Sm’Aesch smashes VC Oudegem

I visited the re-match between Sm’Aesch-Pfeffingen (SUI) and VC Oudegem (BEL). The Belgian club had won the first match 3-1, but even before the start you could sense that everyone at the Sm’Aesch crew was determined to win. After a concentrated play and a brilliant 3-0, the match entered the Golden Set. Oudegem started strong, but as Sm’Aesch gathered a small lead, the Belgians lost confidence and Sm’Aesch took a sweet victory. Sm’Aesch played without their regular setter, Taylor Tashima, who suffers from a concussion. The 16 year-old Annalea Maeder replaced her well and became the secret hero of the match.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

#SCFSVW

Back to Freiburg again. After losing against a strong Mainz 05 two weeks ago, the SCF clearly wanted a win against Werder Bremen. They dominated over 80 mins, but only scored once. Then a 40 year old Peruvian entered the court and things flipped. Werder scored in the last minute of the overtime and the match ended 1-1.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

#SCFBMG

After a short break I was back to Freiburg. The guests were Borussia Mönchengladbach, second in the league. Freiburg won 3-1. They deserved the victory because of their good defense in the second half. I didn’t get as much out of the game as I was hoping, because I speculated to see attack after attack by Gladbach. However, Freiburg didn’t give Gladbach many opportunities. Thus, I waited at the wrong goal. As a sports photographer you sometimes win, and you sometimes lose.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fringe Sport

A top event yesterday! The UCI Cyclocross World Cup was in Bern. 15 minutes from my house. A World Cup. You should think this is big!

For those who don’t know what Cyclocross is: roughly speaking, it’s an offroad cycling race without mountain bike (irony off). There are two countries where this is extremely popular: Belgium and the Netherlands. The sport is almost unknown elsewhere.

Since I have a lot of friends in cycling, I decided to waive National Volleyball and shoot the World Cup races instead.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Did I say races? Yes, women and men. The women started first. It was a thrilling race with Marianne Vos (7-times world champion) as winner after an acceleration in the last lap. Anyone interested? Not really. Anticipating this, the race was extremely short. And the press conference took place while most journalists were outside, watching the men’s medal ceremony. Cycling is a macho sport. Women don’t count. So only few of them are active. So, as the machos explain to you, they don’t count. It’s as simple as that.

Of course, this isn’t the male riders’ fault. So let’s talk about the men’s race. Again really thrilling. Mathieu van der Poel (NED) won after the world champion Wout van Aert (BEL) lost a few seconds because his chain dropped.

I uploaded my pictures quickly, anticipating that race coverage as such would be less important than including views on the location, the huge public swimming pool in Bern, known as Weyerli.

One day later, I spent a few minutes to find out what the press had written. Beyond the specialised cyclo media there was almost nothing. It’s a fringe sport. I feel sorry for the organisers who are absolute experts in cycling and really great people. The latest thing I heard was that there was a deficit of 30’000 Swiss Francs.

*** Update: one week later, there was a nice background article on Marianne Vos in “Sonntagszeitung”. The main catchword for that article was almost identical: fringe sport (the article pointed out that MV is a superstar, similar to other dominators of their sport, like Lindsey Vonn. She receives no media attention, though). ***

Is Hoeneß mad?

Most football fans will have noticed the weird Bayern press conference yesterday. The management, namely, Uli Hoeneß, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, and Hasan Salihamidžić, bashed the media, accusing them of not respectful work, while at the same time citing human rights, insulting a former player, and showing inappropriate regret regarding previous own insults.

Bundesliga 29. Spieltag: Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs FC Bayern Muenchen, 15.04.2017

The instant media reaction was predictable: According to the commentaries, the three managers (in particular the first two of them) have lost credibility, have double standards, and don’t understanding how media work. Social media did the rest, adding funny comments (“best press conference since Tic Tac Toe #miasanmimimi”). In short: the football nation has its topic one day before the Bayern match in Wolfsburg.

My take is different. 

Hoeneß and Rummenigge are in the business for a very long time. They know what they are doing.

Bundesliga 29. Spieltag: Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs FC Bayern Muenchen, 15.04.2017

To see what I mean, turn the clock back 30 years. Back then, the Bayern manager was Uli Hoeneß (yes, Hoeneß!). Bayern was under pressure after they lost a few games and the second, Cologne (yes, Cologne!), suddenly was a serious challenger. The Cologne coach Christoph Daum did aggressive media work, insulting  the Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes (yes, Heynckes!). Of course, the press jumped on the bandwagon, and asked if Heynckes could stand the psychological pressure.

