The beau­ti­ful game

Swedish sports pho­tog­ra­pher Joel Mark­lund re­veals the in­ten­sity and chaos of cov­er­ing a Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal

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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 [1] 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

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