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 60.

    Is it possible for the BBC to make any more articles about Mo Farah if they tried?

    We all know the reason why the BBC love him so much, of course.

  • Comment number 59.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    @57. mikeb

    All true, but she is mixed race. She is black and white and a role model for all young women.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    The picture for me was the elation,the pressure coming off and the pure ecstasy of Jess Ennis as she crossed the finish line after the 800m.What a great competitor,what a beautiful looking girl,what a great role model for young black woman in this country,what a Great Brit! All this wrapped up in one image,sublime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    @52 BeccaB

    I don't think so. Historically, the biting of gold coinage etc was to see if it was fake i.e. lead. Teeth will quite easily dent lead but you'll struggle to mark gold by biting.

    Brilliant photo of Mo by the way. Captures everything about the race and the situation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    For the detractors on this site:

    When asked if he'd have preferred to run as a Somali. Mo just laughed and said: "Look mate, this is my country. This is where I grew up, this is where I started life. This is my country and when I put on my Great Britain vest I'm proud.”

    Thanks Mo.

    And fantastic photo of Mo flying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    I agree. Lots of criticism of the athletes and photography but none from anybody who could have done better.
    Easy to moan. Why not compete?

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    @ 25: Historically athletes would bite the medals to put slight teeth marks on them, so if they were robbed police could just match up the size and shape of the marks with the athlete's teeth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Not a bad picture but its not that hard to get a blurry background, for example my 5 year old took a snap of me running across the lounge after having a bath, had even more blur actually but that's just as well as I was naked

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Getting back to the subject....the Mo picture makes him look like a blurred triple jumper and any picture of Jessica Ennis should be laminated and posted directly to me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    17 Minutes ago

    Squiz and others - wrong, wrong, wrong. Mo Farah is the son of a British father.

    Absolutley, those who say he is Somali, or a refugee, not a true brit, are 100% wrong, and whoing a great ignorance. His Dad is British, so it's end if, Mo is British, and he loves the fact he is British.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Squiz and others - wrong, wrong, wrong. Mo Farah is the son of a British father. He came here at the age of 8 - not as a rootless refugee - was educated and brought up in the UK and represents this country which he considers his country. He could not 'just as easily have gone to France' as he has no family connection with that country.

    Is your problem that you feel he doesn't look English?

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    The photo, the event, the performance just helps to emphasise that we can be the absolute best when we want.
    Moreover, we should be proud and stay proud of these achievements.
    We are often only too quick to over-criticise ourselves, but taking recent tragic events in the US into account we should celebrate Britain, our way of life and what we do best.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    37. giovanna
    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?"

    Why they (I) do it is to bring the medal closer to the face , kissing it etc is just for fun , you only get a few moments to grab the picture .and
    the requirement from the picture desks is tight and bright ,so now you know !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    . giovanna
    39. MagpieRH "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"

    Well said. It must be just one of any number of similar quality images taken during the course of the games. Certainly nothing to get excited about.

    Clearly you missed your chance in life , and are bitter about it ,

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    He's cheating, feet not touching the ground.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    The big thing for me from the Olympics is trying to being told how £12 Billion or thereabouts really isn't a lot of money if you enjoy a fortnights sport.
    And now we have two pictures to prove it.
    Meanwhile my Local council has been asked to save an entire Years budget (about £100 Million) over the next three years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    I've just looked at this photograph and it's taken me right back to the Games...to Mo's superb effort and all of the emotion that made our Games so special. Isn't that what a great picture should do? Job done, Mr. Humphreys.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    39. MagpieRH "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"

    Well said. It must be just one of any number of similar quality images taken during the course of the games. Certainly nothing to get excited about.


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