PROFILE

Marc Aspland

Jockeys on horses jostle for position on a snow-covered track. Beneath and around the horses' hooves, snow flies up.

Canon Ambassador and sports photographer Marc Aspland captured this spectacular image at the 101st running of the White Turf in 2008. The annual event takes place every February on a frozen lake in St Moritz, Switzerland. "By using the light and snow for effect, and a super-fast shutter speed, I managed to capture this colourful action picture. Of course, Lady Luck also played a huge part in that all the horses' hooves are in mid-air," says Marc. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D Mark II N (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III) with a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM) at 1/3200 sec, f/7.1 and ISO250. © Marc Aspland

As chief sports photographer of The Times, one of the UK's biggest daily newspapers, Canon Ambassador Marc Aspland has shot some of the most memorable sporting moments of the past 30 years. He is widely regarded as one of the best British sports photographers working today. 

The younger Marc's first taste of sports photography was fittingly inspiring. "I was 13 or 14 when my brother and I went on a coach journey to a famous automobile endurance race in France," he explains. "A couple of the guys were very keen amateur photographers, and I was given this tool that would let me take pictures. 

"In those days, it was pretty obvious and basic stuff, but it was the spark of something. It quickly became far more than a hobby; more than skateboarding or surfing. It became the real focus of what I wanted to do."
Since that moment, Marc has gone on to photograph some of the sporting greats, including Tiger Woods, Mike Tyson, Pele, Lionel Messi, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and Roger Federer. He also lists many sports stars as friends, the closest being former England rugby player and 2003 World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson – who was, according to Marc, "a nightmare to photograph".
Canon Ambassador and leading sports photographer Marc Aspland.

Location: London, UK
Specialist area: Sports
Favourite kit:
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
Defeated British boxer Ricky Hatton lies flat on the canvas as his trainer removes his gum shield.

Marc was perfectly positioned to photograph British boxer Ricky Hatton having his gum shield removed after being knocked out by American, Floyd Mayweather Jr, during the 2007 welterweight superfight billed as 'Undefeated' by the media. It was the first loss of Hatton's career and would have a profound impact on him. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III) with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM) at 17mm, 1/500 sec, f/2.8 and ISO1000. © Marc Aspland

While Marc has been privileged to photograph many of the iconic players and decisive moments in recent sporting history, he admits there have been times when he would have liked to put the camera down and simply marvel at the drama unfolding in front of him.

One of these occasions was the 100m sprint final at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, where Usain Bolt bounded across the finish line in a record-breaking 9.69 seconds to win the gold medal. Of course Marc, ever the professional, kept the camera to his eye.
British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton stares down the New Zealand All Blacks during the final test of the 2017 series.

British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton stares down the New Zealand All Blacks at Eden Park stadium in Auckland, New Zealand. The game ended in a crunching yet compelling 15-15 draw. Says Marc of the image: "Standing on top of an advertising board for elevation and by positioning myself carefully, I wanted to capture Sam between the All Blacks to tell the story." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM) and a Canon Extender 1.4x (now succeeded by the Canon Extender EF 1.4x III) at 1/800 sec, f/4 and ISO5000. © Marc Aspland

Marc is as highly regarded for his unique perspectives as for his ability to capture the defining moments and emotion of sporting events. He famously gave a 'miniature' spin to the England versus Kazakhstan 2008 clash in London by taking to a television gantry and recording the match through a Canon tilt-shift lens. He continues to explore unusual angles and create distinctive pictures by using a wide range of EF lenses, from an older Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye through to the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x.

In 2014, Marc's achievements were recognised by the Royal Photographic Society, which awarded him an Honorary Fellowship. In the same year, Marc published his first book, The Art of Sports Photography, something he was encouraged to do by a colleague, Keith Blackmore, former deputy editor of The Times. The retrospective features more than 100 vivid images spanning Marc's incredible career and includes a foreword by Jonny Wilkinson.

How did you develop your eye for a picture?

"Photography found me at an early age and, although I was interested in art, I discovered a medium that allowed me to see things exactly how I perceived them."

 

What sort of advice do you offer to photographers moving up through the ranks at The Times?

"I try and offer encouragement and positive creative advice. I would much rather see a young photographer try to capture their own individual images, instead of following the stereotype of thinking they have to shoot the winning goal and celebration pictures."

 

How many cameras and lenses do you typically have at your fingertips?

"This depends on the event I'm covering. For example, when I am ringside for a world title boxing match, it's usually my Canon EOS-1D X Mark II fitted with a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens or the superb Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM. At a football or rugby match, I would have three bodies: one with a wide-angle zoom and used as a remote for a camera behind the goal; another fitted with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM (now succeeded by the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM); and the third toting my favourite Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM."

 

In your experience, what is the most challenging sport to photograph?

"I like being taken out of my comfort zone as a sports photographer. I don't often photograph winter sports disciplines, so from curling to the men's downhill, I thoroughly enjoy them all simply because they're so challenging."

 

When hasn't luck been on your side?

"At the climax of the 2003 Rugby World Cup final, Australia versus England. I knew my close friend Jonny Wilkinson would take a drop goal from in front of the posts. But what I didn't know was that Lady Luck would rush in front of my lens in the shape of those huge gold and green Australian shirts hurrying forwards to block the kick!"

One thing I know

Marc Aspland

"Being able to anticipate the action and capture that frame at 1/2000 sec has nothing to do with being lucky, really, but comes with experience and confidence. In sports photography, you have no ability to ask the goal scorer at an important football match to score again if you were unlucky. But sometimes – actually fairly often – you have no control when a defender steps in front of the goal scorer. You simply have to make Lady Luck be on your side more often than not!"

Facebook: Marc Aspland

Instagram: @marc.aspland

Twitter: @MarcAspland 

Marc Aspland's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Marc Aspland's kitbag containing Canon cameras and lenses.

Camera

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

The successor to the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II that Marc favours is the the ultimate creative toolkit, with superb low-light performance, deep learning AF and 5.5K RAW video. "An evolution rather than a revolution of the brilliant Canon EOS-1D X, but absolutely fantastic all the same," says Marc.

Lenses

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

A professional-quality standard zoom that offers outstanding image quality and a fast f/2.8 aperture throughout its zoom range. Marc says: "A superbly sharp and accurate lens – the perfect choice for everything from sport to wildlife to weddings."

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM

A premium quality ultra-wide angle zoom lens, with a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture, for the highest image quality possible even in low-light conditions. "This wide-angle zoom creates the loveliest images," says Marc.

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