How many events in this world, sporting or otherwise, can be defined with one word? “Wimbledon.” It is iconic and instantly recognizable in three syllables.
In a way, the fortnight at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) is similar to The Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga. in terms of historic influence – the difference, however, lies in:
- Both men and women compete for equal prize money, a progressive landmark in professional sports. Trailblazing female athletes like Billie Jean King fought to make this a reality and made women’s tennis must-see in the process.
- The number of patrons who attend, hundreds upon thousands sprawled over 42 acres.
- The identity of the country. When Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, is the prime patron and Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, is the president of the venue, it speaks to how an entire nation focuses its collective attention on a yearly sporting event that defines Great Britain and English culture.
As one walks onto the grounds of the AELTC, you can literally see the sport’s roots emerge from the iconic grass courts – rye grass, always eight millimeters high, as it has been for decades. The ghosts of champions past float upon Centre Court, out of and back into the ether each summer.
We have covered all of tennis’s Grand Slam events and met one another while working at the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., following the sport year-round and living out of luggage as we crisscross the globe. To say tennis is our life is an understatement. And at Wimbledon, you have to be ready for anything, like an 11-hour match which Susan shot in 2010 between American John Isner and France’s Nicolas Mahut, the longest contest in the tournament’s history.
For a sports photographer at the mercy of the moment, having the most reliable gear is paramount.
During the early rounds, Susan climbed to the very top of Court One to photograph the end of a Kei Nishikori victory. While the photo pits just off the sidelines and behind the baselines are naturally tremendous for getting within meters of the top players in the world, planting yourself there at all times would make for a dull portfolio. If the players are running around the court and finding the best angles for winning shots, so too should sports photographers!
Because of the extreme height and distance from her perch to court level, Susan made the call to add a 1.4 convertor to the back of her 500mm f4 lens. With our previous monopods, we would have been nervous that the weight and change in balance might have been too much weight to support our cameras.
The brand-new Manfrotto XPRO Monopod+ systems we brought with us before the start of the tournament, however, provided ultimate security and gave both of us a level of confidence to just relax and fire away in the most crucial moments like match point.
Our first run with our new Manfrotto gear aced the test.
Whether you are a professional sports photographer or simply an amateur, the principle of moving around to find the right spot to work from is one that applies to all of us.
Fred was working on the very crowded outside courts. Although there is a small standing area along side of the court reserved for professional photographers, Fred was working alongside of several amateurs who were handholding their lenses. Although this is effective for some, both of us have found that Manfrotto’s carbon fiber monopods allow us stability and greatly cuts down on the fatigue of trying to handhold long lenses for the average 10-hour day.
This photo of Ryan Harrison was taken late in the afternoon when movement from hand or shoulder fatigue might have contributed to a lack of sharpness.
Susan’s photo of Rafael Nadal’s ball toss is one that required her to work her away along the photo pit seats until she was able to line the toss up with the tournaments logo in the background. The same applies to the photos of the balls on the court.
Anyone seated behind her would be able to duplicate the same photos but it requires paying attention to the little things that are happening in the moment and positioning yourself accordingly.
Thanks to Manfrotto for being in our bag and providing great support!