Photography Vérité: Cameron Spencer on Taking That Iconic Photo of Usain Bolt Smiling Mid-Race

I’ve been shooting Bolt for many years, three Olympics Games and two World Championships, and experience has taught me that shooting the fastest man alive is exciting, though there is a lot of pressure.

To come up with a different creative image is a challenge.

By the time the gun went off and the runners sprinted off their starting blocks, I was also sprinting with my gear in hand, which included three remotes in addition to my handheld camera, a Canon 1DX MK2.

I had four cameras firing all at once.

My handheld had a 70-200 mm lens set at 135 mm focal length. I had to drop my shutter speed to about 1/40th of a second to capture the moment.

At this point, my feet were planted on the ground but I continued to move my lens, following Bolt’s movement with my upper body.

He was ahead of his opponents by now and in that single moment, I saw Bolt look back with a smile.

The shot was captured with some motion, but it wasn’t until later that I realized the extent of his smile.

I knew it was a special moment.

I’ve only had several of my images go viral before, but this one was a unique result of great timing paired with photographic risk taking, and a touch of luck.

It’s an exciting feeling when your image resonates with the masses and this particular image tells a truly unique story.

~ Cameron Spencer


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