In Focus Friday - Team Spirit

10 March 2018

SIG: Documentary

This week we invite Sally Norris to talk is through this candid and moving shot. She recently won the February round of the Documentary group’s bi-monthly competition ( link) and won a copy of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s book The mind’s eye into the bargain.

Hi, Sally. Can you give us a little background about the shot?

I was following a team taking part in a Tough Mudder obstacle course so took a lot of shots. These 3 photographed are actually Olympians. Physically fit, all in their twenties, but it’s clear from this shot that this muddy, strenuous, wet and cold course took a toll. Especially outside the comfort zones of their respective sports of boxing, athletics, and track cycling. Earlier shots captured showed their expected grit and determination but as they walked away from me into the distance I spotted Anthony Fowler, Commonwealth Boxing champion, putting his arm out to comfort Perri Shakes-Drayon and Jessica Varnish. They huddled together and it said everything about their team spirit while showing unexpected vulnerability. 

What was your plan for the day?

To see the team in action. I expected them to do well but hadn’t realised they would find it hard but the shot shows that they experienced difficulties and had to lean upon one another probably because they train specifically for their sports and not normally in wet cold conditions. 

What’s your routine just before heading out with your camera?

Check weather, check camera cards space, check white balance, decide f/stop and shutter speeds combinations for variable conditions, an event takes hours. This was taken on the end of a 28-300mm Nikkon zoom with no tripod using available light. 

While you’re out what makes you press the shutter release?

Having made documentary films for many decades I am only ever looking for the truth. 

Where can we find more of your work? just put my name in: Sally Norris - for my documentary film work ( link) . So far, I haven’t created a site for my stills but I tend to shoot the stills for all my films.

What do you think photographers don’t do but should?

Good question. Most photographers I know are finely tuned so do DO what is required. I would say keep kit prepared, don’t stage anything for documentary, and I personally always try to work without a flash.

what essential piece of advice would give your novice self?

Save up for prime lens! You will never want to go back…

Which camera has been your all time favourite and why?

When I was a teenager I got my first Nikon and while there are lots of other good brands I have remained loyal. I have two Nikons on the go, one is old but I still love the image quality: Nikon D90 with Sigma lens, but the pixel size means I needed to upgrade so I more often work now with my Nikon D750 and Nikon lens - for which I am building up Full-Frame prime lens’ for this. We are still getting to know one another but pixel size is superior to the other camera though I love the handling of my older Nikon. No doubt I will look at the D810 in future and beyond.… 

What’s the best (photography related) purchase you’ve made for less than £100?

Essential to use a UV filter on each and every lens for protection as much as anything - around £25 each. I also love my quick-draw Joby camera strap, retails around £35.00, which I got from WEX online. It means I can swing the camera around from resting on my hip. When you have a DSLR with Zoom this not only feels very natural in operation but dramatically reduces pressure on the neck whilst being able to securely stow it when walking and keeping your hands free. You quickly get used to it and will never want to go back to the traditional around the neck strap.

Thanks, Sally and congratulations!

If you would like your work to feature in a future edition, please email us ( ).