More “Unbelievable!” Olympic Photography

I have been holding back on this post for a while now.

A few months ago I was contacted by Penguin Books, given a brief, and then given the go ahead to set up a shoot with Chad le Clos for the cover of an inspirational book about Chad and the story that lead to his beating Michael Phelps at the 2012 Olympics in the 200 metres butterfly final.

As I said in my previous blog.. shooting Olympic Athletes is something I will always jump to do, and an olympic gold medalist is a top priority in that case.

So with a make up artist (the amazing Sabine Fraser at Pappillion), art director (and wife Emily), a heap of photographic equipment and a hastily procured, oversized South African flag all bundled into the CRV, we set off in search of the Durban dwelling Olympian.

We were met by the larger than life Bert le Clos who even at 9 am in the morning was already talking at 300kmph. It is hard not to enjoy the enthusiasm of the man who made Chad’s victory that day even more enjoyable through his exuberant post race  interview .

Chad himself was at age 20, already unfazed by standing in front of the Nikon lenses. He took direction well and with features and body that has most female admirers in the vicinity blushing, he was more than confident enough to stand around in his Speedo running through a series of different lighting set ups.

The shoot went without a hitch, Chad was happy, Bert was happy and the client was also chuffed with the end result, which was then used, pretty much as delivered, on the end cover design as you will see in the pics below.

The book is called “Unbelievable” and should be available pretty much everywhere in the next few months







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Olympic Ashleigh and Parenting on Tour

Olympic athletes make great photo subjects. Add a scenic location and the opportunity to do a few portraits and I am always in. Paying customer or not.

Luckily this time there was a customer willing to ship this photographer across the country to Fancourt in George, in order to shoot one of South Africa’s big chances at a medal at the Summer Olympic Games.

Unluckily for me there was no babysitter at home willing to take on the parenting while I was on tour as mom would be spending 3 days running over 100km up country… so using the last opportunity to travel for free as a baby, my daughter would be accompanying me on tour.

2pm the afternoon before the shoot saw a photographer/dad juggling a suitcase full of photo equipment, a loud (almost) two year old and a luke warm cuppaccino accross King Shaka International, down the ramp and onto the “big buth” which would take us to the tiny “Aer-po-lane” that looked disturbingly 1970‘s in design. It turned out that the plane was not suited for people taller than 5 foot, and definitely not for over  anxious photographers with perhaps (slightly) overweight hand luggage, and a wriggling, shrieking child.

After negotiation the space restrictions and readying the toddler distraction strategies (5 plastic farmyard animals, 2 dummies, 1 doll, 1 iPad, 1 box of apple juice, 3 books and an oddly shaped stone collected off the tarmac 3 minutes before) I was sweating freely and dreading two hours of intense ‘constricted area parenting’. The shoot was going to be a breeze compared to the trip there.

As it turned out everything went surprisingly smoothly during the flight. There was an embarrassing moment when I had to gingerly dab a blob of toddler slobber off the book of the passenger across the isle from us, while apologizing profusely, but the perpetrator of the crime smiled and giggled her way back into the same passenger’s good books and, all was well for the rest of the flight. It was with love and relief that I handed aforementioned ankle biter to her Granny and tucked into a beer on the far side of the trip however.

The next day, Ashleigh turned out to be both super nice and impressive both as an athlete and as a photo subject. With an engineering degree, a calm demeanor and obvious intelligence, one got the impression she could head off and be whatever she wanted to be, and living in Spain in order to cycle on the European circuit in preparation for the Olympics, is something that suited her… for now. Check out

As for the shoot, it is always wonderful to have a subject that doesn’t mind doing a little bit extra to get a better shot. After some shots of her in action earlier on in the day as well as a handful of pretty good portraits on the grounds at Fancourt I still wanted to get a slightly more edgy, flash lit portrait that took advantage of the location. Despite having spent about 4 or more hours on the bike that day, she hopped on without complaint and cruised an extra 5 kms down the road where we shot the last two of  images you see below.





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