CAMERAS..? Check. Lenses..? Check. Flashes..? Check. Tripods, monopods, light stands, light modifiers, Wi-Fi transmitters, iPad, laptop, memory cards, camera bag, batteries, chargers, card reader, and the rest? Check!
Welcome to the first Lens Me Your Ear blog. My name is Luke Hemer and I’m the guy you’ll see running around town festooned with cameras and snapping images for the Riv. But it’s not just in Echuca/Moama and surrounds that I get to take eye-catching images. Each January there’s a sporting tournament in Melbourne you may have heard of, the Australian Open, and I’m fortunate to be one of the photographers who works for Tennis Australia.
For three weeks a team of photographers and photo editors gather at Melbourne Park to work on one of the world’s best annual sports events, generating thousands of images across hundreds of matches that get published on the AO website, a daily program and used throughout the year for publicity.
A typical day (not that there is such a thing) at the AO starts out with a briefing from the photo supervisor, we go through a plan of attack to get the best moments of the day both on and off court.
Then I’ll set my gear up, choosing the best lenses for the job, the big show courts require a bigger lens to capture the action up close, while the outside courts are tight and you have to navigate the big crowds so it’s best to travel light.
I will set up my camera to transmit my photos wirelessly over an FTP to the editors so they can get the images out as fast as possible.
I choose the best photos as I take them, ones that tell a story of the match. The editors will then make any adjustments in Photoshop, they might colour-correct the images, lighten or darken them, then they crop them to a specific size to go on the website.
Rafael Nadal during a practice session. Camera: Canon EOS-1DX, Lens: 400mm f2.8, ISO: 400, Exposure: 1/5000 sec, F-stop: f4. Image converted to black and white in Adobe Lightroom.
During the day at the open it can get hot, very hot. On court temperatures rise and sitting courtside gives you a real feeling of how tough the players do it on the hard courts.
Keeping hydrated, cool, and sun smart are no brainers as the days are long and you have to be concentrating to make sure you don’t miss a great photo.
However there are ways for photographers to escape the heat, there are vantage points from the concourses amongst the fans, its great to feel a part of the noise especially when a crowd favourite like Aussie Daria Gavrilova plays on Hisense area.
Photographers can also shoot from the catwalks on the main courts, which give a spectacular birds eye view looking down on the action.
Martina Hingis and Coco Vandeweghe. Camera: Canon EOS-1DX, Lens: 70-200mm f2.8, ISO: 1600, Exposure: 1/1600 sec, F-stop: f14. Photographing doubles is hard, for this image I closed down my aperture to gain a large depth of field so both players were in focus. I really like the way the shadow is half way across the court and the players are going opposite directions.
For photographers the AO can be a creative playground, the harsh Australian sun creates strong dramatic shadows during the ‘golden hour’ where players running in and out of the light can make images that seem as though they are appearing from darkness.
The night brings along other challenges for photographers, getting a white balance is important to replicate correct skin tones – if you are even slightly off players can look green or purple.
Dylan Alcott plays on Rod Laver Arena during his final win. Camera: Canon EOS-1DX, Lens: 400mm f2.8, ISO: 100, Exposure: 1/2000 sec, F-stop: f2.8.
As the tournament progresses you can feel a buzz around the grounds, the matches get more tense with each point. This year was a dream to shoot, with fan favourites Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the men’s final and the Williams sisters in the women’s.
Photographers also up their game as the tournament progresses, getting more and more creative each day.
Using slow shutter speeds to create movement, and even using multiple exposure settings in camera to layer photos on top of each other, making a story come together in one image, no Photoshop required. Sports photography is so much more than just clicking a button.
Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka play in the mens semi final on Rod Laver Arena. Canon EOS-1DX, Lens: 400mm f2.8, ISO: 3200. Image created using in camera multiple exposure. One exposure for the flag and one for each player.
Late on the final Sunday night (or was that early Monday morning) Roger Federer walked from the player services area to the broadcast compound with the trophy under his arm, as he passed under a walk bridge I captured my last pics of the 2017 tournament. As the photo editors processed final images from the photographers coming through the room was abuzz with excitement from what we had witnessed, a champion had returned.