ROYAL VICTORIA DOCK, LONDON- The thousand words this picture tells me.

(Click image for a larger view)

Like a good love song , a great  image  has the power to capture a moment, the feeling when you were in the zone. However long before you look at it again, it retains the power to  trigger  that moment , all the associations wrapped up in that moment.

If “a picture paints a thousand words”    can I keep what this recalls down to 1000 words ?   Emotions we all share ; it is  what triggers them that differs . As with all things we see feel , smell and hear, I think we store it all at the back of our minds, hence the déjà vu thing. To most this is just a good night shot but has great personal and professional significance for me.

This was actually a job venue  , booked by one of my sport clients , Michelle Dillon, World Champion and Olympic GB  Triathlete, to cover her participation in the Elite Women’s 2007 London Triathlon. Mish is one of my all time sporting role models and a cherished personal friend . These days, retired early from elite events due to injury, she’s a highly successful coach and director of Team Dillon and still competing in her age group category and inspiring others as always.

I first met Mish  at my first ever professional commissioned international sports shoot, 2004. It was  in my own city (as their official photographer on the day) ,  at Salford Quays, the ITU World Cup which she won.  I was immediately touched by her warm , friendly personality, her genuineness , her ease with people and happily even engaging in chat with ordinary moi, ( new to the sport, middle-aged bloke with a camera,  in a plastic poncho, drenched to the skin after shooting ten hours in the cold drizzle.)

soaked to the bone after a straight ten hour shift in constant rain and drizzle but always prepared to do what it takes to meet my client’s needs.

That was a pivotal meeting. I’d been semi-pro since the mid seventies and that was the day I turned pro. I kept in touch and shot her participation at subsequent events in my Salford, at Dorney Lake ( a commissioned marketing shoot for her sponsors) and London . I have continued  following and supporting her career via my website, journalism for global sports news website Women  Sport Report Com , and  on  social media.  A feature I did on her 220 magazine 2010 Coach of the Year Award was my first  front cover sports story.

That great docklands  panorama was taken long after all the participants had gone home after Michelle’s wonderful London Triathlon victory. I wanted some calm after all the excitement before the long drive home. The  adrenaline pumping all those hours , so many great sights to shoot, the passion,  drama , spectacle, three sports in one , the buzz , the  friendly , sporting warmth of the entire triathlon community and suddenly  I was left alone, wondering round the dock like a kid who couldn’t bear the circus had left town.

Since 2004 my enthusiasm for sports photography has never waned. But  business gets  tougher. When, at a  low spot ,  I wondered if it is all worth it , it is the  Michelle’s of this world that make it worthwhile. Her support and encouragement ,acknowledgement of my work, recognition of the effort  I put in  inspired me to dig in when the going got tough and keep doing it my way. It is no wonder this champion athlete is now a champion coach.

My day had started at midnight in Manchester , a long drive down to London’s Docklands , arriving at the Excel car park around 4-30 am ( delayed entering because of a bomb scare.) An hour later I began by shooting  location images . I got a great view of the mirror flat waters   of the Royal Victoria Dock from the balcony of the Excel Media Centre  , soon to be the location of the swim section of the race , rippled now and again by safety boats to-ing and fro-ing and life guard canoes moving into position. Later I’d get great pictures from the same spot as wave after wave of  thousands of “Age Group” triathlete thrashed the water into a boiling soup,  then stretched out  in a chain on the out swim, turned, swam back, climbed out ( helped by volunteers) ran through the shower, tugged off their wetsuits,  into transition , then ran inside to find their bikes.

Alone, it is impossible to cover every angle, the Excel area is  so vast but chose to stay around there so I could shoot the swim, the water exit, the bikes as they lapped and then climbed the ramps back into the building and then transition again, off the  bikes , into running kit  then the run section that skirted the dock nearby. Also great for atmosphere shots, huge numbers of spectators and then the finish line agony shots inside! Adrenalin takes over; it takes full focus but the occasional break in the media room to grab a free coffee and  sandwich, download images and then out again.

Next up Michelle’s Race with some famous names in the mix but wonderful for me,  she alone had hired me and bless her she blitzed the field and won! Big responsibility for me ; no second chances but I got the shots I wanted and exactly what she needed for promotional use so all in all a brilliant, special day.

Post race there is additional time pressure on elite athletes meeting press and media demands.

I got some time for a brief  chat with Michelle  but as always , sadly, with elite athletes in any sport, they are always in a rush with a number of post-race commitments to attend, press and broadcast media  interviews etc – and that is even tougher when you are so fond of person you get to know over time, respect and admire them an yet get to see them so rarely. Harder still when that person has two homes between which they seasonally commute, one in London and the other for “winter “ training in the sunshine of  Australia’s beautiful Gold Coast!

1000 words.

Michelle – pure gold – after winning the 2007 London Triathlon

1994 Commonwealth Games 10,000m ( P.B is 31.40 10K)
1997, 2001 Silver, World Duathlon Championships
1999 1st, Noosa World Cup Triathlon
2000 Olympic Games Sydney
2001 Gold, European Triathlon Champs
2002 Bronze, World Triathlon Championships
2002 1st, The London Triathlon
2003 1st, British Triathlon Championships
2004 1st, Salford World Cup Triathlon
2004 6th, Olympic Games Athens (best British finisher ever at an Olympic Games – man or woman)
2005 1st, British Duathlon Championships
2005 Gold, World Duathlon Championships
2007 Silver, World Duathlon Championships
2007 1st, The London Triathlon

my client , the inspirational, as both an athlete and now coach, Michelle digging in , blitzing the field with her strong run in to take the win , London Triathlon 2007.

One Response to “ROYAL VICTORIA DOCK, LONDON- The thousand words this picture tells me.”

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