World Athletics Photography Workshop participants with Blanka Vlasic and Joel Marklund
While the world’s best athletes were performing on track, 12 participants had the unique opportunity to capture them up close as part of the inaugural World Athletics Photography Workshop, held during the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23.
The photographers – attending from around the world – had a range of photography backgrounds. For some, it was their first time being at a world event, while others had more experience in photographing athletics. However, one thing they had in common is that they had all captured sporting events before.
The photographers arrived in Budapest five days prior to the start of the competition, to gather all the necessary knowledge they needed to succeed during the upcoming nine days of action. The workshop was opened by mentor Joel Marklund, an award-winning photographer who assisted the workshop attendees during their whole stay.
Participants of the first World Athletics Photography Workshop with mentor Joel Marklund (© Joel Marklund)
“We had the theoretical courses at the beginning of the programme and then we moved into more practicality,” said Marklund. “First, we showed them what a good athletics photo is. What to think of when it comes to positioning, light and background, and what kind of moments to look out for. It is one thing to see that, but it is very different to get out there in reality and get it.”
The participants also attended a number of sessions on photo operations, archiving and ethics in the stadium. Moreover, they had the chance to meet the representatives of Sony, Nikon and Canon, and discuss future technology with them. Throughout the World Championships, the photographers were given the opportunity to shoot with these brands’ equipment.
“It was a really good experience that I had the chance to try and use different equipment from different companies and take pictures I have never had the chance to before,” said George Foteinakis, a participant from Greece.
Even as the World Championships started, the lectures didn’t end. In breaks from photographing the competition, presentations covered a range of topics including agency work and the portrayal of women in sport, from guest speakers of Getty Images, Reuters and AFP, ending with Q&A sessions.
Given the high temperatures in Budapest, the photographers had one extra thing to cope with. However, thanks to Paolo Emilio Adami – Medical Manager at World Athletics – they were able to learn how to protect themselves from the heat and how to adapt to the warm conditions.
The attendees also had assignments to do, including submitting the best 20 pictures they took after each day of the competition, which was followed by one-on-one and group feedback sessions with Marklund. As the Swedish photographer explained: “These constant feedback sessions were quite good because they could improve, and we were able to reshape what they were doing and give them directions. I think through this, they learnt a lot.”
Participants at the end of the World Athletics Photography Workshop
However, the biggest surprise arrived on the last day of the World Championships, when participants had the pleasure of meeting Blanka Vlasic – the two-time world champion high jumper – and had the chance to talk to her about the relationship between athletes and photographers. Vlasic highlighted some of her favourite memories and pictures captured during her career and even gave advice on how to achieve better relationships with the competitors.
After receiving his diploma, Erick Barasa of Kenya said: “For me, the biggest learning was that before you position yourself, you have to think about the outcome. Emotions are more important than actions. You have to look for something hidden in the picture. Being exposed to people like Joel Marklund, I now look at things differently. After the World Championships we are better photographers in every way. This was an eye opener.”
As the World Championships came to an end on 27 August, the first World Athletics Photography Workshop also concluded. One thing all the participants agreed on was that the experience had given them life-long memories and connections. They learnt how to think differently when approaching a picture.
Because often the best photos capture moments that none of the other photographers saw.
Laura Szondi for World Athletics
Laura Szondi is a Hungarian freelance journalist who participated in the AIPS Young Reporters Programme held in Innsbruck during the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships this year.