Following the weight of last week’s work, it was quite a nice break to be sent to cover something new for me; the Yonex BWF World Badminton Championships 2011 at Wembley Arena in London. Regular readers will know of my complete disinterest in all things sporting but with this big Olympic thingamajig on the horizon, I’m being thrown at all sorts of test events in an attempt to find something that I’ll enjoy. First on the cards was badminton so off to Wembley I went.

Like my first moments of covering tennis recently, the immediate concern was working out how the game worked and how it scored. This may seem laughable, but not only am I totally ignorant of the game but if you don’t understand the time-line of a game, you’ll miss the chance to spot the critical moments. For those who need the info, it’s as follows; two sets of first to 21 or above with three clear points with a break after the eleventh point each time. If there’s no winner after the two sets, it goes to a third with the players swapping ends at the eleventh point. I’m already expecting the majority of emails that I receive on this post to be corrections on my woefully inadequate grasp of the rules.

Having shot two weeks of tennis at Wimbledon, I thought that I may have an idea of how fast it was going to be but I was left in shock by how fast the player’s reactions are. It was hard enough to follow with the eye, never mind the hand. By the end of the second day, a common phrase heard from the photographer’s area was a self-berating “stop watching and shoot, damn it!”. When the opponents break into a fast-paced rally, it really is a sight to behold. Definitely a sport that would not mix well with a hangover.

Even with only two days of badminton to shoot, I still managed to get a bit bored so played around with what I could see. The chap below is Peter Gade of Denmark, demonstrating his rather startling technique of collecting all of his sweat on his hand, then flicking it towards the photographers. I’m hoping it wasn’t intentionally aimed but it certainly made you keep your eye on him between points.

With China such a dominant force in the world badminton leagues, it was quite a shock to see a team from Great Britain making their way into the finals of the mixed doubles. Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier looked for a while like being the only chance that the chap who pressed play on the CD player might have of loading something other than “Now that’s what I call the Chinese National Anthem IV” into his player. In the end, as is the way that we’ve come to know and expect, the Chinese were simply too strong and romped to victory. Ah well, it gave us another chance to enjoy that stone-cold classic “March of the Volunteers” one more time…


By the end of the final day, we’d been treated to the Chinese National Anthem five times; a clean sweep of every match. I think the rest of the world may need to get a few more practise sessions in before 2012.

11 Responses to “The flying cocks of Wembley”

  1. Hi Leon…been following your blog for a few months…perhaps that should read jealously following…Always great images, and light-hearted factual commentary too. Thank you. As an aspiring ‘tog’ with no clear avenue your work is an inspiration. The badminton shots are great…and something i’ve wanted to shoot, especially as for years the comp has been at the NEC in Brum…just up the road…but no accreditation…no cigar!

    Look forward to the next installment.

    Posted by Scott Lee
  2. Sooo Gooood! You have captured all the nuances of the sport and produced some wonderful graphic images. A very different smash-and-grab to last week. Best Wishes Ian

    Posted by Ian Gillett
  3. Great shots. I see long shutter speed and sports mix rather well. I wish we could see some of your shots from the Triathlon in Hyde Park but I guess other events were a bit more news-worthy.

    Posted by Robert Kaleta
  4. @Scott Lee – Hey bud, thanks for your kind words and readership. It’s a pleasure to write when people read! Have you tried getting a pass for the badminton events? If they say no, speak to local papers about asking if you can shoot it on their behalf. You may be surprised. Good luck!

    @Ian Gillett – Yeah it was a bit of a change of pace although just as fast and furious. Glad the pictures are appreciated.

    @Robert Kaleta – You can tell when a photographer gets low on ideas when the slow drops come out! ;) As for the triathlon, you really don’t want to see them. That was a fine example of complete confusion and desperation as I scrabbled to get to grips with how to shoot it. Grim!

    Posted by tabascokid
  5. @tabascokid- Yeah it was quite a difficult event to shoot, especially if you wanted to get more creative. The shots i got were mostly disappointing with a couple of possible keepers. I think i saw you somewhere amongst the photographers during the day.

    Posted by Robert Kaleta
  6. Hadn’t thought to ‘just ask’! Will give that a go….and local paps…wondered about doing that with the events next year…thanks.

    Posted by Scott Lee
  7. I have to say I would never have guessed you were not an experienced sports photographer after looking at those shots. Some very nice work.
    And from my vague recollection of playing badminton some years back, one thing stands out in it is certainly not the slow and gentle game that many people assume.

    Posted by Imajez
  8. That’s very kind of you, cheers. I have to agree in that I was stunned by the insane reaction speeds of the players. Remembering the way that I used to play when I was on holiday, I can safely say that I’d never have made the grade professionally!

    Posted by tabascokid
  9. Really great work – as it always is. Really terrible headline.

    Am I beginning to sound like a broken record?

    You are a ridiculously talented photographer, you write well, so why do you put idiotic, peurile headlines above your brilliant work? (see A Quick trip to the Karzai)

    Please, pretty please, when you are next grabbed by the urge to reduce your considerable gifts to the level of a seaside postcard, could you perhaps just count to ten, have a snigger to yourself, and then just NOT do it?

    Your humble and appreciative follower,

    Justin.

    Posted by Justin Sutcliffe
  10. The readers are always more that you think!!! And not only in your homeland! (I have to translate your articles for my not English speaking mates regularly)
    Great images again, but it not a miracle from you.
    I’ve heard from my photog. teacher in the last century: who can cover sport events, could do everything! You can. I saw.(I ve remember my first box match if I saw the punch then it was too late…)
    It is interesting not depend on where you are the problems are always the same in the profession. Every (sport) event is a challenge for us, not necessary to like it, but you know it, that is why your pix so..so..intensive. I feel that you love your job, like we do here at the other end of Europe.
    :-)

    F

    Posted by Ferenc Isza
  11. @Justin – Yes, you are. You know my thoughts on the subject. There are far too many stroky beard types who thing that photojournalism should be treated like a religion but I just enjoy it. The moment I’m told that Pulitzer Ltd is with-holding my award due to the titles, I’ll consider tweaking but I’m afraid I’m happy as I am for the moment, bud! Cheers for the exceptionally kind words. :)

    @Ferenc – Right, that’s it. You’ve just become the first Global Ambassador for the blog. You’re free to make whatever uniform you wish but I expect great things! ;) Thanks so much for taking the time to read (and translate) the blog. It’s great to get such a wonderful bit of feedback. Cheers1

    Posted by tabascokid

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