John Warkentin sits down with Getty Sports Photographer Quinn Rooney in this follow up interview after his Facebook Live presentation on Thrusday June 1st held in the Lecture Theatre at michaels camera in Melbourne.
Quinn provides an insight about his life as a photographer - how he first got into photography, what he carries in his camera bag, the lenses he uses, developments he's expecting to see in future cameras and he tells about the tough road that he took to become a sports photographer which also includes tips on how to get into the industry.
Watch Quinn's full Seminar where he goes over in detail the back story behind many of the images he refers to in this interview.
John Warkentin from Michael’s Camera here.
I’m joined by Quinn Rooney from Getty Images or Getty photography, is with me today.
He’s just given a fabulous presentation on sports photography; showing all of his amazing work that he’s done at the Olympic Games, and the tennis, gymnastics, all sorts of great things.
So he’s given a presentation here in Michael’s theatre and we just wanted to sit down and have a little bit of a question-and-answer session with Quinn.
I’ve prepared a few questions, and if anybody wants to submit a few questions on Facebook, hopefully, we’ll be able to get those things through; and if not live, we’ll be able to follow them up in the comments.
But Quinn is here! He’s got some fancy Nikon gear on the table in front of us, and of course, he’s sponsored by Nikon and our Nikon rep Julie Kimpton is with us today as well, standing in the background overseeing everything.
She’s always a welcome presence here at Michael’s Camera.
Anyway so, Quinn, I’ve just prepared a few questions in advance and I think I’ve already shown them to you so we’re not out here to broadside you or anything but; we just want to talk a little wee bit about photography, and what gets you excited, what you’re doing; a little bit about your history with it.
In Quinn's Bag
So one of the questions I’d like to start off with is just asking people what’s in the camera bag today?
What’s in my camera bag? I have two Nikon D5s, a 400 mm f/2.8, 70-200, 24-70, a 1.4 converter, and a flash.
A flash. Well, that’s a relatively heavy camera bag.
And that’s what you just have for just family snapshots, right?
This is my small pack, believe it or not; but yeah, often I’m at a lot of sporting events so I’ve got at least two bags worth of gear.
So, especially if I’m carrying the 600 or something, I’ll often go to the second bag, and I’ll quite often have a third or fourth body; if I’m going to do remotes or something like that. So, definitely, the back is feeling it these days from carrying all that equipment.
Yeah. Well, we have to suffer for our art, you know.
That’s right! That’s right! That’s what we go through to get that shot, yeah.
The big gear is heavy and it produces brilliant results; which you, of course, have shown us.
Ah, now, getting back to your early days: So what was your first camera?
My first camera was actually bought from here in one of the windows here in Michael’s!
That was a secondhand Olympus, OM I want to say OM-30… that does sound, right? An Olympus OM film camera? I can’t even remember the exact model. OM-10 perhaps? Maybe that might be the one?
But, yeah bought from the windows here, and I was lucky enough, my mum and dad bought me that’s when I started at Melbourne School of Art and Photography.
So what year would have that been?
I think it was ’93? So yeah, I’ve been in the industry a bit over 20 years now; which goes very quick.
Photography In Your family
So was there any photography in your family?
My grandfather was actually heavily into photography, so he had a lot of medium-format cameras. I remember him when I was playing sport growing up, he often would come along and take photos of it.
So definitely a bit of his influence, and I used to have a darkroom in his little laundry which I used to be able to play around with; so definitely he was an inspiration for me when I first started.
Oh, that’s fabulous. So he liked medium-format? Was there anything else that he was working with? Anything crazy or esoteric?
No, no. I’ve actually got some of his old cameras I keep now up on my after my cupboard I guess you’d say, but as memories, but no he had a nice, um, yeah, trying to think which model he had, but it escapes in a moment. But, yeah, he had nice medium-format cameras and used to like doing the black-and-white printing at home.
Wow! Well, that’s really exciting! So, in your actual immediate family, who was sort of, the keeper of the family memories? Was it your mother or your father?
I wouldn’t say we’re excellent at it but my mum has a very big drawer full of photos, so um…
Well, it’s your job now, probably!
