Bob Martin’s 1/1000th: The Sports Photography of Bob Martin is a look back at a sports photography career so far (PHOTOS).

Incredible Sports Photos From Around the World

Incredible Sports Photos From Around the World

Behold
The Photo Blog
Dec. 9 2015 11:29 AM

Incredible Sports Photos From Around the World

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“I noticed that whenever Usain Bolt was going for a record, as he crossed the line he would look straight at the timing clock. So I started sitting down right next to it. This is when he broke the world record in the 200-meter final in Beijing, and it appears that he’s looking directly at me.”

Bob Martin

When he was a teenager, Bob Martin thought he would pursue a career as a veterinarian. It was a short-lived dream.

“I had to come to the harsh reality that it was quite serious study, and I don’t think I was up for taking in all that information,” he said. Instead, he took a gap year from school and under the advice of his father decided “to go and play at photography,” one of his longtime hobbies and one his father figured he would soon forget. Martin quickly found himself working as a photographer’s assistant with dreams of eventually becoming a newspaper photojournalist.

Less than a year later, Martin accepted a job as a photo technician at Imperial College, where he helped out with studies about water flow and stress fractures in metal. It helped plant the roots of a career-long love for the technical side of photography.

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Martin also enjoyed the aesthetic side of photography and was offered a job in the darkroom at Allsport (which Getty Images acquired in 1998). He developed the work of sports photography legends like Tony Duffy (who founded Allsport) and Don Morley, and on weekends he began to take his own photographs at sporting events. He eventually formed a relationship with Heinz Kluetmeier, the director of photography at Sports Illustrated, who offered Martin a contract to work for the magazine that would launch his career as a sports photojournalist. He still works as a freelance photographer for it today.

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Xavi Torres: “I saw him start to take his large prosthetic legs off and put them next to his chair and I realized it would make a great picture. But I was half a pool length away. … I didn’t quite make it in time for the start, but luckily for me there was a false start so they had to get out and line up again, which is when I got the shot.”

Bob Martin

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Serena Williams: “The French Open has amazing positions for photographers, and this shot was taken from one near where the television commentators are stationed. The clay looks simply wonderful.”

Bob Martin

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Tough Guy Challenge, U.K.: “Pictorially, this is one of the best events I have ever photographed. At one point the competitors had to swim under an obstacle made of logs, and as soon as they came up they would shake their heads to get rid of the mud and water from their faces. I got hundreds of great shots, but this one is the best.”

Bob Martin

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Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games, United States Bobsled: “I had to crawl under the bob track to get this picture, trying to find a nice, contrasting background on a dull, gray day. Then it started to snow, and, with a big telephoto lens picking up the flakes in the foreground, it just all came together."

Bob Martin

Throughout his career, Martin has photographed nearly every big sporting event including numerous Olympic games; last month Vision Sports Publishing released a retrospective of Martin’s work called 1/1000th: The Sports Photography of Bob Martin. Martin writes in the introduction of his book that getting a great shot isn’t simply about being in the right place at the right time.

“Behind every great picture is an untold story of meticulous planning, one which has gaining the trust of the event organisers at the heart of the plot.”

Planning and working with organizers has also helped Martin stay relevant in a field that has seen dramatic shifts in equipment technology and far fewer staff positions at newspapers and magazines. These days, Martin works primarily for major sports governing bodies to help them manage photography, such as the International Olympic Committee or the All England Club at Wimbledon.

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Champions Hurdle, Cheltenham: “I never used to take pictures of hurdle races until I realized just how much debris is thrown into the air when the horses jump. This shot—taken from a remote camera in 2011—is a real ‘in the heart of it’ picture which I am very proud of. It won ‘Sports Picture of the Year’ in America.”

Bob Martin

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IAAF World Athletic Final, Monaco: “I shot this from one of the lighting pods in the roof of the stadium. I’d watched the shadows the day before and knew exactly where I had to be to get the shot. The hard part was the negotiation to get up there.”

Bob Martin

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“Chinese coach at the Beijing National Aquatics Centre begins a training session by dangling young divers by their feet and dropping them into the pool from the 10-meter diving board. We were horrified, but the kids were loving every minute!”

Bob Martin

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“Walter Iooss once said to me you have to rehabilitate yourself every five or six years or you’ll go stale,” Martin said. “I think that’s true. If you think you’re going to be the same in 10 years’ time, then all you are is tired; you have to reinvent yourself.”

He feels the same way about digital photography and Photoshop, two tools he said have elevated the ways in which we are able to appreciate sports photography. He doesn’t believe photographers should use those tools to add or remove parts of an image, but feels basic adjusting, including contrast or saturation, should be allowed, pointing out that when photos were printed in the darkroom, dodging and burning were standard practice. He points to Reuters and their policy of no longer accepting RAW images as a hindrance toward what digital photography can do.

“If all you’re doing is getting the color perfect, what’s the issue? I don’t get it,” he said.

Although he has a penchant for making great images seem effortless, Martin said his interest in creating those photographs is rooted in his love for great photography, not as a participant in the world of sports.

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“I’m a photography fan and not a sports fan. If I start watching the event, I’m not concentrating properly. I get more excited if the light’s perfect, the action’s great and there is opportunity for a big picture in a big final … I still get a big buzz if I get a really good picture.”

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Chateaux d’Oux Hot Air Balloon Festival: “I went to Switzerland to shoot beautiful balloons in front of snowy mountains, but when I arrived there was no snow. Even the grass was brown. I found some color by getting inside this balloon as it was being inflated.”

Bob Martin

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“During the deciding Test Match of the series between India and Pakistan. I spent a number of days looking for street scenes. This tea room was quite daunting to enter, but strangely calm considering how much this match meant to the spectators.”

Bob Martin

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Members' Reception, Wimbledon, 2008: “This was the first time anyone has ever been given this access to shoot stills. As Rafa came to the bottom of the stairs he heard the crowd cheering through the main entrance of Centre Court and turned, meaning I was able to get a frame that included both players' faces.”

Bob Martin

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“Before the Turin Olympics there was a lot of controversy about the use of floodlights, which had basically been brought in to bring the event times into line with American time zones for television. The photographers were very worried about the lack of light, but it made for some really interesting, contrasting pictures—especially at sunset on one foggy evening for the ski jump.”

Bob Martin

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World Swimming Championships in Barcelona: “When the TV people on the edge of the pool were interviewing competitors who had been knocked out of the synchronized swimming competition, they switched on their interview lights, which illuminated the water droplets in the air for this picture. Luckily the best teams went last so when the Russian team came on to win, it all came together.”

Bob Martin

David Rosenberg is the editor of Slate’s Behold blog. He has worked as a photo editor for 15 years and is a tennis junkie. Follow him on Twitter.