My Best Shot

Au­gust, 2013 World Swim­ming Cham­pi­onships Nikon D4

NPhoto - - Contents - Keith Wil­son

Marvel at Bob Martin’s per­fectly crisp shot of a syn­chro­nised swim­mer

If Bob Martin were a sports­man rather than a sports pho­tog­ra­pher, his face rather than his pic­ture credit would be a reg­u­lar fea­ture on the cover of Sports Il­lus­trated. Martin is a true leg­end in his field, the only Sports Il­lus­trated pho­tog­ra­pher to be based out­side of the USA. In 2012, he was the over­all photo chief of the Lon­don Olympics and is con­tracted by the All Eng­land Club to or­gan­ise the pho­tog­ra­phy of the Wim­ble­don ten­nis cham­pi­onships.

Last Au­gust, Martin cov­ered the World Swim­ming Cham­pi­onships in Barcelona, which in­cluded syn­chro­nised swim­ming. His ex­pec­ta­tions of the sort of pho­tos he’d get weren’t high. As he says, “Syn­chro­nised swim­ming is some­thing I nor­mally try to avoid, if I’m hon­est. It’s all pos­ing and dancing in the wa­ter, so it’s nor­mally some­thing that I don’t like. But on this oc­ca­sion it pro­duced my favourite pic­ture of the year.”

His photo shows a mem­ber of the Rus­sian team spin­ning in the air dur­ing their gold-medal-win­ning rou­tine. It’s a move that might sur­prise people un­fa­mil­iar with the sport. He says, “In syn­chro­nised swim­ming the throws have started to come in a lot more in re­cent years, but I was strug­gling a bit be­cause the light­ing and back­ground in Barcelona wasn’t that great. I just found this one lit­tle bit of black back­ground, which was ba­si­cally just crowd.”

The dif­fi­cult light­ing con­di­tions forced Martin to set his Nikon D4 to ISO3200 and his 300mm lens to its max­i­mum f/2.8 aper­ture in or­der to get the wa­ter­stop­ping shut­ter speed of 1/1600 sec. “She was thrown three or four foot above the wa­ter and I was ly­ing flat on the pool deck look­ing up at her, so it has the ef­fect of look­ing higher.”

The re­ac­tion

Al­though Martin re­gards this as his best pic­ture of 2013, few people have seen it. “It hasn’t been pub­lished very much. It’s been pub­lished, to my knowl­edge, on the Sports Il­lus­trated web­site as Pic­ture of the Day and also in the new edi­tion of the Nikon lens book The Eyes of Nikon be­cause they wanted the best pic­tures I had to of­fer that hadn’t been seen be­fore.” But he thinks it ticks all the boxes for a great ac­tion pic­ture: “While it’s a frozen ac­tion pic­ture, it hasn’t taken away the move­ment of the mo­ment,” he says. “What I like is that you see some­thing in the still that you wouldn’t see watch­ing on TV, or in the sta­dium watch­ing it.”

So will he be en­ter­ing it for any awards? “I don’t seem to be en­ter­ing so many awards these days, I seem to be judg­ing!” he laughs. “I think if I end up en­ter­ing, that will def­i­nitely be one I en­ter for Sports Pic­ture of the Year.”

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