Yeah, well, I’m probably the worst one in my family. I’m very keen to take them, but it’s that effort of filing them and making sure they’re put in the right place. So my lovely partner, (Annette) she’s the organised one who’s very good at making sure they’re in their folders so I can find them.
Yeah, I don’t think that problems unique to you, I think that every photographer has got a problem: we’re really good at taking them, very (___) when it comes to saving, and wherever they go.
Yeah, yeah, that’s right. That’s correct. I’m glad I’m not alone.
Well, it’s because they all have a number! I mean if only the camera could just say, “This is a picture of Fred!”
Yeah, we might get that one day.
Shooting At Premier Sporting Events
Maybe that will come someday.
Well, obviously you’ve got a lot of experience in shooting at a premier sporting events, and you showed us some beautiful samples from your talk, that was just ended a half an hour ago, and I think most of the people at Michael’s Camera that come to see these presentations are very excited about you to know top-tier photographers.
They get to travel all over the world, shoot the premier athletes, and of course, you’ve got a lot of experience shooting at the Olympic Games.
So, we know that when the Olympics come around every four years and on the odd cycle it’s the Winter Games, so that’s coming up in Korea; and of course, the Summer Games are coming up in 2020 in Tokyo.
New Releases Tied To The Olympics
The camera manufacturers love to bring out their top-tier gear and get this stuff featured at the Olympics, and I’m sure you’re always looking forward to the new gear when it comes out and it gets to you probably a little bit earlier than everybody else, for testing. So what do you think’s coming down the pipeline? I mean, I don’t want any trade secrets or anything, but we know that the big brands, Nikon of course, are going to, you know, sponsor you; will have some amazing things!
Are we going to just see frame rates continually growing? Are we going to see resolution keep growing?
Are they going to make, is there crazy lens technology that’s around the corner?
What do you think the future holds?
It’s a big question which I don’t know! But, like you said, every Olympics there seems to be a new model of camera coming out and it’s always exciting. It always amazes me actually that we keep increasing these frame rates.
I think I guess the latest cameras, you look at the ISO range - was just speaking to someone before about you know, being able to shoot at 8,000 ISO these days when you know, three or four years ago I wouldn’t go over 1,600 – I guess I can see those things improving.
I think probably, definitely the telephoto zoom. So we’ve got at the moment the 200-400, or Nikon’s just brought out a 200-500. So I think probably that area will continue to grow.
But I think probably the big thing that’s going to be happening say, especially for Tokyo and the Olympics, is robotics.
I think Nikon is bringing out some robotics.
So we’ll be able to actually control cameras through the computer; especially for overhead spots or even underwater photography, which I’m quite passionate about.
So the ability to, yeah, be able to focus, change the direction of the camera under the water will all be controlled by robotics.
So I think that’s very exciting about what the future holds.
Well, you certainly - and you’ve got one on your screen right now here - you’ve shown us some brilliant underwater samples, and of course, as you were explaining in your presentation, that you had to get the scuba gear on to get down into the pool to just change any simple thing. Once it was, I guess was it suction-cupped or weighted down to the bottom of the pool, I mean that was that; it was sort of set, and you had to just you know, hope that your subject gets into the frame!
I could certainly see the excitement of having some robotics!
Well maybe you’ll miss the scuba gear I’m not too sure.
I do quite like the old school so we did, for example, in Rio we had robotics there; and that definitely makes it a lot easier. I quite like the old-school way of, it’s a bit like the film days of actually trying to project what you’re going to get, and it adds to the excitement of when you do pull your camera out; you get to see the result, but definitely robotics make it a lot easier and especially for speed of getting images out too. So we have these cameras will be tethered directly back to the computer, so again, we get photos out a lot quicker, rather than like the way I’m doing it is, yeah, having the wait till the end of the session to get the camera out.
Zoom v Fixed Focal Length
When we were just talking about the technology that might be coming down the pipeline, and you were talking about you know the new Nikon zoom this 200-500; this has sort of been this classic question with photographers for years you know, Primes or zooms?
And of course, you know zooms just keep getting better and better, but at you know, super-tele range, historically we’ve always been using prime lenses because the zooms in those ranges have just been so heavy that with new manufacturing techniques, new glass formulations, there’s a lot of magnesium used in the barrels of these lenses these days, the zooms are getting much, much lighter.
