Mark Pain - Award Winning Sports Photography at the Olympics and Beyond 16 June 2020   

In the second of our Zoom! Summer Programme, Devizes Camera Club welcomed Mark Pain to deliver a presentation on Sports Photography. A Nikon Ambassador, Mark is a multi-award winning sports photographer, having won the Sports Photographer of the Year Awards in 2005 and 2011. He covers a wide range of sports including football and rugby World Cups, golf Ryder Cups and athletics World Championships. He has also been involved in 4 Olympic Games, winning the Olympic Photographer of the Year award from British Airways in 2012.
MP 1Splitting his presentation into two halves covering his day-to-day activities in the first and images from the Olympics in the second half, Mark emphasised the need to be prepared before the event from a physical, technical and mental standpoint. Several of his stories associated with the images demonstrated the hard work he puts in to preparing and planning for capturing fleeting moments in the sports he attends.
Mark started by showing us an audio-visual entitled Capturing the Moment. This was a compilation of stunning sporting images taken during the course of his work, covering a full range of sports including footballers celebrating goals; rugby players at the moment before touchdown; the start of the Epsom Derby; a bobsleigh racing past a mother and child in St Moritz.
One particular image was of Tiger Woods at the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in 2010 (see inset). Mark told us how Tiger was struggling in the heavy rain and had hit his drive way left into the rough. The marshals formed the crowd into an arc around him with the cameramen further forward encroaching on Tiger’s eyeline. Tiger then shanked his shot and the ball flew straight at Mark, hitting his camera on the front of the lens and dropping to his feet. Mark was also struggling with his camera equipment in the rain, but, having pre-focused his camera on Tiger’s head, using back-button focusing, setting his desired aperture, shutter speed and ISO, he was able to get the shot without the camera trying to focus on the ball.
During the break, Mark was asked what his favourite sport was. He said that he didn’t really have a favourite, but that he learnt about manual focusing shooting basketball in Kingston with his first camera at the age of 14. He had also enjoyed photographing table tennis in Bracknell during his youth.
MP 2During the second half, Mark talked enthusiastically about his love of photographing at the Olympics. Again, he showed us an audio-visual compilation of wonderful images as an introduction, and he told us not to give up on the picture you want and to keep going back till you get it right.
He told us how it took him 3 days of trying to get an image of a relay runner through the heat haze of the Olympic flame. How he took 4 days to get the picture he wanted of a paralympian table tennis player about to serve. And how, having failed to get a place on the photographers’ podium, he retrieved his 400mm lens and x2 converter, found a place in the crowd, pre-focused his camera and waited for Zara Phillips to lean forward to receive her silver medal from her mother, Princess Anne. He said that he just could not have got a picture like that from the photographers’ podium as he would have been looking at the back of Princess Anne’s head.
Asked what his favourite image was, Mark said that his image of a diver at the Beijing Olympics would have to be his choice (see inset). The photographers had been given seats at the 10m level (the height of the board) but the backgrounds were too messy and distracting. But this guy, who didn’t towel himself dry between dives, always had the spray of water as he tumbled through the air. So, Mark went back early the following day to see if he could photograph during the practice session. He got access to the VIP seats with a perfect view of his subject. As it was early, the auditorium lights had not been switched on which meant the background was dark with no distractions. The result is a fabulous image that is obvious reward for perseverance.
Final messages form Mark were to remember to check all your camera setting, especially when moving from one environment to another. He also said that we shouldn’t be afraid to fail as long as we work out what we did wrong and learn for next time.
Chairman Steve was effusive in his thanks, as always, saying that he had been blown away by the many of the images and had learnt a number of techniques to try out in the future. DF
images © Mark Pain