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Technical

Eddie Keogh: <br class="br_visual" />The Art of Athletics

Eddie Keogh:
The Art of Athletics

© Eddie Keogh/Canon Europe

July 2013

Canon Explorer Eddie Keogh was presented with a number of hurdles during a recent assignment to create stunning, graphic images to celebrate Canon’s partnership with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). CPN writer Mark Alexander spoke to him to discover the story behind the shoot…

Eddie Keogh is a dab hand at sports photography. After nearly 30 years on the touchline, he has covered everything from World Cups to the Olympics, shooting for national newspapers and news agencies. Over the years, he has refined his technique and honed his skills to stop the action and capture the moment. But while speed is important, it’s not just what Eddie is seeking to capture in his images.

© Kieran Doherty/Canon Europe

Steam off the athlete provided by a special kettle! Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF24mm f/1.4L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/250sec at f/2.8, ISO 250.

“Emotion makes pictures,” he says firmly, “whether it’s determination, joy, hurt or agony.” According to Eddie, the physical act of chasing a ball or fending off an adversary is secondary – a mere backdrop to the poignancy of expression.

In November 2012 Canon announced it would be an Official Partner of the IAAF World Athletics Series from 2013 to 2016, including two IAAF World Championships; kicking off with a mainly floodlit event in Moscow (from 10-18 August 2013). To help to illustrate this Canon required beautifully crafted images that would convey its involvement and showcase the spectacle of the sport that was about to unravel.

So when Eddie Keogh was asked to shoot this campaign for Canon Europe, in which the focus would be entirely on sport with no signs of the exertion or reaction, he knew the job was going to be tricky. “The pictures had to be more graphic,” Eddie explains. “We couldn’t show the faces of the athletes which made it difficult because the majority of good pictures are of emotion, showing screaming, pain or ecstasy. In that sense, it was a difficult brief. We did lots of different things and eventually we cracked it.”

Night shift

Over three nights, 20 athletes converged on Lee Valley Stadium in London, England, to help Eddie capture 4,000 images, of which 12 (shown below) made it to the final cut. The six-hour sessions were devised to produce powerful and unashamedly emotionless pictures that would focus on the intensity of competition.

For the shoot Eddie called upon his EOS-1D X DSLR. “The beauty of this camera is its ability to shoot at 12fps or [up to] 14fps,” he explains. “For instance, when the sprinters came out of the blocks, I had about three frames before they were gone and that was at 9fps [set via the continuous shooting speed Custom Function]; they’re that fast. You want to get as many frames as you can in that split second so you have as many options as possible because there will always be one image that is better than the rest. One always stands out. We wanted to get as many pictures as possible out of each discipline.”

  • Please click on the slideshow below to view Eddie Keogh's final cut of 12 images.


But as Eddie notes, speed is only useful if the images are sharp. “If the autofocus works, then you get nine sharp frames every second. There is no point in having a camera that can shoot 9fps if they’re all fuzzy. That’s pointless, and that’s the beauty of the EOS-1D X; not only is it fast, but it is also sharp. If it’s not sharp it’s generally user error by me!”

Of course a 61-point AF system helps, as does the EOS-1D X’s 18 megapixel full-frame sensor with Dual DIGIC 5+ processors, which produce 14fps in high-speed mode. Paired up with the ultra fast EF85mm f/1.2L II USM lens and Eddie’s ability to capture iconic scenes, the EOS-1D X produced studio-like quality on location, to a strict deadline.

© Kieran Doherty/Canon Europe

Dramatic side-lighting enabled Eddie to get shots full of drama from the water splash. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF24mm f/1.4L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/1250sec at f/3.2, ISO 1250.

“I borrowed the 85mm [lens] for the project,” says Eddie. “I had used it once before so I knew it was a gorgeous lens and a lovely piece of glass. In particular, I liked the narrow depth-of-field that helped me throw the background out a lot more. And it’s also beautifully sharp.”

