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A Telling Moment

This is an example of when the best choice was to go wide. Though you can’t really see it, the background was full of reporters wearing different colored shirts and typing on laptops. With a telephoto lens, the background would have looked ugly.

Fluorescent lighting illuminated the venue, so most people were shooting pans at slow shutter speeds. The background was too ugly to freeze the athlete mid-air and still make the image work.

I went to the extreme and used what most people would have considered dead space in the composition. I used a tilt-shift lens and maximized the tilt so that only the center focal plane was in focus. Everything at the top and bottom went out of focus. It’s pretty carefully composed, in that the flags are at the top of the frame with the three lights. The rule of thirds absolutely applies here.

Then I just waited for the diver, who would go on to win the gold medal, to dive off the board. It’s a very balanced picture, and the decisive moment is him arching his back as he leapt off the diving board. This photograph helps provide a sense of scale and reveals what a very dangerous feat this is. You don’t appreciate that with a 400mm-lens shot.

You appreciate how small he is, given the size of the venue, and you start to calculate the distance from his body to the water. It gets you thinking a little bit. It also gets you to think about him just releasing—letting go. It’s like the ultimate leap of faith.

Making the choice of how to handle the background frees me to capture the key moment, the “sustentation moment,” in a single frame.

  • This photograph helps provide a sense of scale and reveals what a very dangerous feat this is. You don’t appreciate that with a 400mm-lens shot.
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