The job of a professional sports photographer certainly sounds glamorous enough, with those at the top of their game traveling the world to shoot major events, from the Olympics to the World Cup and everything in between. Often working just meters from the action, many of their shots end up emblazoned across the covers of major publications, with the very best images depicting extraordinary moments in sporting history.
Of course, getting up close and personal doesn’t come without risk, and some unlucky photographers find themselves in the firing line while in pursuit of that special picture. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a collection of sports photographers’ scrapes, whacks, and bashes caught on camera over the years.
Wannabe pro sports shooters, be warned. There may be knocks ahead.
Track and field
This poor guy must have thought he was fine at this particular shot put event, especially given that he was positioned behind the safety netting. But the athlete’s throw was so erratic that the 8-pound shot ended up to the side of the landing zone, right where the photographer was crouching. The sound of the heavy metal ball landing on his shin is guaranteed to make your eyes water.
Track and field
While a Segway doesn’t seem like a particularly essential piece of kit for the job, if you really must scoot around on one, you’d better be aware of your surroundings or you might find yourself in a career-ending moment. Here, we see running champ Usain Bolt getting it in the back of the legs.
Having just won a cycling race, British Olympic medalist Lizzie Armitstead is understandably elated. Hurtling along, she throws her arms aloft in celebration. But wait, there’s a group of photographers in the road, and she fails to see them till it’s too late. The nasty accident put Armitstead in hospital. The condition of the photographer(s) wasn’t reported.
Seems like the photographer could’ve done with a helmet and some pads, too. Here, we see one of the players knocked off the field in full sprint, sending him smashing straight into the photographer, who stumbles backward before collapsing in a heap. Judging by the footage, he was lucky not to get his weighty camera and lens full in the face as well.
Such is the pace of the game, this unlucky photographer couldn’t have known until the very last moment that he was going to be floored by two hefty football players heading his way. Let’s hope he at least got the shot.
This one’s just plain bizarre, and another example of how things can suddenly go awry. The photographer isn’t even particularly close to the racetrack, choosing instead to shoot the action from inside it. However, when two cars lose control, he has to run for his life as one of the vehicles heads straight for him.
OK, it’s not exactly photography, but camera operators also need to be aware of their surroundings. Here we see cameraman Paul Allen take the full force of a bouncing tire that flew off an F1 car at the German Grand Prix a couple of years ago. You can see some of the engineers taking cover, but Allen had his back to the incident so didn’t see it coming. Unsurprisingly, he was hospitalized with several broken bones and a concussion.
Another rogue tire. As the cars speed around the track, a wheel comes loose. The photographer is engrossed in the action, however, and only sees the tire a second before it hits.
“That has really done some damage,” the commentator says as the golf ball lands on a photographer who may or may not have been enjoying a quiet break when this particular accident happened.
It’s not very often you see horses crashing into barriers, but that’s exactly what happens here. Fortunately, the photographer — who’s simply in the wrong place at the wrong time — manages to evade the horse.
Aussie Rules Football
Another field-side incident, though, thankfully, this time the photographer doesn’t get too messed up. Still, his quick shake of the head after toppling off his camera box suggests he didn’t particularly enjoy the crash.
Sports photography isn’t always about shooting the event. News outlets are also keen for behind-the-scenes shots, though as this photographer quickly learned, it’s best you don’t get too close with your camera gear.