The situation was critical for Heynckes, as it is for the Bayern coach Kovac now.

German TV invited Daum, Heynckes, and Hoeneß to a TV talk. Do you remember what Hoeneß did? He destroyed Daum. The media started talking about “Hoeneß vs Daum” and forgot questioning Heynckes’ abilities. The momentum went back to the Bayern who eventually won the championship.

Any analogies? Draw your own conclusions.

It clicked

How I became a sports photographer

One day it clicked. And I don’t mean my camera. 

30 international photographers gathered at the media briefing. The announcement was: “Three photographers will have exclusive access to the track: Keystone, AFP and Ulf Schiller”. What was going on here? Let me tell step by step.

UCI Hour Record Attempt Sep 18, 2014

For long, I loved shooting sports. My friends, hobby athletes, were my usual victims. However, professional sport has always been my love. So I took a camera to the stands and shot pictures from there. There weren’t many reactions. “Yes I saw this in TV too”, was a typical one.

I desperately needed change. Thus, I started talking to event organizers. I wanted to get close to the athletes and shoot something unusual.

The Tissotvelodrome Grenchen accepted me. So I started shooting track cycling races. A niche sport. Maybe that’s why I made myself a name so quickly. After a few races, every elite track cyclist in Switzerland knew my name.

20140918-_J2B8564

Then, a big day was ahead… Jens Voigt, the extremely popular German cycling star, 17-times Tour de France participant, Yellow Jersey holder, permanent attacker in the peloton (quote: «Shut up legs and do what I tell you») planned to retire from professional cycling after a final attack on the official “UCI Hour Record”. Eurosport would broadcast live. The worldwide press would be there. Social media was buzzing. The Tissotvelodrome, my childs’ room, had turned into an arena of world sports. My guts were aching. I wanted to be part of the game.

I used my old trick, and asked the organizer directly. So I wrote an email to Jens’ team, Trek Factory Racing. I introduced myself as photographer of the Tissotvelodrome, asked if I could work for them, and included some of my pictures as reference. The answer was quick and polite. A rejection.

So I submitted an accreditation through the official way. Being one of very many, was the least thing I was hoping for.

20140918-_J2B8730

On the race day, Peter (CEO of the Tissotvelodrome) asked me to contact Trek Factory Racing’s media officer. “Is your offer still valid?”, he asked. I was more than surprised: Yes, sure, was the answer. “Good, we saw your pictures in the Tissotvelodrome. You have talent, you know what you are doing. Please deliver the pictures one hour after the race.”

Bang! I didn’t expect that! I came straight from work. That was the only reason I had my laptop with me. What a luck on an evening that I had already written off from a photographic point of view. 

When I came home late at night, my wife was waiting. She hugged me. She had seen me on the TV. And, more importantly, she showed me my pictures. They were all over the Internet! From Australia to California. I had water in my eyes. I didn’t sleep that night. 

It clicked! 

This was what I wanted! During that sleepless night, I decided to become a sports photographer.

20140918-_J2B8760

Not mirrorless

So I have a new camera, a dinosaur: another Canon 1 DX mark ii.

In the days of the mirrorless hype (“the camera revolution has started”) when Canon, Nikon, and Fuji introduced a generation of new mirrorless cameras, my photo friends and I decided to buy… good-old DSLRs.

Why? The reason is simple.

  • First: for our needs, there aren’t lenses for mirrorless cameras out there. Those lenses that have been introduced are not convincing (the only exception being Canon’s new F2.0 zoom lens – this one might be a game changer in the future).
  • Second: modern DSLR’s are 100% reliable. Brilliant autofocus, 14 frames per second, my old one has 376’000 shutter releases and is still working perfectly).
  • Third: Why do we need more of everything? 20 Megapixels are all we need, I recently even delivered even a 5x5m poster. The video capabilities are really good, and the weight… come on, We’re neither 7 nor 80: the weight is negligible compared to that of the tele lenses.

I unboxed the camera yesterday. Enjoy some first test shots.

I am convinced, the future will be mirrorless. But meanwhile the new DXiis will do the better job!