Is that something you’re looking forward to; or do you still have a love for the prime; or would you just say. Oh, if I could just have a 100-600 that was fast, fast, fast I would just move to it instantly.
I’m a bit of a traditionalist. I love a prime lens. I’ve always you know, my 400-800 is my lens of choice. I love being able to go to 2.8 but, and again I like the 600 but I must admit this Australian Open I used the 200-400 quite a lot. I used to, the year before I used to call the 200-400 “match point” lens. So I’d carry around my 400, shoot in the 400; and then just to give myself a bit more room, I’d use the 200-400 for match point so I wasn’t cropping anything out.
But I did this year, yeah, found myself using the 200-400 a lot more; probably because I was working a different angle.
But, um, and I must admit it is growing on me and I’m amazed at the quality that’s coming out of the zoom lenses these days.
But yeah, I still do like the primes, just because I like to really isolate that background.
So yeah, I guess a dream for me would be if they brought out a 200-600 2.8. It would be amazing. I don’t know, I guess maybe that’s in the future and I would love to give that a go.
But yeah, I do like being able to have that 2.8 lens.
Maybe we could suspend the laws of physics and give it a negative 1.8.
Hey, let’s go for it!
And then we’d be able to blur out that umpire!
That’s right! Yes, well, maybe one day you never know!
Well now, so as we were talking a little bit about you know, what might come down the pipeline in the future for the Olympics or whatever, but just in general imaging technology - what’s getting you excited about the world of imaging these days?
Well, it probably is that the zoom lens is coming on. I do like this, what we’ve got here that using the WR-10 to be able to fire off the flash. I quite like you know, being able to put them put my flash off-site and using it like that, and just the ease of doing it from the way I used to do it with a pocket wizard.
So, things like that just making my job a lot easier, but yeah, definitely sort of, make the ability to create a mood with flash a whole lot easier.
Now in your presentation, you showed us a 360-degree image from the Australian Open. Can you tell us a little bit about how you captured that?
Yeah, well, I guess that’s a new technology these days that we’ve started using. I mean they’re all pretty simple; a one-shot process now, but I think that the hardest thing now is almost to try and keep yourself out of the image.
But, I think probably the industry is still trying to work out exactly how to use them in the industry force, but we are seeing a lot of websites that want that ability to see the full 360 range.
Obviously, from what I’ve found so far, the closer you can get to the action the better it works.
But, yeah, I guess we’re all continually looking for different angles and things, and that’s just another I guess service we can provide to give the consumer another option.
So that was with the Nikon Key Mission 360, I take it?
That one wasn’t actually mine; I think that was with the Ricoh Theta-S.
Oh okay then.
So have you had a chance to play with the Key Mission line?
I’ve only had a quick go and I actually have one in my bag at the moment, so that’s going to be something I’m excited to have a play around with.
Well, they’re certainly very unique and it’s something that we know that Getty is interested in, because they’ve got; they sell stock 360-degree imagery.
So it’s an area where they’re putting their resources, so any ability to capture that sort of content is something that you know, the new market of virtual reality is interested in.
Managing So Many Images
So with the modern camera shooting faster and faster all the time and you sort of touched on this you know, with the frame rate and all these images that you’ve got to fire off to your editor; and so how do you handle thousands of images that you take? How do you find the needle in the haystack so quickly to get it out and meet your deadline?
Ideally, I’m tagging in the back of the camera.
That’s my first priority if I can; but sometimes you might shoot something, it might be it just happens instantly, and the first thing I’m doing is just plugging it straight into my computer, and I don’t even have time to flip through the backend and tag what I want; I’m just getting into my computer as quickly as I can.
Getty has their own program we use called, “Gift”
So it assigns a lot of the metadata to the images as it’s loading through the computer, and it also is a very fast filing system. So I can scroll through thousands of images and just with a quick of the keyboard I can tag the pictures I want.
Your Photographic Career
So, now, I did a little bit of research in advance of you showing up today; and from what I read, it looks like you basically sort of started your photography career towards the late 90s. So, you’re right at a transition period at that point. That was just the dying days of film and the early days of digital.
It obviously was a crossover period there, because you know, the very first digital cameras were suitable for certain jobs but not all, and so when did you personally migrate away from film to digital; and is there still any film in your life or career?
