Shooting world class soccer luck or chasing a dream ?

A few weeks back I had the chance to be on the side line for the game Brazil Italy in Geneva. There have been questions about how I managed to get on that field and that I must have been really lucky.

This post is about my thoughts and how I got there.

Was it luck ?

Not really I had not been waiting around to get a call asking if I wanted to get credentials for the Game.

So you where chasing your dream ?

Not really either, I just enjoy taking pictures of light and emotions, this can be found anywhere. I never set out to be a Pro sports photograpger, I just want to enjoy taking pictures and learn as much as possible while doing it.

OK it was neither luck and not your dream, was it hard to get the credentials

No it was very easy, but also very hard, but after all it was not all that hard. I don’t want to mislead people here. In the end it was really easy. Have there been steps that did seem hard/impossible to climb, frustrating, … yes absolutely.

I probably need to step back a bit and go back on how it all started. I have always loved taking pictures, in the film age it was about capturing the picture. The lab would take care of the rest. I had a P&S that I did along for most of my sport hobbies, to the point that I would drive friends crazy. The Film DSLR was hard to use until I got my hands on a Minolta 7000i (which I still own by the way) from there on I was shooting a lot of what I would call snapshots today. I started to experiment with depth of field but I had really no idea on what I was doing.

Eventually I got a digital DSLR the Sony A-100 when it was released, from there I was getting more into photography but still very much as a hobbyist. My brother on the other hand did go out and bought a Canon camera with all the pro glass with it. Boy was I jealous of his pictures, understanding, post processing, …. But new cameras where so expensive that I could not justify one.

When did it change for you ? What made you take photography seriously ?

It started at the day of my 40th birthday, my very best friends and business partners wanted to know what I really wanted as a special gift.

Very quickly I was set on a new camera the choice was hard Canon (to borrow some great glass), Sony to be able to use my existing lenses (which I hardly ever do) or Nikon.

In the end I picked the Sony A-850 with 24mipx, flash, the Zeiss 24-70 f2.8 and 70-400 f4-5.6lens and vertical grip.

I snapped a few pictures on my birthday and the next day I took a walk with my camera and I was hooked. The pictures looked like nothing I had ever seen.

How did you learn more about photography ?

I had read many books but the book that brought it all together was the digital photography series from Scott Kellby. I also watched every single episode of D-town and the Grid. There is however only 1 way for me to learn and improve it is called practice or rehearse.

I am/was a rock climber scuba diver and in both one practices until everything is automatic and does require thinking. Then and we can focus on subject in front of us (the rock or corals).

I also need to mention Brian Patterson and his book about Flash before his book I had read many about the inverse square law of light or confusion and the weird vodo associated with flash.

Joe Mc Nally in his books showed me how to use the artistically.

How much do you practice, read ?

I try to go out at least once a week to take pictures of something, I try to change the type of shooting, subjects and set my self assignments. Lately with the sports seasons I got out 1-2x a week but no practice. On average I used to shoot 30,000 pictures a year. In 2013 at the current rate I will be probably closer to 150,000 clicks (I am usually not a burst shooter, except for action off course, I like however to experiment)

Wow that is a lot of pictures do you ever get tired ?

Not really, photography for me is relaxing and it is a therapy. I would probably be classified as somebody with ADHD or an inability to stop. Yes at times I am not happy with what I did on a shoot or what I did.

Going back how did you end up shooting Pro sports ?

There was probably a little of luck in there. The first day out with the camera I did shoot a very popular running event in Geneva. After that I tried many other things. On holiday I did photography kite surfers training. Eventually we had a local sports day with all the local clubs doing exhibits. It was a chance to shoot different martial arts and soccer. Luck would have it that one of the clubs had great red and black jerseys and the had a lot of emotions to show on the field. They asked for some pictures, I gave them my card and soon I was shooting their games on a regular basis. I also shoot some girl soccer where there is usually more emotions and more pleasing pictures can be taken of the action (less compact).

Then one day I did go down to the filed form where I live and too pictures of American Football, I was hooked from the first game, had no idea about the rules, … It is really a fantastic game to shoot.

I was pretty happy here and there taking pictures. The I was lucky enough to meet Scott Kelby for a photowalk in Paris, he had recently +1 of my pictures on Google plus. He suggested I should try to e-mail the local sports clubs to see if I could get credentials.

