Day 8 – Vanuatu (29 May, 2000)
The difficulty of shooting a Torch Relay is based around a few important principles.
- The magic of the event is the Flame. Everyone is drawn by human instinct to be fascinated by a flame. It’s what the whole event is based around. But a naked flame is very hard to see in broad daylight. And trying to photograph a naked Flame is broad daylight is really hard too. A photo can look amazing but if the viewer says ‘oh, is this the flame or are they just posing with an unlit torch” you have lost most of the impact. And 90% of each relay day is done is daylight hours
- Trying to keep variety to your images is really tough. Everyone is wearing the same uniform. Every one is holding the same looking torch. There is really only one or two ways you can hold the torch
- The torchbearer is always moving forward – running , walking, on a boat, a camel… but always moving. As a photographer you have to keep up with them – and try and find a good angle to shoot them from with a background that is also visually exciting
- This is a live public event. Its not a photo shoot with models. You have to grab your shot in less than a second. If you falter, they will be gone. And you need to run after them. Generally they do not stop for you and pose
- You may not always get the person you want (!). You may have run ahead and found a great spot to get an iconic photo – perhaps its blue skies, lush palm trees, crystal clear waters,a neat pile of coconuts – and the torchbearer appears from around the corner – but he’s a 90 year old white guy, weighs 150kg and is walking with a stick. There goes your only chance to show an iconic shot of a local tribesman…
- You have been sitting on the back of a truck for hours and nothing visually exciting has happened. You need to get off the truck and find a phone connection to attempt to send at least one image off to the newspapers so they can have something to print for tomorrows newspapers. When the team get back to you that night they rave about the amazing sunset and the torchbearer that did back flips. You grit your teeth and continue to keep dialling to get an internet connection so you can send your mundane shots from earlier in the day
Its not an impossible task, but just factors to bear in mind when you ask ‘that would be a good shot if the torchbearer was a little higher or that lady wasn’t in the background or you could see the flame against the bright blue sky…or if the torch was being held the other way around…or”.
And here is an example of how the DCS620c was messing me around all day long. The first is how it appeared on my screen in May 2000. The second is the same image with newer software to decode the raw file and extract a better image. You can see why some days were a disheartening digital experience back in 2000! When I thought I had a shot only to get back to the hotel and find it unusable with the available software.