How do you photograph the fastest people in the world?
That is exactly who the Berlin Marathon attracts: the last five world records have all been set there. About 10 world record holders – including Wilson Kipsang, who broke the marathon world record by 15 whole seconds yesterday – were either running or part of the ceremonials.
Perfect Day for a Marathon
All that sports gear – fast cameras, long lenses – helps. But that just gives you a foundation to stand on. I often chose to go for details, the obvious one being feet. Or hands, as above. Shooting an event like this is a serious challenge, especially for someone like me who doesn’t even know the rules of most sports. I mean, my thighs are tired from just covering the marathon yesterday.
The weather was perfect for a marathon. Pundits claimed beforehand that it was a little windy but might be good enough to set a new record. And there was more than enough light to photograph but it was damn shadowy. In full sunlight it was perfect, like the above shot of Patrick, just have to shoot right and process accordingly. The shadow of the goal gates did not help, especially for darker skinned runners. Any black-and-white film would laugh at the challenge but most digital cameras have trouble here. Again, solid gear: check. Or: shoot one second before they cross, when the runner is still in the sun.
Photographing Wilson Kipsang at the Finish Line
The moment everyone was waiting for came 2:03:23 after the starting pistol: Wilson Kipsang crossing the finish line.
Life is problem solving. Photography is problem solving. Sometimes you have to compromise anyway. Some jerk jumped over the fence and ran the last 10 meters with Kipsang, crossing the finish line in front of him. He’s on all the photos. So it goes.
Some newspapers are cropping tightly, so that only the left hand of this guy is in Kispang’s frame. Some are running the whole image, and making a thing out of it. At least most are blurring the website on his shirt that he was apparently advertising for. Pretty much all newspapers, though, are going to run a shot other than that one.
Photography is a game of skill, gear, access, luck, connections. Just like with most other things. In journalism, access is key. And sometimes, not all pigs are equal. The shot you’ll see in the papers is gonna be from AP, Reuters, DPA, maybe Getty (but I didn’t see them there). Sometimes, these guys are the best in the world – and the quickest. But yesterday, they got it because of access. Here’s the view from the photographer pit, for all of us unequal pigs, a few minutes before Wilson crossed:
The guys lying on the ground snuggling are from the big agencies. And the rest of us were blocked off by a fence. At least this time they lay down so we could shoot the action instead of the back of the head of some hot-shot photographer.
Past the Finish Line: Glory and Pain
Shortly after the elite men crossed, the finish line goal was setup again for Florence Kiplagat, who finished with 2:21:13. These people are running faster than I bike. After catching her breath, Florence strolled by happy as could be.
These are the great happy press shots. The finish line of a marathon is a gross place to stand. At least once I jumped out of the way of someone about to puke on me and my gear. Almost everyone who crossed was attended to by doctors.
I don’t mean to run an image of a woman having such difficulty while there is a successful man right next to her, but its the only shot I’ve got that captures the mix of tragedy and joy at the finish line. For what its worth, she was the 14th woman to cross the finish line.
Photographs of Inline Skating at the Berlin Marathon
Though Sunday’s race certainly got the limelight, Saturday’s inline skating marathon was no less impressive. About 7,000 racers participated in a race that gets some superlative, like being the biggest inline skating event integrated in a running event. Sports people love superlatives.
The light was better, too. The race started at 3:30 and ended an hour later, affording less harsh shadows on the racers. Their speed afforded better action shots, too. The winner of the race, Bart Swings, broke the one hour mark – thereby becoming a record-setter in his own right.
I was ready for action, and at the award ceremony, action I got. Erdinger, a beer company, was one of the major sponsors. There was all the alcohol-free hefeweizen we could dream of. They also gave the first place racers each an absurdly large beer glass with their other prizes. Neither the male nor female lead was interested after a few sips. Manon Kamminga, the female winner, had a few sips and passed it over the fence to some fans.
Bart had a different stroke of genius. He poured it all over the 2nd place racer, his teammate and older brother, Maarten.
Thanks for the sponsorship, Erdinger.
Marathons and Racers
Capturing the events and the people are different stories. Annie Liebovitz would do this right, lugging tons of lighting equipment to the right scenery and nail both character and action. I don’t have the resource, connections, or talent for that. My portrait of Manon Kamminga relaxing after the race goes straight to her feet. She took her skates off but kept them with her. Simple and to the point.
And that’s it for the 2013 edition of the Berlin Marathon