The most expensive Cheap Seats ever.
Well, that was an awesome experience. I’ve done some pretty monumental jobs in my time at The Telegraph, wars, elections, royal funerals and weddings and jubilees. The Olympics was something else. I’ve never been involved in something that generated (in me) such pride and feeling of union in Great Britain…even Andy Murray was visibly proud to be British and Britain seemed proud to have him….and he won.
Along with most Newspaper Photographers I was a division away from the agencies with their numbers, experience and access to kit. Some agencies had more remote cameras installed than they had photographers. They’d been planning for this for years. They already had the infrastructure from every other Olympic games that went before. A whole machine that just required the button to be pressed. By the time I came to it I was told that the opportunity to get a remote camera on the bottom of the pool had passed months ago. Even if it hadn’t I would not have had a clue as to how to go about getting one in place. I don’t know what housing you need, I don’t know how you would get the pix back from it. The same goes for overhead cameras. Even if someone had offered to put one in place, I wouldn’t have had a spare body to commit to that cause for the duration of the games.
I shoot news not sport. Despite efforts to get to ‘Test Events’ to get some experience the news schedule at The Telegraph was unrelenting . We essentially turned up ‘virgins’ for nearly all the events.
I remember turning up at Table Tennis to shoot a photo-essay, sitting on one of the benches and thinking “what the feck am I doing here” . It’s a bloody fast sport.
It’s all about observation. Once you’ve watched it for a bit you start to see how it all works and you start to realise what makes a picture. I found this principle applied to everything I covered.
It was a case of seeing where you needed to be to get the best angle then realising that 9 times out of 10 the ‘Blue Vest’ Pool position was exactly that same place.
At The Olympics The Pool is king. There are loads of great positions but at the end of the day The Pool spot will always beat you.
The Telegraph was part of the National Olympic Photographic Pool (NOPP) but we were not allowed any of these prized ‘In Field’ positions. As I’ve said before I (and the other Telegraph photographers) shoot news not sport. We were told we did not have the required experience to shoot ‘In Field’. I’m still confused by what extra experience you need to sit in a different seat at the swimming that is ‘Head On’ rather than one that is at the side. At Athletics from the ‘outfield’ it didn’t look like Rocket science to avoid the javelin , and I think I could’ve avoided walking out onto the track whilst Hoy and co were whistling by, but that’s the way it was.
We were all still privileged to be there. I’d spent ages being pissed off about the restrictions that we ended up working under but come the games I decided to do what I could with where I was allowed.
I will remember the hairs on the back of my neck standing up for both of Mo Farah’s Golds. I’ll remember the primal noise of the Velodrome as Laura Trott, Jason Kenny and Chris Hoy won, I was part of that noise, shouting as I shot.
I remember being calm waiting for our first Gold of the games at Eton Dorney, realising we’d won and a slight wobble as I shot the winners, a slight tremor, history being made, Helen Glover and Heather Stanning.
I shot our last medal too, Samantha Murray, Modern Pentathlon, Silver.
For me the Olympics has been a bit of an eye opener. I’ve seen the best side of some people and the very worst of others. I’ve massively enjoyed it and I think I’ve shot some nice stuff. Some of it even got used. If I’d had access to the prime spots I think I’d have done even better. In the end it doesn’t really matter that much.
I covered The London Olympics 2012.
Here’s a few of the pix I took.