He may not boast the powerful physique of Gold medal winning swimmer and pal Mack Horton or the muscle bulk of the winning Australian Women’s Sevens Rugby Team yet photographer Delly Carr’s punishing Olympics schedule would test even the most dedicated of athletes.
If endurance were an Olympic sport then Nikon Ambassador Delly Carr would surely be its most celebrated campaigner. An eight-time veteran of the most high profile event on the world sporting calendar, the intestinal fortitude he displayed during his appearance at the Rio Olympics earlier this month would be impressive for a snapper half his vintage.
The first freelance photographer ever to be certified an official team member, his status as a support team member of the Australian Swim Team, meant Delly’s Olympic campaign began in mid-July when he travelled to Alabama to cover their Olympic staging and training camp.
From there the 30-year sports veteran flew straight to Rio where he undertook 19-hour work days for the entire two weeks of competition before shifting focus to the Paralympics. Just days after its conclusion he took to the skies again, this time to Mexico to cover the World Triathlon Championships before he is due to arrive home mid-September.
His punishing schedule means that by the time he spots the welcoming arches of Sydney’s most famous bridge, he will have worked a staggering 63 days, give or take, on the trot.
Being appointed an official Dolphins support staff team member meant Australia’s preeminent sport specialist photographer had to undertake anti-doping, anti-sports betting and many other checks to fulfil the protocol that came with being a team member.
While it didn’t have much sway at the Olympics where he performed under IOC rules, his unique status allowed him to be with the Dolphins at their training camp with unrestricted access. “I don’t know much about splits and strokes, but after spending the 10 days with the athletes in Alabama, I watched them compete with so much interest and love. I may have looked composed on the outside as I looked through the NIKKOR AF-S 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens, but on the inside I was screaming out loud for them. I have seen firsthand just what it took for them to be there.
“My portfolio of what it takes to be an Olympic Champion is at times heart breaking yet joyous. I had a backstage pass, coaches even got out of my way to let me get in close. No other media were permitted on camp, and the images I sent home to the mainstream electronic and paper media were used so extensively and ‘big’. They loved what the Nikon D5 and I were creating together.”
ROBUSTNESS A MUST
Foto Fitness is the term Delly uses to describe the mental, physical and emotional robustness he must display to complete his Olympic commercial obligations for a range of clients that include Swimming Australia, Hockey, Rowing, White Water, and Triathlon for the International Federation.
Meanwhile the Track & Field, Fencing, Table Tennis, BMX, Track Cycling, and Weightlifting images branded by his watermark and beamed around the world, he took solely for fun.
When it comes to shooting the grand daddy of sports, an Olympic Games, then one needs to rise to that challenge, Delly says. “The world’s best in all the sports are at their absolute peak, so as a photographer you also need to be as well. The action and emotion will be at the greatest intensity you will ever experience as a sports photographer… you really only have one chance to capture it. So to meet that challenge you too must be like an athlete and not get tired emotionally or physically [and] your physical and mental strength must stay at 100% for 16 hours a day for 10 days straight.”
A TYPICAL DAY
While no two days are alike, Delly says his days in Rio would typically start at around 6:30am when he would stumble out of bed, grab a shower and get a full breakfast which would likely be his last meal of the day.
At 8am he would be on the bus from media accommodation to the Main Press Centre to catch another bus to the morning session of whatever sport was on his radar. This process would be repeated around 1pm to catch the afternoon sessions and again at 7pm for the evening sessions, beaming his images back to Australia via his seated photo position, after each race or heat or final. At 12pm he would he back to his room for a shower before spending the next three hours editing, digitally backing up all his files, charging batteries and working out the next day’s schedule. He would usually hit the hay around 3am before getting up at 6:30am to start the process anew.
MUST HAVE EQUIPMENT
Never one to leave things to chance Delly admits to taking his “full army of Nikon soldiers” in terms of equipment on his epic Olympic adventures.
“I don’t want to come all this way to Rio, to the granddaddy of sport events, and be short of a lens or accessory. I have the Nikon D5 with me. Nikon Australia gave it to me early in the year to make sure that the camera and I were good partners by the time I got to Rio. I [was] so excited to fire D5 Olympic frames in anger.”
Having covered both Winter and Summer Olympics for a period spanning nearly 20 years Delly has had ample opportunity to rack up numerous incredible experiences. His favourite is a fencing picture taken from the team final between China and France that was down to the final point at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“They both suddenly lunged at each other and with milliseconds both scored a hit on each other. They each thought they had won the gold.” The image, which was awarded the Best Action Picture of the 2000 Sydney games, was the first frame he took of the match and the first image he’d ever taken of the sport.
His worst experience occurred during his first ice hockey game at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. “I had my Nikon D4 or D4s and wide angle NIKKOR AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED pressed up hard against the glass. Two gorilla ice hockey players came hard after the puck, and crashed heavily into the glass barrier. I didn’t know there was give and flexibility in the barrier to cushions such blows. The glass came my way, pushing the Nikon camera into my face, and I spent the first quarter of the game in the men’s bathroom stuffing toilet paper up my nose to stop the blood.”
POST GAMES RECOVERY
After such a sustained period of service, Delly is no different to the athletes when seeking a bit of post-Olympic R&R. While in the past he has “escaped to a mountain retreat or a Greek Island” straight after his commitments end, the length of his tour this time around means he intends heading home to re-discover his own bed, shower and enjoy a “home-style meal” before heading to New York for a snowy Christmas and New Year.
Asked if he had a ninth Olympics in him, Delly doesn’t hesitate before admitting nine has always been his lucky number. “In 2020 the Olympics are in Japan. Japan is by far my favourite place to travel to. So the maths and the future all add up.”
Words: Tracey Porter