Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

from Photographers' Blog:

My first Australian Open

Photographer Yuriko Nakao stands on centre court at the Australian open in Melbourne.

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.

Rafael Nadal of Spain hits a return to Marin Cilic of Croatia during their match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 24, 2011.            REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

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.

from Photographers' Blog:

Keeping it clean in the locker room

When it’s all over, your hair is sticky with champagne and beer and your clothes are wet and smelly. Getting pulled over by the police on the way home might prove problematic. Sometimes, when you pick up your camera or lens a few days later, something doesn’t work. But being in the locker room amidst the celebrations after a sports team wins a championship is a lot of fun, at least I think so (yes, I understand if you’re questioning my sanity at this point).

San Francisco Giants players celebrate in their clubhouse after defeating in the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 6 of their Major League Baseball NLCS playoff series to win the National League pennant in Philadelphia October 23, 2010. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The San Francisco Giants held a 3 games to 2 lead over the Philadelphia Phillies heading into Game 6 of the NLCS in Philadelphia. My assignment for the post-game, should the Giants win and clinch the series, was to cover the locker room celebrations.

from Photographers' Blog:

Yes, my job really is this glamorous

When people ask me what I do for a living, or they hear tales from my wife about me being away at the Olympics or shooting football or golf or a Papal visit somewhere, the usual response is to tell me how glamorous my job is, rubbing shoulders with all these famous sporting and political icons and how lucky I am to get to attend all these events and call it work!

Granted, I am incredibly lucky to have an office that regularly includes Premier League football grounds and other major sporting events, but glamorous......not a word I would often use, and last night was a perfect case in point.

from Photographers' Blog:

No turning back as Africa’s hour arrives

A local child carries a ball while playing soccer at a dirt field in Soweto, Johannesburg June 7, 2010. The 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup kicks off on June 11.          REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The 2010 World Cup has been a memorable and momentous occasion not only for me, but for South Africa, the African continent and the rest of the world.

It has indeed been incredible. It has been a unifying factor, with people beginning to appreciate the importance of their national symbols such as flags.

from Photographers' Blog:

Witness to a cobblestone crash

I am writing this on the road from rural eastern France at the end of the fourth stage of the month-long Tour de France. It’s hot and dusty outside with temperatures at about 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). On the backs of the motorcycles in protective gear we are suffering as we spend all day in the sun. Fortunately there has been a lot happening in these early stages of the Tour and the images have been worth it.

On the third stage of the Tour between Wanze in Belgium and Arenberg in France, I was riding on the second of our two motorcycles. The second bike is not authorized to shoot the riders on the move, but instead can overtake the pack and then stop on the side of the road so the photographer can shoot the riders as they pass by. The third stage was very special as the last 50 kilometers were on the famous cobblestone backroads of northern France more commonly associated with the Paris-Roubaix cycling classic. This section is known as the “Hell of the North”. I have covered 21 Tour de France races, but never had the occasion to cover either Paris-Roubaix, nor shoot a cobblestone section.

from Photographers' Blog:

Center Court – A 30 year wait

Gary Hershorn poses on center court at Wimbledon June 30, 2010.

Wednesday finally saw the culmination of a 30 year dream of mine to shoot a match on the famed center court at Wimbledon. After 30 years of being a photographer, 25 of those spent with Reuters covering every conceivable sports championship around the world, there were still two things I always wanted to photograph, but for one reason or another never had the opportunity to do so. One was shooting a match on center court and the other, covering a British Open golf championship at St. Andrews.

This year is not my first at Wimbledon, I have been here a number of times editing the great pictures our photographers take during the fortnight of tennis. There is no tennis tournament that produces the beautiful images that Wimbledon does. From the simple white clothes that the competitors must wear, to the light that seems to illuminate the court in a magical way, to the darkish backgrounds of spectators the perfect distance away from the player and to the history that has played out on the grass year after year, one can only describe the chance to be here as special.

from Photographers' Blog:

Samurais in South Africa

I arrived in South Africa with the Japan team filled with excitement and an acute feeling of anxiety. Never mind that I would be on the scene to cover the world's biggest sporting event, and never mind that I would be competing against the top sports photographers from around the globe to get the best pictures. For a Reuters photographer like myself dedicated to a single team, when your team drops out of the competition, you're finished. Like the defeated team, you go back to the hotel, pack your bags and spend the long flight home wondering what went wrong. Based on Japan's lackluster showing in the East Asia Soccer Championship my expectation for Japan was three defeats in a row and no victories. Mine would be a short stay in South Africa.

A Japanese boy living in South Africa reacts as he watches Japan's national soccer team depart from South Africa at O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg June 30, 2010. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

But during Japan's first match against Cameroon the Samurai Blue seemed to transform themselves in front of my eyes with Keisuke Honda’s goal being the catalyst. Japan was defeated by the Netherlands in their second match but the Samurais demonstrated the unity of the team in their performance and they were victorious against Denmark in their third match. In doing so they completely wiped out the image that I held of the Japan team before going into the competition. I was covering the world's biggest sporting event, and I was going up against the top sports photographers, but in this World Cup Japan's victory meant that the formidable teams of France and Italy and the even more formidable photographers accompanying them were going home. Not me.

from Photographers' Blog:

The match that time forgot

Nobody goes to Court 18 expecting to stay long.

Right on the edge of the All England Tennis Club, and very much in the shadow of Centre Court, number 18 is a no-go area for seeded players and fans at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Matches are usually as brief as they are inconsequential -- and then everyone moves on.

So when someone suggested I drop in on Court 18 to check out a match between two largely unknown players – John Isner from the United States, and Nicolas Mahut of France – I can probably be forgiven for thinking I’d be in and out of there pretty quickly.

from Photographers' Blog:

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…?

Snow. Looks good on those Christmas cards, doesn’t it? Fun for small children. Even nice for penguins in the zoo. But photographers covering soccer? Brrrrrrrrrr. Not really.

Let’s get one thing straight. We Brits go on about the weather like a stuck record, but when it comes to it, we can’t cope with it. That’s why we live in Britain.

from Photographers' Blog:

Straight off the bat

It certainly is the best seat in the house, but sitting close to the boundary of a cricket field does not necessarily ensure you would have a good time watching the match. Cricket is like a religion in India. An unusual game, that goes on all day even through lunch and tea. Naturally then, covering this game in India is like covering it nowhere else in the world.

At least four hours before a match, photographers start out for the stadium, winding through noisy, mile-long lines. The lines of spectators are so long that one wonders if the last man actually gets to see the full match.