Friday, 27 June 2008

Wimbledon pt I

Andy Murray stretches for a one-hand-backhand shot in his opening match. © Magnus Andersson

Its been a really busy week so the blog has had to take a break for a few days, but I'm back now. After that Pussy Galore shoot I went straight to the Wimbledon Tennis Championships for the next two days and I had a blast.

We never get a chance to photograph sport at the paper apart from once a year when one of us gets a pass to Wimbledon, and this year the luck fell on me. I have to say that it is a pretty steep learning curve for someone like me who hasn't shot sports before, but I'm into most sports apart from maybe cricket (its NOT a sport, its an upper class excuse for getting drunk during the day) and polo (also upper class, but mainly because I'm very allergic to those beautiful horses), so the will to learn was there.

First of all I went to see the nice folks at the photography liaison office lead by the brilliant Bob Martin and his staff Russell, Trisha and the French girl whose name I cant remember, and they've all been very helpful with the little newcomer, showing me around and making sure I wipe my nose.

I first went down on Sunday, the day before it started, to pick up my accreditation and to get a general feel of the place. Its huge. There are 18 courts in all so there's a lot of tennis to cover. Luckily my pass gets me into both Centre Court and Court 1 - where the big names always play - so my choice is pretty much already made up for me.

That said you can get some different angles on say Court 18 (left), which my pass for the two main courts doesn't really allow me to, so its well worth checking out the smaller one's as well. You also get some good crowd shots from these, because you are not as restricted. On Centre Court and Court 1 I'm only allowed to sit on the umpire side, which means you mainly concentrate on the player nearest to you. Luckily they switch over after a few points so you don't really have to move. In sports photography a clean background is key though, so jostling for the seat nearest to the umpire happens, because it means you can shoot both players if you want to. Saves time and annoys your colleagues.

The weather was glorious the first two days and consequently I burnt my arms and my neck - on one side only, which made me look a Hi-Lo Wobbler (pictured left) that I used to fish with in my youth. The photographer from the MoD kindly lent me his spare hat when he saw what a state I was in, heat exhaustion can be a dangerous thing. Luckily we get free water from the sponsors Evian and we are also given a meal allowance and free coffee as well, just to make sure that we can keep doing our job.

After my first day I was exhausted. The heat, lugging all that gear around (two bodies, wide zoom, 80-200 and a 300 plus a monopod, water, gear pouches etc on my shoulders), and trying to learn how to shoot tennis in one day got to me, not to mention the two hour journey home. When I finally got to bed I couldn't sleep. Too tired. But I'm sure Djokovic was tired too...

Djokovic serve/severe arm twist © Magnus Andersson

Even so I cant complain at all. Getting a chance to photograph the top performers up close (we are only 4-5 metres away from them) is a chance that only 130 or so photographers in the world get a chance to do every year, so yes, I'm loving it all.

I spent a lot of time watching the other experienced photographers too, and guess what? There's chimping going on between each point! Yes, chimping! Between each and every point! I had no idea. I have always been a firm believer in not-deleting-in-camera, always wait until you got it onto a hard drive and then view it on a decent screen, not a little LCD in bright sunlight. But there's a good reason for it. Most cameras shoot at least eight frames per second which can generate a lot of pictures for editing later, so it actually saves time to chimp a bit during the action, because there will always be frames where the focus just wasn't tracking properly, or where the composition is out.

I'm off out for dinner now but there will be more from Wimbledon, because there is so much more to say. Stay tuned.

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