Snapped: the secret behind the striking shot of Sindhu
David Ramos captured one of the most imaginative and celebrated images of Rio 2016: Indian badminton star PV Sindhu, from above, with the thrown shuttlecock perfectly positioned over one eye. The Spanish photographer explains how teamwork combined to get the perfect frame – and talks about the crazy life of an Olympic photographer.
“The magic of photography is that sometimes you get this lucky moment and think, ‘Wow, that’s the perfect shot’,” David Ramos said. “You can’t predict it; you just have to try and prepare for it.”
The 41-year-old Getty Images photographer from Barcelona knew he had an absolutely classic image as soon as he saw his frame of PV Sindhu, the Indian badminton player, in action at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. But he is quick to credit others for the result: like many of the best Olympic moments, it was the product of hard work behind the scenes.
“Covering a badminton match, it is difficult to get to an original photograph,” he said. “This is a clear example of teamwork. The picture was shot by a remote camera which was put up there by another Getty photographer, who is in charge of robotics, weeks before the Games. The start of the Olympics is not the start for us; there is a lot of preparation.
“He set up cameras on the roof of the pavilion, in lots of different positions. At the venue I could trigger that camera through mine. But despite the technology, you also need the human effort to time it right and get the moment. Photography is about moments. When they’re gone, they’re gone.”
Research also paid off. “When you’re watching badminton, it’s quite specific and not easy to shoot,” the Spaniard explained. “I needed to know and understand the sport first before shooting, and think about new points of view. I thought that it would be important to shoot from a high position. This is where you get the best shots of badminton. There is some really nice action from that angle.”
Ramos admits that he “was hoping for this kind of shot, because that’s where they serve, and the camera was framing the right part of the court. I was ready to get that frame. And it worked – we got the shuttlecock exactly over the eye. That just makes the frame.”
Ramos didn’t know that he had struck photographic gold at first. Life as an Olympic Games snapper is extremely hectic, rushing from one job to another. Thousands of images from cameras are beamed to a central work desk every hour, where editors pick out the best imagery. It was as a result of fine editing that this one was caught, too.
“It’s another example of it being a team effort, because when you’re shooting, it’s very important that the editor catches the frame. They had to do a great job spotting that one.
“I didn’t see it immediately. I went off and did another sport. It was a very, very long day. It was later when I looked at the ‘best pictures of the day’ that I looked at that one and thought, ‘Wow, that’s a cool frame’. It was unbelievable. The point of view, the moment, it just works. You have the Olympic rings, the line, the yellow on green. It is just perfect.”
Ramos, who has been working as a photographer since 2001, was at his first Olympic Games; he has since also attended the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
“I love working at the Olympics; it is a very different experience,” he says. “It is a dreamland for a photographer and for the sportspeople. It’s a place you want to be at least once in your life. It’s all about emotions. The level is so high. Everyone there wants to give their best – photographers, journalists and sportspeople.
“I feel it is even different from the World Championships in any sport. It has a romantic feeling to it, from its long history. We want to see world records and iconic images.”
Ramos also caught some other great images of Sindhu, who went on to win a silver medal, that day. “She’s very good to shoot, very emotional,” he said. “She’s a top Olympic athlete, and I got some beautiful shots of her. It was a day I will remember from the Olympic experience.”