The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many activities to a standstill, and for sportsmen around the world, the very idea of not training or competing is unimaginable. Sports came to an abrupt halt in 2020 with no end in sight. Sports is not something you can transfer to an online platform and do virtually and expect to get the same adrenaline pumping. Muscles need to be out there moving, training, pushing for the limits.
Sportsmen all over the world missed the feeling of their feet hitting the ground, their hands gripping a racquet, their arms slicing through water, the texture of chalk on their palms. They missed exploring their physical challenges and competing with their peers to get beyond their comfort zone. Mostly they missed their fans cheering for them at the playing field.
2021 has been a little kinder and parts of the world are slowly opening up, albeit with caution and trepidation of yet another outbreak.
Diehard sports fans are also eager to have sports return to their lives again and so are enthusiastic sports photographers. Capturing live action in a single shot and being able to transmit the excitement and tension of the moment is a skill that cannot be replaced by taking a shot of your placid armchair while quarantined in your living room. Sports photographers are slowly returning to the sports scene as well. Government hotel quarantine restrictions for travellers have put an additional challenge on covering international events and made it very trying and tedious for them. Many have found themselves having to miss some of the major global sports events this year.
Keeping His Eye on the Ball
Andy Cheung from ArcK Photography is a professional sports photographer who specialises in tennis. He has been on the sides of the courts all over the world for more than 12 years photographing more than 20 Grand Slam Championships and other tennis events worldwide.
Andy has won numerous awards and he won in two consecutive years the prestigious 2017 and 2016 AIPP NSW Sport Professional Photographer of the Year Award. Andy now works as the official photographer of UK Tennis Magazine. He is accredited for Tennis Grand Slam Championships as well as other ATP/WTA tournaments for 13 years.
Andy - Rafael NADAL of Spain at the 2019 Australian Open Tennis Championship Day 7
Match at Melbourne Park Tennis Centre, Melbourne, Australia. 20 Jan 2019.
(©Andy Cheung/ArcK Images/arckimages.com/UK Tennis Magazine/Getty Images)]
The 3 Ps in Sports Photography
For Andy, sports photography is not about being quick with his finger and hoping to get that frozen-in-the-air moment shot. It is not about having some secret formula either. Persistence, if anything, is what he leans on. And with the experience of the pandemic, that has become key to survival - Patience, Persistence, Perseverance.
Perhaps that is what budding sports photographers need to inculcate. The 3 Ps. You need to keep returning to the sports scene and risk many shots knowing that none may turn out the way you want, and sometimes the very shot you want comes only after hours of waiting, or even after a whole day of being baked in the sun you return with nothing satisfactory. It simply means you return again the next day, with camera and tools in tow, a rested and fed body, ready to start again.
The Story Behind the Lens
Sports photography is not about simply capturing actions or what the sportsman is doing. That is more a spectator's point of view, sitting in the stands, wanting to soak up every single movement and not miss anything. When you get behind the lens, however, (and that is the magic of photography and a camera), your point of view changes, maybe even your brain changes how you see things when your eye is confined by the lens to focus on a specific area, blocking out the rest of the distractions around you.
Interestingly, the sports player per se is not necessarily the protagonist in sports photography. The sports player has to share the limelight with other elements such as light and shadows, new perspectives and angles. For Andy, he is also drawn to look for split second emotions. Perhaps the true protagonist is actually The Story. Andy wants to use his photography to tell stories. With one single shot, what narrative can you convey? What feelings have been captured and what feelings resonate with the person looking at the photograph? Andy has spent the past 10 years developing his senses to be able to capture a story in a single frame.
Rafael Nadal has been one of Andy's most photographed subjects over the course of his career.
At a mere 35 years old, Nadal is already considered a tennis legend and has won 20 Grand Slam titles. In Spain, Rafael Nadal, or ¨Rafa¨ Nadal as he is affectionately known as, is well-loved by everyone and stands out not just for his tennis skills but for simply being a super nice guy, on and off the court, the type you want to bring home to your parents who would probably hold him hostage with delicious homecooked food and smother him with lots of pampering. The nation adores him for his professionalism and his impeccable sportsmanship. He brings an element of respect, grace and humility without losing the drive and excitement of going beyond one's best in the sport.
In spite of a very early start in the gruelling world of competitions, Nadal has managed to retain a simplicity that explains why he is so loved by the nation. He began competing at the age of 8 and he has beaten 12-year-olds competing against him. As an adult, he now toggles between No.1 and No.2 positions in the Association of Tennis Professionals. For Nadal, the best year of his career was 2010 when he became the only male player in the history of tennis to have won the Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces in the same year.
Nadal is not one whose life is constricted to only the court - he is very involved in his country and is especially fond of his hometown of Mallorca. When the area was devastated by flash floods in 2018, he was there personally to help in the relief effort in the municipality of Sant Llorenç. He also offered the facilities of his Rafa Nadal Sport Centre and Rafa Nadal Academy rooms for those who needed accommodation. Giving back is second nature to Nadal and he has his Fundación Rafa Nadal which aids children and youths in Spain and India through sports and education. He is also involved in the Elton John AIDS Foundation and Small Steps Project.
Injuries are part and parcel of an intense professional sports career and Nadal has his list of injuries he has been battling over the years - patellar tendinitis in both knees, a back injury and a wrist injury. They are a humble reminder of the short-lived career of sportsmen, and sports photographers in their own way, are trying to capture their short dazzling career and the defining moments that make these sportsmen stand out as a human putting in all they have got to make that moment count.
Quirky Fact: A Star is Born ... Nadal has an asteroid in his name! Pull out your telescope from the dusty box and look for Asteroid 128036Rafaelnadal, which is a main-belt asteroid named after Rafa Nadal in his honor.
The next time you go to a sports match, why not try looking at the event through your camera? Even starting with a simple mobile phone camera, you may just see the competition differently - what story can you tell? One day you may be a visual storyteller like Andy, showing the world a different side to sports and engaging the viewer's senses to have a unique experience of the image in front of them.
For your professional photography needs,
Contact Andy Cheung, ArcK Photography:
t/ 041 228 3308
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