“One Lucky, Very Lucky Shot”

Panning is not easy. Gosh it’s difficult. Yet, there’s a panning shot from the Rio Olympics that’s probably the Rio 2016 shot of shots of the Games. Granted, there’s an amount of luck and skill in every great shot. Yet Reuters photographer Kai Pfaffenbach still had to make a quick choice of photo style, and then execute. Getting this shot is not as if Pfaffenbach had the camera on auto and just pushed a button.

Grinning Usain Bolt, winning the semi-final to his third 100-meter gold medal at three consecutive Olympics (a first!), and still having ample time to smile back at his drudging, smaller-than-Bolt pursuers, captured by Pfaffenbach — simply iconic.

Usain Bolt @ Rio Olympics by Kai Pfaffenbach, Reuters
Usain Bolt @ Rio Olympics 100-meter semi-final | Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

The German photographer is humble about his work. In this Reuters interview he says he was “just playing around and had a bit of fun.”

See, you dead serious photographers? Start playing around and have some fun!

Let’s loosen up a bit, experiment, as the best things in life are hardly ever planned.

Pfaffenbach went for a 1/50th panning shutter speed, “trying to do some arty shot.” Framing, composition, detail and out-of-focus areas, all just perfect.

“One lucky, very lucky shot,” says Pfaffenbach.

Here’s what Jeanne Moos of CNN has to comment, and yes, the YouTube screenshot shows a nearly identical Pfaffenbach shot, captured by Cameron Spencer of Getty Images, yet I prefer the German’s crispier version:

And heck yes, now there’s the discussion that the iconic Usain Bolt Rio 2016 photo is actually two photos…

Wall Street Journal:

There’s an image already being considered the iconic moment of the Rio Games (…) The only problem: who took it? There are actually two very similar photos of the breathtaking moment that so beautifully highlighted the emotion of Bolt’s win. Two photographers, Getty Images’ Cameron Spencer and Reuters’ Kai Pfaffenbach, were standing side-by-side when Bolt glanced to his left and both captured it.

The two photographers took their photos within milliseconds of each other and from nearly identical positions on the track’s infield. They both used 70-200mm zoom lenses. The main difference is the shutter speed they used. Spencer shot his using a shutter speed of 1/40th of a second, while Pfaffenbach took his at 1/50th. That’s a difference of .005 seconds — less than the time that Bolt edged second-place finisher Andre De Grasse of Canada, in the semifinal heat.

Usain Bolt @ Rio Olympics 100-meter semi-final | Cameron Spencer / Getty Images
Usain Bolt @ Rio Olympics 100-meter semi-final | Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

Spencer said he had three remote cameras already set up on the finish line, so he was free to use his handheld one to take this riskier shot. Pfaffenbach as well wasn’t confined to a designated spot and decided to play around with slow shutter speed photos.

Not really sure anymore which shot I prefer. Both are great. Tough choice.

Oh well…

Usain Bolt by Peray Stéphane...
Cartoon of the day: Usain Bolt takes a selfie by Peray Stéphane…



  • right_writes

    Following all of the grift and graft, the removal of poor people from their neighbourhoods, the cheating, the money grubbing, the Russians…

    …One picture, makes it almost worth it.

    • We can’t do anything these days without carbon and moral footprint… Well I try to keep on enjoying our hellish times nonetheless. Guess it was always hellish, just differently, and respect to the Olympic athletes, giving it all for a few minutes or even seconds of their life! What if… true heroes in a way, the undoped versions.

  • ArtB

    “Grinning Usain Bolt, winning his third 100-meter gold medal at three consecutive Olympics (a first!)” is a false statement, it was only a semi-final heat. He was not grinning in the race that he won the gold. In fact the reason he was grinning at Andre was because Andre decided to run fat in the heat which Bolt later chided him for. Why make a picture caption falsify the image, isn’t there enough of that going around?

    • My bad, noted and corrected. Actually in the first photo’s caption the semi-final’s correctly mentioned.