Game, set and match

Press pho­tog­ra­pher Leon Neal re­calls how his best shot from this year’s Wim­ble­don was off-court…

NPhoto - - On Assignment -

As a news pho­tog­ra­pher for Agence France-Presse, I cover all sorts of sub­jects. This year it was my turn to cover Wim­ble­don. I’ve cov­ered the event a few times, but I usu­ally have a few years in be­tween vis­its, so it al­ways comes as a bit of a shock when I be­gin to ap­pre­ci­ate the moun­tain of work ahead.

Wim­ble­don is unique in that the or­gan­is­ers are very strict on the brand­ing and advertising that can be dis­played. This makes life so much eas­ier when it comes to get­ting ‘clean,’ logo-free shots. Seat­ing is un­re­served for the press pho­tog­ra­phers un­til the semi-fi­nals, and as AFP is one of the largest agen­cies in the world, we get a strong po­si­tion which re­ally does make life eas­ier. How­ever, the best seat is wher­ever the ac­tion hap­pens.

Tim­ing is crit­i­cal when shoot­ing any sport. One of the shots that all pho­tog­ra­phers are try­ing to get is the clas­sic ‘fried egg’, with the yel­low ball squashed flat on the rac­quet. It takes a few days to get your eye and shut­ter fin­ger in sync, but once it’s there, work be­comes eas­ier. It pays to shoot on sin­gle shot rather than burst, as to get the pre­cise mo­ment of con­tact, blast­ing off six frames isn’t go­ing to guar­an­tee get­ting any­thing. It cer­tainly takes pa­tience as you never know when the key mo­ment of the match will come.

A po­lice­man’s lot…

This year’s tour­na­ment pro­vided some in­cred­i­ble mo­ments, but my favourite im­age was taken off-court on the fi­nal day. A po­lice of­fi­cer was on duty in front of the main screen at ‘Hen­man Hill’ when he be­came caught up in watch­ing the de­vel­op­ing Men’s Sin­gles Fi­nal. Within mo­ments, he was ab­sorbed in the match, winc­ing, frown­ing and cov­er­ing his mouth in shock as Fed­erer and Djokovic fought it out. When I first started tak­ing the pic­tures, he glanced to­wards me briefly and I as­sumed that he would stop, but he car­ried on watch­ing.

Af­ter get­ting the shots and fil­ing them to the ed­i­tors, I re­turned to the of­fice to find the of­fi­cer was wait­ing for me. Fear­ing the worst, I pre­pared to jus­tify my ac­tions only to find that he’d had a call from his Mum, telling him he was “all over the In­ter­net” and he wanted to get a copy! The pic­tures did re­ally well, be­com­ing sto­ries in them­selves on news web­sites. Iron­i­cally, I was vir­tu­ally ‘naked’ when I took this shot, with just a D4s body and 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on me. For the rest of the tour­na­ment, I’d car­ried around a huge amount of kit, in­clud­ing three bod­ies, a 400mm f/2.8, the new 500mm f/4, and var­i­ous primes and ef­fects lenses!

I learned sev­eral lessons at this year’s Wim­ble­don. First, even if matches are set to start later in the day, it pays to get on site early, as there are al­ways in­ter­est­ing fea­tures to be found. Sec­ond, as I men­tioned be­fore, shoot­ing on sin­gle shot at the start of the week helps to get your eye in. Fi­nally, rest and eat when­ever you can. It can be a bru­tal fort­night. This po­lice­man be­came a news story in his own right! The per­fect fried egg shot Wim­ble­don is great for cap­tur­ing logo-free shots

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