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  • Inside the mind of a Champions League Final photographer: Nikon Ambassador Joel Marklund

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    “It’s all a big mess,” that’s how Nikon Europe Ambassador, Joel Marklund, described covering each adrenaline-fuelled moment of the recent nail-biting UEFA Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

     

    Setting up on the sidelines, handling his remote cameras, the pressure to send images ‘live’ & using the ethernet, the importance of position and a little creative thinking: Joel shares what it takes to really deliver the signature shots everyone wants.

     

    Atletico Madrid's Fernando Torres header duel with Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos during the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico, Madrid May 28, 2016 in Milan. Nikon D5 + NIKKOR 400.0 mm f/2.8 @ f/2.8 | 400 mm | 1/2000s | ISO 2500 © Joel Marklund
    Atletico Madrid’s Fernando Torres header duel with Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos during the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico, Madrid May 28, 2016 in Milan. Nikon D5 + NIKKOR 400.0 mm f/2.8 @ f/2.8 | 400 mm | 1/2000s | ISO 2500 © Joel Marklund

     

    It’s not all glitz & glamour

    Joel was positioned metres away from some of the highest paid footballers in the world; a situation that every young football fan has dreamed of.

     

    But for Joel, “it’s all a big mess”. There are 160 photographers on the field fighting to get the best shot and he has to work hard to make sure he stands out against them. It’s also one of the longest days he has to work all year: “I caught my flight in at 5am and didn’t get back to my hotel until 4am”, he told us.

     

    He arrived at the San Siro stadium in Milan six hours before kick-off to find his position, choose his angles, and setup. Joel then shot the entire match, working through the additional 30 minutes extra time and the penalty shoot-out.

     

    Position, position, position

    Joel always aims to get a shot of the player who scores the game-winning goal, the winning captain, and the head coach. But the one unknown is your position. “When I get to an arena, I don’t know where I’m going to be – therein the challenge” Joel explained.

     

    Zidane, Football, Champions League, final, Real Madrid Atletico Madrid
    Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane thrown up by his players after the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid May 28, 2016 in Milan. Nikon D5 + NIKKOR 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ f/4.0 | 70.0 mm | 1/1250s | ISO 5000 © Joel Marklund

     

    Agencies will typically take the best spots: “AP, Reuters and Getty have five photographers each and it’s tough to compete with”. There’s also a priority system, so where you are ranked can dictate your position on the pitch.

     

    Joel’s top tips are to get there early, prepare and set up everything you can, and to really think about which position you need to be in when the match ends. He tries to predict which team will win, where their fans will be sitting, and what shots to go after.

     

    For the final, Joel’s suspicion that Real Madrid would win meant that he opted to follow the fans and positioned himself on the long side, next to one of the corner spots.

     

    Turn your disadvantage into an advantage

    If you don’t get the ideal spot, creative thinking can make up for it, and that’s when Joel’s ingenuity and experience compensated for a less-than-ideal spot.

     

    Take, for example, the trophy shot. While all the other photographers at the podium stood to take the image, Joel sat on the ground. So when Ramos held the trophy aloft, Joel was the only one to get a photo of the Real Madrid captain without a shadow on his face from the silverware.

     

    ergio Ramos, Champions League, trophy, Madri, Atletico
    Real Madrid’s players cheering when Sergio Ramos holds up the trophy after the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid May 28, 2016 in Milan. Nikon D4S + NIKKOR 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 @ f/2.8 | 180.0 mm | 1/1000s | ISO 2500 © Joel Marklund

     

    Joel also managed to get a unique shot of the players entering the stadium. “I know it was a tight spot and I needed to be in the front. I had to run quickly and crawl under a rope to get in. I was two metres away when they came in, sitting on the ground looking up. It’s a shot not many photographers had of the game”.

     

    Eyes everywhere: the benefits of remote cameras

    For the Champions League final, there’s a lot of time pressure, “you can’t miss anything and there’s a lot happening”. One of his ways to combat this is remote cameras.

     

    In order to be everywhere at all times, Joel set up two D4S cameras remotely. These can help when you’re not in the perfect position.

     

    As Joel explained, “there’s a 50:50 chance you’ll be on the best side, but because of my remote camera, I still got the goals”.

     

    photographer Football, Champions League, final, Real Madrid - Atletico Madrid
    Getting ready: Joel Marklund before the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid May 28, 2016 in Milan. Nikon D5 + NIKKOR 24.0-70.0 mm f/5.6 | 1/320s | ISO 400 © Joel Marklund

     

    “It’s becoming more and more common to use remote cameras. The technology isn’t new, but a lot of photographers are exploiting it more.”

     

    Photographers are now expected to deliver a specific moment from all angles, so remote photography helps professionals like Joel capture images such as wide angle low shots from behind the goal, or the celebrations after.

     

    From shutter button to editor in 120 seconds

    Another major change for sports photographers over recent years has been the speed at which they’re expected to transfer their photos. ‘Live’ news requires ‘live’ coverage.

     

    “Turnaround time, for me, is two minutes. Most of the time, for big events like this, I send my images live. I manually edit my shots on the D5; because everything is reported as it happens, I need to make it real time.”

     

    The editor expects the shots to arrive in their inbox in real-time. It’s for that reason that Joel missed the pre-shots of the game. “There were actually issues with the Ethernet before the game. I would normally look for fans beforehand, but it’s so critical than I stayed to make sure it got fixed”, he explained.

     

    Nikon D5 Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid
    Joel’s Nikon D5 set up on the pitch during the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid May 28, 2016 in Milan. Nikon D5 + NIKKOR 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ f/5.6 | 24.0 mm | 1/320s | ISO 400 © Joel Marklund

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    What was in Joel’s kit bag?


    Cameras:

    Lenses:

     

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    Read more about Joel’s background in our blog post here. You can also follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and his website is here.