Another lens brought along especially for the occasion was the fast-aperture, wide-angle EF24mm f/1.4L II USM that brought its own powers of diffusion and reportage possibilities. Eddie used it to great effect when capturing steam rising from an athlete following his supposed exertions – in truth the steam was produced by a kettle rather than from any physical efforts of the model…

“It was really funny,” he recalls. “There was a bloke kneeling down behind him pumping steam onto his back making him look as if he was busting a gut. The athlete got really into it – he should have joined Equity,” Eddie laughs. “The [24mm] lens I took the shot with is regarded as one of Canon’s sharpest lenses but you can also work close to the subject and still get that out-of-focus feel in the background. You get that differentiation. It’s a really nice piece of kit, a great street photographer’s lens.”

Quality lenses, reliable performers

© Kieran Doherty/Canon Europe

A higher vantage point of the long jump provided by a ‘cherry picker’. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF24mm f/1.4L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/1250sec at f/5.6, ISO 1250.

Although Eddie drafted in some glass that he might not normally use on a day-to-day basis he also brought along some of his faithful workhorse lenses, including the ever-dependable Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM zoom. “I use it a lot,” he reveals. “It compressed the legs of the sprinters for example. It is my standard lens for football. There was a time when some photographers went to the fixed 135mm lens because they wouldn’t trust a zoom, but now you can trust this lens all the way. At football, you keep on getting pictures. It’s all about maximising the number of pictures to give you more choice which will undoubtedly improve your edit.”

But the shoot at the Lee Valley Stadium wasn’t an everyday assignment. The concept was to recreate the floodlit atmosphere of the IAAF World Championships at the Luzniki Stadium, Moscow. To achieve this look, lighting would be critical. There was just one problem. “When I shoot a sporting event, I use the available light which is usually the floodlights,” Eddie reveals. “Unfortunately the stadium lighting on the shoot was too weak, so Canon brought in two guys especially to do the lighting. I told them what I wanted, which was great. I have never had this facility before.”

To emulate the impressive Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, a lighting rig was used that Eddie says was: “the kind of thing you would see on a film set.” Despite its size – or perhaps because of it – the lights worked. “It certainly brought things to life,” he says. “It changed the way I worked. I decided where the peak of the moment would be and directed the lighting crew to it. If it was the steeplechase, I wanted them to arrange it in such a way that the light caught the water as it splashed up. It was great because you could put the lights anywhere you wanted.”

Creativity under pressure

The unusual nature of the shoot also brought out the best in Eddie’s creative side, prompting him to seek out new vantage points that he wouldn’t normally consider. A cherry picker to cover the hurdles and long jump, for instance, isn’t one of his typical photography aids, as is a waterproof casing for his EOS-1D X.

“Because we weren’t showing the athlete’s faces, I had to get some unusual angles. During steeplechase events, for instance, I usually get fairly close to the water but not in it, obviously. This time I had a waterproof housing for the EOS-1DX so I had the camera resting literally on the water. Although I had all my waterproof gear on, I got totally soaked, but it worked.”

The IAAF shoot presented a number of challenges even for a photographer of Eddie’s experience. The timing of the shoot and the nature of the commissioned images forced him to approach his photography differently. Technically it demanded a lot from the equipment and required a healthy dose of creativity to get the job done. “Even with lights, I was shooting at ISO 1600, but the quality these days is just fantastic. These images will go on the sides of buildings and it won’t be a problem,” he maintains. “It was a very interesting and enjoyable challenge photographically.”

  • Canon is an Official Partner of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Athletics Series from 2013 to 2016.

Biography: Eddie Keogh

Eddie Keogh

UK-born Eddie Keogh is a freelance photographer who shoots sports and sports features for Reuters. He previously worked as a sports photographer for national newspapers from 1986 to 2005. He covered his first Olympic Games in Los Angeles, USA, at the age of 21 and he has already photographed seven FIFA football World Cups. In 2006 he won the Barclays Premier League Football Photographer of the Year Award; in 2009 and 2010, the Sports Journalists Association (SJA) Sports News Picture of the Year award and the UK Picture Editors Sports Photographer of the Year in 2010. He won the SJA Sports Picture Portfolio award in 2012 and became a Canon Explorer in May 2013.



Showcase

Eddie Keogh discusses the watersplash shoot with athletes. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 70mm; the exposure was 1/1250sec at f/2.8, ISO 1000.