Picture power: Running for gold

Great Britains Mo Farah heads down the home straight to win gold in the 10,000m at the London 2012 Olympics

In the final of a series of five articles where photographers are invited to talk about the back story to one of their pictures taken this year Owen Humphreys of the Press Association offers the story behind his award winning photograph of Mo Farah on his way to one of his two gold medals at this year's Olympics.

The London games was captured by a vast number of photographers, who for much of the time would be tied to their allocated position, with only a few allowed to roam. Despite the volume of pictures taken there are some that stand out and convey something of the determination required not just to compete, but to win.

This is one such frame.

Owen Humphreys

I have been privileged to have been a Press photographer for nearly 24 years, but by far 2012 will always stand out as the highlight of my life behind a lens.

It won't come as a surprise when I say that the London Olympics were absolutely unforgettable. To have the Games in one's home country really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that every snapper dreams about.

The Press Association, for whom I have worked for 16 years, threw everything at it with a huge team of 18 photographers, two editors and a host of reporters. We had a number of photographers assigned to certain sports and a smaller team floating between different events every day, making sure that wherever the medal story was, we had double cover.

The one night which really stands out for me was "Super Saturday" in the Olympic Stadium during the athletics, on the night Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and, of course, mighty Mo Farah all won golds. After Jess won gold I was sent around to cover her being presented with the medal from a position down on the back straight, near the finishing line. By this stage we had several photographers positioned around the track covering Mo Farah in the 10,000 metres from all angles.

Owen Humphreys

Owen Humphreys

Humphreys has worked as a photographer for 24 years and spent the last 16 years at the Press Association. He began his career as a tea boy at the Derby Evening Telegraph before moving into the darkroom to learn printing.

After working for news agencies he joined the Newcastle Chronicle and Journal newspaper before his move to the Press Association in 1996.

Here he has travelled the world covering major news and sport stories from World Cup Finals to the conflict in Afghanistan.

As I wasn't at the finishing line for this event I decided we could do with a different image. I wanted to create and show the amazing speed at which the runners were travelling, and the way to do this is known as panning. This is always a gamble because technically you are moving your camera on a very slow shutter speed shooting at 1/50th of a sec at f/16 on a 300mm Nikon lens on a Nikon D3s camera. The aim is to freeze the runners, but at the same time blur the background with a streaky effect to show speed.

As the race went on I knew as a team we were covered on all angles, so when Mo Farah came down the home straight I panned with him and got a great effect, with him showing incredible determination, gritting his teeth and really pushing for the gold medal dream.

As he ran past me in the earlier laps I had spotted the Olympic rings on a board so I framed my picture with these. After he had gone past me on the last lap that was my job done in this race. I had just two frames, but it was well worth it to see the image afterwards as it had worked out perfectly - the effect of speed, a look of utter determination in his face and the Olympic rings at his feet.

As soon as I saw the image on the back of the camera I fired-up my laptop and quickly wired it to our editors with minutes to spare before I was needed to photograph Jessica receiving her gold medal.

This image of Mo was my personal favourite from the Games, but there were many more memorable images taken by the whole Press Association Olympics team. I entered this image of Mo into the British Picture Editors' Guild awards as my single image from the Games and I was lucky enough to pick up the winning trophy despite very strong competition from top photographers at Reuters and AFP.

It was an incredible experience to cover the London Olympics. The whole country got behind the British team in all sports, giving all the venues an amazing atmosphere and one that will forever live in my memory.

And since the Olympics I have managed to pick up the Barclays Premiership 2011/12 Photographer of the Season award - making it a fantastic end to a great sporting year.

And here's that shot of Jessica Ennis collecting her gold medal.

Jessica Ennis collecting her gold medal.
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  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Sorry, in 39, I meant CFD not Squiz of Islington. Also, 'inverted' would imply the colours are opposite to what they should be - I think what you meant is reflected or flipped.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Squiz of Islington - you can clearly see some grass and then a red band between Mo and the crowd; that's the other side of the track. Long lenses 'compress' the image so distant objects appear closer together than they are.

