spent with her while training in the park, at home with her partner or while wandering around her neighborhood with her little girl, the more I felt this was an understatement.

The Olympic Games: Much more than the stars

By Denis Balibouse

“The important thing in life is not victory, but the fight; the main thing is not to have won, but to have fought well.” Baron Pierre de Coubertin

I have always been addicted to sports, any kind of sports. My father was a sports reporter in Switzerland. As a child I would follow him onto soccer pitches, motocross grounds and ice hockey rinks. Whenever I travel somewhere I try to follow the local sports. I even attempted to understand cricket (I’m married to an Australian), although I have to confess, I have so far failed with this one.

Now that the Euro Championship is over, my attention will turn to the “road slaves” of the Tour de France, which, in my eyes, is the toughest sporting event in the world. And then there’s the Olympic Games in London, regarded by many athletes as the pinnacle of physical prowess.

Ghosts of Olympics past

By Toby Melville

The United Kingdom, London in particular, is cranking up the momentum with just over two months to go until the 2012 Summer Olympics begin. In the last few months myriads of sporting, political and business photocalls have taken place around the gleaming and glittering new venues in east London with many test events being held therein.

The last time London hosted the Olympics was in 1948, three years after the Second World War and because of that global conflict, it was the first Olympics in 12 years, since Berlin in 1936. The competition was labelled the Austerity Games, because of the post-war rationing and the economic climate of the time. With the 2012 Games also set against a backdrop of global financial and economic crisis, comparisons with the previous time London played host are easy to make.

In 2012, over nine billion pounds sterling (approximately US$13billion) has so far been channeled into building brand new stadia, with a whole new Olympic Park complex in east London. But in 1948, only existing venues and facilities were used, nor was there an athletes village. The total cost of the games then was £760 000 (approx £131 million, $210 million, in 2012). In 1948, British athletes had to buy their own kit and make their own way to events by public transport. Some of the venues used in 1948 are still in existence, so I thought it would make an interesting journey to track down and photograph them nearly 65 years later…

London’s pub culture

By Eddie Keogh

“There’s an old fashioned East End welcome waiting for you.” There’s a good chance you’ll read that quote on the pre-Olympic hype about London. But only those with a sense of adventure will really see and feel it.

Most spectators visiting the Games will enter the park via the shiny new Westfield shopping center. There you can take time out in Starbucks, Costa Coffee, McDonald’s, Nando’s, Pizza Express or even TGI Friday’s. Now I’d put good money on most of our visitors knowing these brands from whichever corner of the world they’re from. But will they have experienced The King Edward VII, The Lord Cardigan.

The Cart and Horses, The Adam and Eve or even The Bow Bells. Now that’s visiting London and the landlord’s and ladies and the people inside those pubs are the real Eastenders.

Soccer SWAT team

By Peter Andrews

Through my Polish police contacts, I learned that members of various SWAT teams and the border guards would hold a special training exercise in the town of Zamosc. The exercise was conducted as part of preparations by the Polish special forces leading up to the EURO 2012 soccer tournament, to be held in Poland and Ukraine this summer. This training event was to be observed by various representatives from different countries.

As I arrived at the military training ground, I realized that some of the instructors were my old friends whom I have known for as many as eighteen years. It helped me immensely to be accepted by people who were being trained. The forces were divided into three teams of SWAT and border guards being trained on different public transport vehicles, in various techniques of approaching a hijacked bus followed by mastering the techniques of entering and rescuing hostages from inside the vehicle.

Witnessing dozens of similar exercises I’m always amazed by the speed and agility with which these men can move. It also helps me understand how much time, effort and dedication they have to invest to be able to work with such precision.