The beautiful game
Swedish sports photographer Joel Marklund reveals the intensity and chaos of covering a Champions League final
This series covers the Champions League final between Barcelona and Juventus at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany, in June 2015. I work for Bildbyrån, Sweden’s number one sports photographic agency, and we always cover the Champions League final; it’s one of the biggest sporting moments of the year and this was my second time shooting it. What was so special was that I literally spent 24 hours on the job; Iflew out at around 4am from Stockholm to Berlin, went to the final in the evening, then departed again in the early hours of the morning.
I needed to cover as much as possible before, during and after the match, but in a unique way. Our clients include all the major newspapers in the country, as well as TV channels, magazines and book publishers. I’m always trying to look for shots that differentiate my imagery from other agencies. I delivered more than 100 images to our clients ‘on the wire’; most of them were sent directly from the camera through an Ethernet connection (all the photographer positions in the stadium have an Ethernet port) to an editor back in the offices in Sweden, who quickly processed the images, captioned them and sent them on.
After the match I edited a few extra shots, including those from my remote cameras behind the goals. They’ve been published in many news outlets all over the world.
As a lone photographer, you have the responsibility of covering everything that happens in the game. This is really hard around a football pitch, where you’re only allowed to choose one position and not move from that during the match. You obviously can’t direct what’s going to happen, so you need to be a little bit lucky and hope that the action unfolds in front of you, and not on the other side of the pitch. I always use at least two remote cameras at events
You can’t direct what’s going to happen, so you need to be lucky and hope the action unfolds in front of you and not on the other side of the pitch
like this to hopefully get a few more shots of the important moments. This time I had one remote camera positioned behind each goal.
Join the crowd
Barcelona ended up winning 3-1, and the image of Barcelona fans cheering Neymar  was awarded an Honourable Mention in the National Press Photographers Association’s Best of Photojournalism contest. For me the image encapsulates the joy of sport. I like to show not only the players, but also the spectators. The fans are sincerely emotional, and you can see how important the title is for them, as is the chance to interact with one of their heroes. This was a moment they’ll never forget.
I used a D4s as my main camera, with a 400mm f/2.8, and sometimes a 1.4x converter to extend the focal length. I also had a 70-200mm f/2.8 and 24-70mm f/2.8. For my remote cameras behind the goals (a D4 and D3s) I had one set wide on 15mm and the other tighter, at 24mm, to get different kinds of images. I used Pocket Wizards to trigger the remote cameras. I needed to trust that my cameras wouldn’t fail, and would continue working even in bad weather and harsh conditions.
This Champions League final was the most chaotic football game I have been to. At the end, the celebrating players ran outside the pitch, past us photographers, and out to their fans, making it hard for security personnel to maintain a perimeter. It was an intense day, but in the end I achieved a varied set of images from a big moment in sport. Events like this are very demanding and require you to deliver your best in a limited time – and for this same reason I long for them!
1 Back oF the net Joel set up several Nikon DSLRs remotely, so he could capture the game from a variety of positions 2 One for the fans This evocative image was taken with a Nikon D4s and 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom lens at 55mm 3 We are the champions Joel says that these kinds of dramatic events are those you either have a love or hate relationship with