    TBH, for a supposed top pro, with the outrageously expensive gear he has in the inset profile pic, this image is really not that spectacular. I guess it's just his favourite.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Fantastic picture.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    25. Vince "Why do photographers always ask medallists to bite their medal or at least pretend to? Isn't it time to be original for once?"

    Far worse than that is why do the athletes respond by doing it? Do they not realise how utterly stupid they look? Imagine going through all the training needed and having excelled and won a medal, you then stick it in your mouth as though it were chocolate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    @34 well said as for @31 your comment is pointless and needless

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Well! Why all the negatives (no pun)? Why bother? If we were all like this we'd never have won anything! We'd all be losers, go do somrthing positive, live a little.

    Great pic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    @ 31.Squiz of Islington

    Wrong. The point is Farah was supported here in Britain to achieve his potential through funding and excellent coaching facilities. Had he not moved here, would his country of birth have supported him as well? I think not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Spotting the rings and getting the shutter speed right - great technique!

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    FABULOUS shot. I try to shoot motorsport, and I can pan, but this is something else.
    As for the folks wingeing, you seem to have wandered away from Is This a Good Picture? It is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    I'm sure Mo is a top bloke, and i'm glad the track was built in the UK, but he is certainly not "a true reflection of what this great nation can do" as he could just have easily gone to France or stayed in Somalia for that matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    A corollary of infinite monkey theorem says that if sufficient monkeys take a snap shot some are bound to be good. Some skill, but mostly luck, and perseverance of course.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    I think many people need to wise-up. Farrah and his like, are no more or less 'heroic' than Wayne Rooney, Andy Murray, or Lewis Hamilton. They are all well paid, professional sportsmen. The only real difference is that Farrah is publically funded, and Wayne Rooney is not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Lordy, I wish I'd taken that shot.

    Panning is very much a hit or miss technique, usually a miss for me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Vince, hopefully after looking again you will retract your statement. You can clearly see the back straight...and if you look at replays of the race you will see the boards on the inside of the track (the ones with the olymic rings) were only placed on the home straight, the back straight is clear.

    No matter, there are specialist forum posters work we can enjoy, sorry, but you deserved that one

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Think the problem is that the photographer does not understand Athletics. He cannot be down the back straight near the finishing line. No matter, there are specialist athletics photographers work we can enjoy and Mo's 'double' was not only one of the all time great Olympic achievements it was also amongst the all time sports great events. Best thing is, there's a whole lot more to come.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Why do photographers always ask medallists to bite their medal or at least pretend to? Isn't it time to be original for once?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    It's a shame that the default position of many is to be critical.

    The achievements of Mo and every other athlete involved in the Games are astonishing. The Olympic Games are a shining example of what humanity can achieve and are one of the very few forums where so many nations can come together peacefully.

    We should all look back on the event and feel genuinely proud.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Bradley Wiggins was born in Belgium, you know, the Bradley Wiggins
    that just won SPOTY, with the Aussie father. Is he more BRITISH or
    more patriotic than Mo?

    It is so easy to research a subject these days, and if you did research Mo, you'd see how British he is, so I wonder if it's lazyness or WUMing that leads people to post such inane comments on these boards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    @ Haventaclue52
    Does being British Born invoke extra privilege?
    No, but why Mo is running under a British flag? If because he wants to be here, GREAT. If a convenience, not so good.
    You were there with thousands of sports fans. I wasn’t there and not interested along with thousands more. I am really glad you had a great time.
    And yes it was a great photo.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    BR34095...So sad to have to explain this. Mo Farah considers himself BRITISH. Where he trains is totally irrelevent. The Stadium was built by 250 UK firms, headed by McAlpine. The track was laid by MONDO, the same company has laid every olympic track since 1992.


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