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A day in the life on an America's Cup photographer...

An interview with Thierry Martinez, official photographer, Team Alinghi

What time do you wake up on race days?
I typically wake up around 6:15am, arriving in the office at around 7:00. As in most professions, the first thing I do is check my e-mails as I have to manage photography requests from around the world. The next item on the agenda is to attend the 7:30 meeting with the Alinghi media team.

What preparations are necessary prior to racing?
Before the race I clean my cameras and lenses and charge the batteries, ensuring that they are in proper working order to avoid unwanted surprises whilst on the job!

How do you base your choice of equipment (camera, filters, lenses etc)?

How do you develop the pictures and how long does it take?
During racing the Louis Vuitton Media centre organises a pick up boat (Fujifilm boat) which collects films and disks (from the digital cameras) from photographers after the first upwind mark. This boat then goes back to the media centre around 45 minutes after race start to start the developing process.

The films/disks then go directly to the official lab, which processes the negatives and delivers them back to the media centre at around 18:00. My assistant collects the disks/films and goes back to our office in the Alinghi base. He then starts to do back up copies of all the photos and selects the better images to edit them in Photoshop usually we adjust the colours and lighting. The next step is to add a caption, which explains the subject(s). This ensures that journalists and picture desks understand the action even if they are unfamiliar with the event.

When I return to shore following the completion of racing, I take the other films I have used (after the pick-up boat) to the lab and then go back to the office with the rest of the digital photos to complete the job.

On some days I return to the media centre for the Louis Vuitton Press conference. We receive a second pack of processed slides at around 20:00. I produce a slides of the day" selection and when we leave the office we start an automatic overnight scan.

What time do you finish?
An early finish is at around 20:30, however, most of the time we finish at 21:30. Occasionally, we work past midnight...

What project-related activities do you do during non-race days?

As Photo pool chief, I have to manage the photo database and keep in touch with Alinghi's partners and media from around the world. I have to take photos of the team working in the base, and catch-up with all photos we don't have time to caption during race days.

What do you do with your free time when you are on-site?
I don't have any real" free time. I try to do some physical exercise, because taking pictures from moving boats is very physical, especially given the weight of the equipment.

When there is less pressure on the job, I start later in the morning, which allows me to catch-up on much needed rest. But the good thing about starting early (especially when considering the different time zones) is the opportunity to fulfil requests from European media.

What makes a good sailing picture and are there times when you know a picture is going to be successful?
That's a difficult question! Sometimes you just know when you've taken a good shot., but even if your photo is excellent you still need to process it on time for media distribution. I am constantly in contact with sailing magazines from around the world, in order to know their deadlines and what the next issues will focus on.

For better or for worse, much of the skill needed for taking a good photo is knowing when to be at the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment. The light in basic race days is hard for us because racing typically starts at 13:00, a bad time regarding the position of the sun. However, when racing starts at 16:00 the position of the sun is ideal for taking pictures.

What advice would you give aspiring photographers?
Take as many pictures as possible! By taking photos and practising you develop and fine-tune the necessary skills for the job. I still learn new things every day!

Professional photography is changing with the advent of digital technology. In the future photographers will spend half their time taking pictures and the other half editing them on the computer. Proficiency in Photoshop or similar programmes will be a great advantage.

Any other comments?
Being a photographer is a fantastic job. Freelancing is certainly the hardest option, but on the flip side being your own boss is very rewarding! It's a lifestyle decision!