I shouldn’t admit to this, but there’s still film in the fridge.
Oh, that’s alright!
Yeah but I haven’t used it for many years. But yeah, you’re right, when I was going through college obviously we learned all the black and white skills, and it was all through film, and I worked for a few years in you know, a black and white photo lab, and loved that that area; and I was actually very sad to see it go to the digital age.
But I guess, yeah, when it did you could see why, because everything was so fast.
I’m trying to think what my first digital camera was, but I soon realised once I was out of college that if I wanted to get a job that’s the area really it was going, so I had to migrate to the digital side of things.
Yeah like I said, I’ve still got them in the fridge. I think I’ve still got some film cameras; I like to keep all my old cameras, but yeah, they haven’t been out for a long time.
Well just full disclosure: film is making quite a comeback. We’re selling a lot of film at Michael’s Camera. I mean is it a fashion statement or you know, or is it just exploring the love of you know, the analogue process?
It’s really hard to say. But year-on-year, film sales just keep increasing here and we’re still able to do processing as well.
So, we’re pretty much a one-stop shop.
So back to you know this film or analogue versus digital thing; when do you figure was the lightbulb moment in your career when all of a sudden it was digital for your particular job at hand, won the war.
It was probably just seeing other photographers. As I said I used to do a lot of work for the sporting magazines, so I used to work in slides, were a lot of the way I worked; so I guess it was just being left behind, because I had to go get it processed, label it, send it off, and there were people out in the field using digital and it was instant and I just saw it and realized that, hey, I can’t be left behind here, I’ve got to move with the times.
So it for you was more about the delivery time and delays in…
Exactly, yeah; and I know you hear people talking about it, I guess now when we compare to the quality it probably wasn’t there, but in the editorial world, yeah, just having things instantly.
Time was more important.
That’s right, yeah.
I mean of course, in our museum here, we’ve got a lot of those early digital cameras and they were used for press photography, and some of them didn’t produce a very good picture, but they did it instantly and that was the game changer.
No more developing in the hotel sink.
Yeah! Yes, there you go, yeah.
How To Become A Sports Photographer
So one of the classic questions which you know a lot of people want to know, because they you know, they see your dream job and they’re like, well how could I become a sports photographer? What would you recommend is a path that you know a person is interested in becoming a professional sports photographer? What sort of path should they go down?
Well, it’s a bit of a cliché, but I would say just keep getting out there and shooting. And probably finding events that aren’t necessarily covered by other photographers as much, so it might be a level down from AFL over shooting VFL football or TAC under-18 football, where the standard is still good, and there are still good shots to be had.
But, yeah, mastering your craft there, and I think probably an important thing, if you want to go down that editorial world, is probably building up a bit of a database of editors from the different agencies and newspapers, and then I guess, sort of you know, sending them an email with some samples of your work.
So whether it’s a small sample or a link to a folio, and I guess yeah, just sort of showing that you know, every few months just touching base and sort of showing what your work doing but showing that you’re progressing and just getting your name out there.
It is such a great job that not many people leave. So you’ve got to be a bit patient, and you’ve just got to build up and get people used to your name.
Yeah and just keep persisting. For me, it took me many years to break into the industry, but yeah, I had that dream; kept working; kept persisting, and eventually, it became true.
Which would you feel, or is it you know, the stock standard shots you know the ones that all the agencies need, or is it the creative shots; which would you figure would open the door for you know, a new talent?
Is it, you know, thinking outside the box or delivering what everybody else expects?
That’s a very good question. I guess I personally look at a lot of folios that are sent to our editor, especially they’re in Melbourne, my editor might say, ah, you know have a look at these photos, tell me what you think of this; do you know this person?
I think it’s, you want to show a range. So you want to show that you’re able to get those stock pictures; ideally that you can use light; that you understand how the industry is working; you can do some creative shots need be, because sometimes you’re on a job where there might not be a picture there and you’ve got to work hard to create one. So it’s important to show that you can do that, but it’s just giving a broad coverage to show you know some of the areas that we’re looking for.
I highly recommend anyone who’s watching this interview to go back and watch, if you missed it, the original presentation that Quinn gave, so you can see some of his creative work.
