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Q&A: Aussie sports photographer Mark Dadswell

CNET Australia sat down for a chat with Australian sports photographer Mark Dadswell, a winner in this year's World Press Photo awards.

(Credit: Mark Dadswell)

CNET Australia sat down for a chat with Australian sports photographer Mark Dadswell, a winner in this year's World Press Photo awards.

Make sure to check out Mark's Exposure profile to see more of his work. For your chance to win a master class with Mark, as well as a Canon EOS 500D, enter the Canon Exposure Photography Competition.

CNET Australia: the set-up process for your award-winning shot of Usain Bolt was incredibly complex, making use of remote triggers and several hours of preparation — what else is involved in getting this sort of shot?

Mark Dadswell: once you have made your decision where to put the remote cameras, you must decide where you want your picture to be made, and where the focus will be. In athletics, focus is easily achieved by having someone stand in position and you focus the camera on them. I also use a Canon Angle Finder C to focus the camera, which is mounted on an OverExposed base plate with a Manfrotto ball and socket head.

This combination of the base plate and ball and socket head can support most combinations of cameras and lenses, up to anything as large as a camera and 400mm f/2.8 lens. Once you are happy with the focus, it is best to use gaffa tape on the lens to ensure it cannot be accidentally knocked, and therefore lose focus. The camera is then fitted with a Pocket Wizard Receiver which receives a wireless signal from the Pocket Wizard Transmitter that can either be triggered from another camera or from a test button.

Mark's award-winning shot of Usain Bolt winning the men's 200m final in Beijing. (Credit: Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)

You're a senior staff photographer with Getty Images — what's a typical day in the life of Mark Dadswell like?

Each week a list is sent out with jobs to cover on a daily basis — which could range from a football training session or press conference in Melbourne, to covering an event in another state for a day or a week. Each day's work is then sent to the Getty Images website for use by editorial clients. At the end of each day a second edit may also be required, where images that have been shot as part of a request for a sport governing body are captioned and edited, then sent in to Sydney for distribution to the client.

How did you first become interested in photography, and what prompted the move from straight photojournalism into sports photography specifically?

My father was a journalist with country newspapers. As a teenager I spent hours in the darkroom with him, learning how to process black and white film and hand-processing prints. This later led to me shooting for country newspapers and eventually working for a News Ltd paper in Queensland. Having a desire to shoot only sport, I was lucky enough to find a job in Melbourne with a photo agency run by Tony Feder, called Sporting Pix. After moving to Melbourne and working for Sporting Pix, the company was sold to Allsport which was to become Getty Images.

What has been the most exciting or challenging assignment for you?

I find the Olympics to be both the most exciting and challenging event, I love the atmosphere at the competitions, where the best athletes in the world compete. It's also the most challenging because you are competing for the best picture with some of the best sports photographers in the world — and you must do this for 14 days, often working 20 hours each day.

Do you have to build a rapport with your subjects?

If you get the opportunity to build a rapport with athletes that will help you in the future as they will then trust you and allow you more time and will be more open when you work with them. Most of the really big names in sport are surrounded by managers and staff, therefore the chance to build a relationship with them is slim.

What makes a striking, winning image for you?

A great sports image must have a lot going for it — well exposed, great action, clean background (for example, no umpires in green fluoro shirts in the background or a section of a grandstand with only two or three people in it). And then, an X-factor: perhaps it is a facial expression, or just something extraordinary happening in the picture.