Once I got home I sent 2 e-mails got a reply and within 1 week I had a meeting they where interested by my work and wanted me to shoot the season both hockey and soccer. I was out to shoot maybe 1 game and there I was taking pictures of all the local games.

Here luck may have it that they where hosting the friendly game between brazil and italy and asked if I was interested to shoot at the game.

Wow that all sounds fantastic and easy, so you accepted ?

There are a few offers like that I could not really pass up on this. It sound easy and it really was but at times with 2 local games in the same week and delivering the pictures, trying to be creative, working my day job and taking care of the family it was not all that easy.

There was also another problem the game was Thursday night and Friday 9am I had to be at a work meeting in Paris (where I had also committed to take some pictures).

It did seem impossible to make both, there was no train, plane or other easy arrangement to make both meetings. There was only 1 option. Shoot the soccer game, get into the car drive 600km or 400miles, try to sleep a little and get ready for work.

That sounds crazy !

I know but that was the only option to shoot that game, I tried to convince some colleagues to drive up with me, they all wanted to go but found it too crazy to handle and declined. Thanks to Google I found somebody willing to fly down from Paris meet with me and drive up with me again. (I did make it up by getting him a set for the game).

To make it happen I did sleep 3hours in the after-noon, went to the game did take pictures until 2245 packed up and 2300 we where on our way around 5am I dropped of my passenger at the Arc de Triumph in Paris, it was another hour drive to my hotel. The key was not there and I had to wake somebody.

I eventually got 2hours of sleep and did make it through the day.

I understand most people would probably not go that far for a few pictures.

I know, this was one of these very rare chances to take this pictures and I could not let it go by. The same thing happens when I have to get up at way to early o clock to catch a sunrise or even a planned session. Most people would just do the composite and slap the model onto the sunrise in the background. I love to make things happen in camera.

Once I am up and out it is always worth it. Sure many times it would feel so much better to just slip back to bed. Thankfully the sunrise is a magic reward for those who dare.

You talk about in camera how much post processing do you do on your pictures?

I have an job in IT and spend already a long time in front of the PC. I try to keep the editing to a minimum. I am very aggressive with the delete key. Then I use Capture One Pro with my own styles to process the bulk of the pictures. Shooting pro sports teaches/forces you to be efficient and fast. I may use gimp every now and then to work more specifically on a particular pictures most of the time for sessions with models or pictures I love (my guess is that only 1 in 2000 pictures I keep is edited with Gimp). I delete about half of what I shoot and of the reminder I process maybe half to 2/3. This means that about 1in 4 pictures makes it into the public. When I shoot models it is more like 1 in 10.

Any plans to become a professional photographer ?

Not really photography is a really hard craft if you do it right. I am very happy to be back at my day job after a session. I do however approach photography like a business, I have all the accounting, insurance, contracts, … with the difference that I don’t have to pay the bills with it. I can shoot what I like and decide how much I charge for work or when I decide to do it for free I know how much this is costing me and why I did accept to take a day off or time away from my family.

Are you chasing any specific dreams or things you would like to shoot ?

Not really, I still consider my self a beginner, there are so many things I would love to shoot. If I was offered to pick any assignment it would be :

1 Take pictures from the ISS down to earth

2 Media credentials for the next super bowl or NHL finals or the world cup in Brazil

Wow you need a fairy to make this happen !

Beyond these cases for most of the other things there is a way to get it done, it just takes time and passion. My goal is to meet nice people, take decent pictures and learn while having fun.

You talk a lot about other people are you part of a club or present on social media ?

I used to be an introvert, who is healing. I don’t belong to any local formal club, I like to be free to meet people when things happen. Perfect stranger in the street can be real fun.

Regarding social media. I deleted my FB account 5month ago. I am however very present on google + I love this platform and the amount of very talented photographers keeps you humble.

Why did you delete your FB account and what is so special about Google ?

FB was at first an interesting idea to keep track of schoolmates, old friends, … However at some point I realized that I had all these friends and that we had noting in common except a brief time in history together. For a friendship to last it needs nourishing and interaction. Not something I was getting out of FB. I felt more an more annoyed about their changes in policy, design changes, … At some point I just quit and feel no regrets.

Google + on the other had I did join the day it was opened to the public. It is about finding people with the same interest and exchanging with them. I just passed 3000 followers. And there are less than 100 that I did meet in real life through Google. The Swiss Google photography club is great at organizing local events. I am not a friend collector I have a very closed circle of people who I follow and try to interact with by + their posts commenting, seeing the in a hangout or out there

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