Sony UK was kind enough to help out with access to Delly Carr, who chaired the panel of judges for the Sony World Photography Awards, for a quick interview on sports photography, photo gear and the digital imaging revolution. I encourage you to visit Mr. Carr’s site, http://www.sportshoot.com.au/, and peruse his portfolio a bit before diving into the interview. It’s good stuff.
I see plenty of football (or soccer as we call it) images in your portfolio; however, there are also many stellar images from swimming, tennis, and other sports. So, what’s your favourite sport to shoot, and why?
Favourite sports ……. that’s a tough one. I am the biggest armchair sportsman around, so I love shooting anything within the sporting world. Anything that has water involved tends to sway towards favouritism I guess. But if I had to call just one sport, then it would be Triathlon. Three sports in one … swimming, cycling, and running, and then throw in some guts and glory into that mix. That’s why I love it so much.
Are you shooting with the Nikon D3 now or still on the D2x?
Shooting with the D3 right now.
How has the low light performance changed your shooting with the Nikon D3 as compared to the D2x?
In sports, shoots are conducted in the whole spectrum of lighting. Sunlight, low light, nighttime, stadium lighting etc etc. Being able to shoot in low light, without sacrificing quality. without sacrificing shutter speeds, without sacrificing apertures, is an absolute blessing. I now know the reason for missing a pic lies solely with me. And that has added fire into my belly.
Nikon have been my choice for 20 years now. I originally chose Nikon because it felt right in my hand. They were built solid and tough, the camera took the work it was given without complaining, it felt like quality. I bought a pro camera and it felt and behaved like a pro camera.
If I’m going out to shoot a football game for the first time, what’s the one piece of advice that you would give me to help me produce the greatest number of keepers?
Know the game. Understand the way the sport flows, what the athletes are likely to do and how they may react, and even know the basic rules. The greater the affinity you have with a sport, the more likely your mind will flow with the game, which then moves into a physical translation by pressing the shutter at the exact time.
Can you share with us your favourite photograph that you’ve captured and why it’s your favourite? Was it published anywhere?
The fencing pic from Sydney Olympic Games will always be special to me. It won an award for the Best Sports Action Photo of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. You could compare it to like winning the Academy Award of Sports Photography.
I’m afraid to say that not a lot of thought and time went into getting that image. I was on my way to catch the bus home after a long day shooting at the Sydney Olympic Games. As I walked past a sports hall I could hear a lot of cheering. I poked my head in and saw that they were staging a Gold Medal Team Fencing Final between China and France. And it was down to the last stages of the contest. I walked in, took my seat, unpacked my camera, and loaded it with my only roll of film. By then, it was down to the last point. Both China and France were at 41 hits, the next point for either would win the Gold Medal. They both suddenly lunged at each other and with milliseconds both scored a hit on each other. They both thought they had won the Gold Medal.
This image was the very first frame I took of the match . And I had never photographed fencing before that either. So that’s what makes this image so special. They both celebrated the joy of winning Gold. Usually it is just the one. And they both took off their masks allowing us to see that joy. Normally they would shout unnoticed and underneath that mask.
I finished the roll of 36 photographing the French team celebrating, packed my bags and left. I had only spent a maximum 5-10minutes shooting fencing. But I walked away knowing that I had some very special images on that one roll of film. I spent many evenings attending and photographing quite a few fencing finals four years later at the Athens Olympics, and just recently in Beijing. I tried in vain to get another award winning image, but that same magic never happened again.
I am still introduced to people by people as ‘the guy who won the best action pic of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games’.
How has pro sports photography changed since over the past decade or so, since the coming of the digital age? And, specifically how has it changed for you?
Photography has become so immediate. I now spend hours immediately after each event getting images out to websites, magazines, newspapers, PR releases, etc etc. And old school photography boys like myself have had to now become computer savvy as well. Our expertise in film, light, exposures and processing has taken a step backward to being experts on Photoshop, resolution, FTP etc
What advice would you give to an aspiring sports photographer looking to make it as a pro?
In no order ….. keep backgrounds simple, learn all about light and how it behaves, learn how that light looks on a finished image, and buy the best equipment you can afford. But most importantly I have two I would swear by ……(a) learn by your mistakes. If you image doesn’t look good, understand why. And if your image does look good, understand why it does, and (b) be professional in all aspects of your appearance, your work, your business skills, and your ethics. People will only do business with you if they like and trust you.
I love your image of the ping pong player with his eyes slightly crossed and focused on the ball. Can you tell us a little more about it? Were you looking for that shot when it happened?
I always had that image in mind. So I had a spare day at the Athens Olympics and decided that I would spend that day trying to get that image for my portfolio. Access was good and we were quite close to the players. And I had brought my 600mm lens to get ultra close. The other photographers particularly the specialist Table Tennis snappers, were all snickering and laughing at me as I had a lens on that was obviously way too large. They were all using 80-200mm zoom lens to capture the full body of the athlete in motion. This pic was my fourth frame. I knew it was special but I spent the next 5 hours trying to get a better pic. Nothing came close. And I spent another full day at the Beijing Olympics, with no result as good as that one.
Do you ever miss film?
I did miss film. I was skilled in many ways with the use of film, and that set me apart from many other photographers. I am nowhere near as competent with the computer. But since the D3 and its great resolution, colour balance, and low light performance, film now seems further away than ever before.
A big thanks to Mr. Carr for taking the time to answer a few questions. I hope everyone has enjoyed his comments. Be sure to check out his site. And, thanks to Sony UK for putting me in touch with Mr. Carr.