He didn’t want to dwell on all the simple stuff, he wanted to show us his best, and it was fabulous work; and he’s a master of his light, and of, you know, that quintessential moment - that shadow picture where the tennis ball was right where the shadow the racket was - I mean just some brilliant samples.
So there’s no doubt about it, you know, being creative is important, but you’ve also got a show you can do the 99% of the boring stuff as well.
The Shot That Got Away
Ah, now I guess the last little parting shot I wanted to ask you was, tell us about the shot that got away. It’s kind of like a fisherman talking about the fish that got away. Was there anything that you just, you put all the hours in and it just didn’t come together for you; or a shot that maybe is in your mind that you just haven’t managed to get into the pixels yet?
Yeah, obviously there are quite a few stories of ones that got away. The one that springs to mind when you say that was probably this year, or last year’s Rio Olympics for the 100-meter final.
I got what I thought was a really good gig. I was, sort of had a bit of free rein to shoot from the crowd; and they the only sort of brief was we had, for example, we had I think 17 photographers covering that one race; so we had, you know, hopefully, every angle covered, but mine was to try and just get a shot that involved the crowd, and try and get Bolt coming across the finish line.
So they gave me a bit of free rein to sort of work the angles, and so I went up and sort of found a spot that I thought it might work; and I actually shot the semi-final and I actually picked out a group of crowd who were really celebrating when Bolt crossed the line in the semi-final, and I thought that, yep, that’s going to be my picture.
I sort of framed it all up correctly and I thought, yeah this could work really well.
Unfortunately, when Bolt crossed the finish line, it was a lot closer than I think everyone anticipated so the crowd’s reaction to him winning was probably delayed until he was 10, 20 meters past the finish line; so the elements didn’t all come together. I had the crowd going up but it wasn’t at the point where I had hoped Bolt would be crossing the finish line.
That happens sometimes. Again, I’d rather go for something different and hope there’s a great shot there. We had so many other angles covered that I had that luxury to try something could be different. It didn’t work, but you know, we move on.
You can’t restage it.
That’s it! That’s one of the beauties of the sports photography, that’s what I love, is that it can’t be restaged, you either get it or you don’t, and that’s the thrill. You know, when you do you get it, it’s a great feeling, and unfortunately, it can’t happen every time.
Well, I guess, one last parting question: what is your favourite sport to photograph?
I probably, the real answer to that is: I like variety. I like the different you know, a variety of shooting swimming one day, football the other day, but if I had to pick one sport, it’s probably swimming.
I like, as I said, water sports; I like the effects I can get from water; I’m intrigued by it; there are just so many different elements to work with, you know: reflections, or yeah, things like that. So probably swimming’s probably my main passion.
Well, I want to really extend a warm thank you for you for coming to Michael’s and giving a wonderful presentation.
We want to thank Julie from Nikon, for sponsoring this and making sure that everything all happened.
We got a great crowd out today to hear Quinn speak, and of course, he’s just shown some brilliant work.
I highly recommend, if you haven’t had a chance to watch the presentation that you do so, and if you field any questions into our Facebook feeds here, we can be certain to pass them along to Quinn so that he can have a chance to answer.
And keep an eye out on our Facebook feed; we’re going to hopefully, be doing a lot more live videos. We really enjoy it!
And again, big warm thanks to Quinn for putting up with us today, and trying to make all this technology work.
It’s a boatload of equipment that we’ve got to use to get multi cameras going live here at Michael’s.
But we have a lot of fun doing it, and we really think that getting the message out live is a brilliant way to bring the photographic stories to our viewers.
If you are ever in Melbourne you’ve got to come in and visit Michael’s Camera. On Thursdays at lunchtime we always have presentations and you are more than welcome to attend those; and of course, if you’re just passing through Melbourne you want to stop into Michael’s and check out our world-famous camera museum, so you can see all the history of film and of course, if you’re in the market for new cameras we’ve got everything available here.
We’ve got a brilliant sales force that is going to be able to fit a camera to your specific needs, and if that means a big honkin’ black Nikon lens to shoot the children’s footy, we’ve got those as well for you.
So thank you so much for joining us here on Facebook, and give us a little like, follow us.
I will probably have this available on YouTube as well in higher resolution, and we look forward to seeing on the next video!
Thank you! Bye!
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