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