World Press Photo is one of the largest photographic competitions in the world and is entered by thousands of photographers each year and the list of winners is as illustrious as it is long.
This year Christian Walgram from Austria’s GEPA agency won 1st prize in the Sports single category for his shot of Ondrej Bank at the FIS World Cup in Beaver Creek, Colorado. Historically we have featured more action/adventure photography but when we had discovered that Christian had won this amazing prize at World Press Photo we had to reach out and find out a little bit more.
Christian is using a Satori EXP at the moment and we were stoked to be able to get some time out of Christian’s hectic schedule to hear a little more about the man himself, his gear and of course that shot…
Q. Can you give us an introduction to yourself and your work?
A. I'm a sports photographer based near Graz in Austria. I work for the Austrian sports pictures agency GEPA pictures since 2006, where I started at the picture desk. In 2008 I started as photographer for GEPA pictures. Since that time I covered a lot of major sports events all over the world like Olympic Games in London and Sochi, UEFA European Championships, UEFA Champions League, UEFA European League, Formula 1, FIS World Championships...
Q. Can you detail your camera gear for a shoot?
A. My camera gear depends on the job. Normally I have always two Canon bodies with me. If a use a remote camera I have a additional body with me. Of course there are some lenses in my bag. Usually I have a 70-200mm, a 16-35mm, a 24-70mm and in some case a 14mm or a 15mm fisheye with me. A long lens between 400 and 800mm is also part of my usual camera gear. Which long lens I use depends on the job. If needed there are flashlights in my bag as well.
The day, when I shot the winning picture I was impressed in the morning how much things I could pack in my Satori EXP. I had two Canon 1DX bodies, a Canon 800mm lens, a 70-200mm lens, a 16-35mm lens and a extender with me in my bag. Additional I had to take some batteries, crampons and a monopod with me. With all this equipment it is normally not funny to ski down icy racecourses like I did that day. But with the Satori EXP it was no problem for me because the bag fits really comfortable.
For a sports photographer like me it is really important to find a bag, which helps to get all the equipment to the best spots. I was searching for years for the perfect bag and last year I found it with the Satori EXP. It is really a great bag!
Q. Tell us a little bit about your winning picture?
A. I shot a lot of skiing events and as usual at these events you are always looking to get the most dramatic shots of the racers coming round a bend or over a crest. If you can get the racer in the air then you have to make sure that the background is as clean as possible, so the racer does not get lost in the background.
I knew roughly where he should be so we tend to pre-focus a little. As Ondrej came into view I knew something was not quite right so I shot a few of images.
For me this image has so much going on, the light is great coming across the course you have the racer, his lost ski and the flag all clearly in the shot with the snow being thrown up it adds that extra touch of drama. I was shooting at 1/2500 @f/8 on the Canon 800mm f/5.6.
I was in the right place at the right time, Ondrej stumbled and lost control just before the final jump, he was injured as a result of the crash but luckily nothing too serious.
Q. How did you feel when you got the message you had won World Press Photo?
A. When I got the message that I won the World Press Photo Award in the category "Sports" I was in Chamonix, France for FIS Alpine World cup races. As I was in the mountains I had no internet connection and so one of my colleagues was the first who called me before I could read the mail from World Press Photo Association. In the first moment I could not really believe, that I really won. But when I realized, that it is really true I was more than happy and absolutely proud and satisfied.
Q. What reaction have you had from your fellow photographers?
A. The reactions where really positive. I think everybody was absolutely happy with me.
Q. What are the most important non-camera equipment you take with you on a shoot?
A. There are some very important non-camera equipment items I take with me. In winter I always have additional gloves, hand-warmers and in case crampons with me. In summer I never forget a sun-blocker. And a bottle of water is always with me.
Q. How do you decide how to approach a project? Do you prepare extensively or shoot more reactively when you arrive at a location?
A. I always try to have a plan before I go to a shoot. But when you shoot outdoor there are so much factors you can not plan. So I would say I try to prepare extensively and I'm ready to react on any factor which has influence on my shoot.
Q. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
A. It is hard to say what is my biggest inspiration. There are so much really good photographers all over the world who inspired me. I always try to keep my eyes open and let me inspire from pictures and photographers which impress me.
Q. What was the best piece of advise you have been given as a photographer?
A. The best advice that I ever got was, that I should always go my own way. It is important to be inspired by others, but never try to copy somebodies work.
Q. What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
A. The same advice I would give to my younger self. And keep on trying to get some special shots.
Q. Can you share a memorable experience of working that has stuck in your mind?
A. There are lots of memorable experiences in my mind. For example a few years ago I was at a FIS World Cup race in Beaver Creek, CO, USA. We had about -28 degrees celsius and I had no additional gloves with me. On that day I learned, that it is not bad to carry additional gloves and hand-warmers with me.
Q. What’s next for you, what projects are you working on in the next few months?
A. My next steps are the FIS World Cup Finals in Sankt Moritz, Switzerland at the end of March. In June I go to France for the UEFA European Championships. And my highlight this year are the Olympic Games in Rio in August.
I know that Christian has managed to get his handed on the latest Canon EOS-1DX Mark II so you should check out his facebook page to see how he gets on with this new camera in the wild. You can check out more about Christian on his Facebook page.
You can check out the GEPA website here.