2018: check

It’s the quiet time of the year. Time to look back. Enjoy some of my best pictures

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.

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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). ***

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.

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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.

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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.

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