From the thousands of images a pro sports photographer shoots during a single sporting event, there's usually one that stands out. It could be a shot of a key moment in the action, a creative image from an unusual angle, or just a picture that sums up the emotion of the occasion.
One of the Rugby World Cup 2019™ matches covered by Getty Images photographer Cameron Spencer was the group stage match between France and Argentina. Although group stage matches can sometimes be one-sided, these two teams were well matched and the stage was set for a close contest.
Here Cameron talks about the match, how he came to shoot it from one position, and the kit and settings he used – and chooses his favourite shot of the day…
"France v Argentina was a twilight match, so it started in daylight and finished under lights," Cameron says. "At this match we had three Getty Images photographers shooting editorial and two shooting for World Rugby™, the sport's governing body, as official photographers for the tournament.
"With the editorial team we have one roving position in each match, and any other photographers need to be in a static position behind the goals, to cover all angles. For this game I remained in the one spot for the whole match."
"I was shooting with four Canon EOS-1D X Mark II bodies. The reason I use it basically comes down to one thing: confidence that the camera will perform and that it's reliable. The key attributes are the autofocus, file quality and the ergonomics of the camera, as well as the ability to work in all lighting and weather conditions.
"Regarding camera settings, for sport I always shoot on manual mode and set my exposure. This can shift from one side of the field to the other, or change as lighting conditions develop as a match unfolds. This match commenced in twilight conditions and finished with no ambient light remaining and stadium lights illuminating the arena.
"I always shoot at the maximum shutter rate of 14fps. It's amazing how different frames look in a sequence, and there will always be one that stands out as the best moment.
"To achieve best focus for a moving subject, you need to be in AI Servo mode and track the subject. On the EOS-1D X Mark II, the AF is fast enough to track any person running, and the hit rate for images that are in focus and sharp when tracking is very high.
"In an average rugby match, I shoot between 2,000 and 3,500 images. I am fortunate that I have editors working with me as I'm shooting, and I usually file about 100 frames from a rugby match. I've picked out three personal favourites from the France v Argentina match."
"One favourite is the line-out shot [above]. A lot of what sports photographers capture is tight graphic action. These images are bold and quite dynamic, usually shot with a 400mm, 500mm or 600mm lens.
"However, shooting with a wider focal length helps mix up the set of images and show atmosphere. This can tell a story better, showing the crowd, the stadium and in this case the nice twilight sky that was glowing when I captured this image. It also shows how high players are lifted when jumping and contesting for the ball in a lineout.
"Another one I like is the Julian Montoya image [below], which was the best celebration shot I took in the match. The Argentinian had snuck off the back of a maul to score a try and he was very pumped. He celebrated by throwing the ball in the air and screaming.
"The shot was taken from the same corner spot as my other images. I prefer to be close to the corner of the pitch when shooting rugby. The ball is often passed wide to the backline, and the most dynamic images are usually of outside backs, in particular wingers, scoring near the corner flags."
"The France v Argentina game was closely fought, with momentum swinging from one side to the other. Argentina dramatically missed a penalty late in the game and the match finished 23-21 to France. But my favourite shot from the day wasn't taken in the latter stages; it was from the beginning, when France's first try was scored [top].
"Virimi Vakatawa of France was on the burst when his team spread the ball wide through the back line. He passed to Gaël Fickou, who scored a try right in front of me. It was taken with my EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at an aperture of f/3.2, to separate the action from the background with a shallow depth of field. I used a shutter speed of 1/1600 sec to freeze the action.
"The shot was a mixture of judgement and some luck. It helps that I know rugby well – I have 25 years of knowing the sport, including nine years as a player. Watching certain teams and players, you learn to predict what will happen next, anticipating the play so you are one step ahead of the action and ready to capture the next big moment in the game.
"I chose this image because capturing sport is about documenting defining moments. In rugby, it's all about scoring tries, and they make great images, especially when players are flying through the air diving for the tryline. Defining moments usually come down to big tackles, breaking the defensive lines, scoring and then the celebration when scoring a try."
Find all the Canon-related stories on our Rugby World Cup 2019 event page.