I had the honour of working at these in Beijing. You can find all the coverage at World Archery. Am just going to add a couple of pics here, most of which I took from my tent position, face on to the athletes.
It was a great meet, with the final day especially of really outstanding quality and exciting competition, lots of comebacks and great final pushes. Tricky conditions, though, especially for wheelchair athletes; it was a mostly hot and humid week.
It’s awesome how much the para community treats it both as a serious competition and a chance to see friends and colleagues from all over the world. It’s a festival that they have every couple of years. See you at ’s-Hertogenbosch 2019.
The Azzurri not being quite forza against Iran. Cracking match.
Zhou Jiamin. Could deliver punchy, awesome quotes about sport. On cue. In English. We loved her
Andre Shelby. An absolute stand-up dude in a field crammed with stand-up dudes and dudettes.
Is this guy still here? Apparently so. He has a new video out. Stop sending it to me. I got it already. Here, I’ll save you the bother:
^^ UPDATE 19th September: Lars appears to have taken his newest video private. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.
On purely face value, I like this. You know, I actually enjoy the stunts and his posing and dorky I’m-deadly-serious-about-this face after every move he lands. I love the idea that someone is doing this stuff. It’s good to fire the imagination. But unfortunately, he is persisting in the same self-aggrandising, historical-cherry-picking load of flimflam he gave us a couple of years ago. If it ain’t broke, I guess.
You can read what I wrote about his last viral video here, and, if you are really bored, feel free to scour the internet for many other takedowns and explanations. It’s particularly tedious how he bangs on about disproving Hollywood archery myths, while perpetually quoting from films to prove his particular points. He seems to mix up Hollywood and, y’know, actual things that happened.
The biggest dodge of all is that all known major historical military victories involving archery involved massed ranks of archers; the artillery of their day, able to hold off enemies at distance, not close quarters. Battles were not won by the individual guy who shot faster than everyone else at short range with a low-poundage bow, or the guy who ran out of the way quickest. That’s his gig. Nobody else’s.
There’s plenty more utter bollocks in this new clip, which I will let you, the serious archery reader, have the joy of amusing yourself with. He’s got particularly good at bluntly stating the incredibly obvious as if it was some kind of samizdat wisdom, too.
Unfortunately, this isn’t offering anything radically new from the last film he made – in fact, it’s less spectacular, and consequently, so fardoesn’t seem to have set the internet on fire like the last one did. The one thing Lars is really world-class at – developing viral content – seems to have eluded him this time.
Where Lars really screws the pooch in this one is when he twice uses a shot of Reo Wilde at full draw to aim a particularly pointless barb at ‘static’ target archers. He’s picked the wrong *ahem* target there. Reo Wilde will stand there all day and bang in ten after ten. And if he misses, he’ll accept it, learn from it, and take the next shot. If he wins, if he loses, he will accept the result. He won’t blame ‘so-called archery experts’. More to the point, he will go out there, in in front of a crowd, a worldwide TV audience, or quite probably just you if you asked him nicely – and do it again and again and again, as he has done for decades.
There’s a reason you don’t see Lars on the many TV shows he must have been invited on after the success of his 2015 video. This is because he succeeds in pulling off his behind-closed-doors shots on the 5th take, or the 15th, or the 50th. He can’t catch an arrow on cue. If he could, he could easily earn a fortune all over the world. But he doesn’t. Because he can’t.
Because what Lars does isn’t ‘rediscovered’ archery of any kind. Ultimately, it’s TV magic, in the genre of trick shooting. Magicians have been doing things like thisfor years. Although I wouldn’t call Lars a magician, either. Because real magicians do it in front of an audience night after night after night. He’s just an entertainer. Hey, that’s great! I love being entertained.
Perhaps the most famous archery trick shot expert is Byron Ferguson, who you can find performing in front of a camera all over YouTube. He missed, frequently, and didn’t bolster his claims that what he did was some special ‘secret’.
Presumably I fall into the ‘so-called archery experts’ camp that Lars is so furious with. Actually, this is me just wearing my regular skeptical hat, as I think more people should do in an increasingly credulous age. He could point to my relatively tiny internet numbers and laugh. Knock yourself out, Lars.
I recently worked at the World Para Archery Championships in Beijing, where I had the privilege of seeing the world’s best para archers, and also seeing the stats, metrics and engagement of what World Archery are producing. The most popular piece of content by far was this video showing Canadian archer Kevin Evans and how he shoots with an assistive device. Evans, an archer before the accident that saw him lose an arm, is the stand-up guy to end them all.
It clearly fascinates people, and for good reason. It shows a man with a grave physical handicap saying: “I don’t care. I will make this happen.” It shows bravery and strength and bloody-mindedness in the face of adversity. It shows determination and grit and passion.
But most of all, it shows a man willing to stand up in front of his peersand perform, whatever the outcome of the shot, or the match, or the competition. To test himself and his character. That, for me is the essence of archery, and indeed all great sportspeople.
So have fun watching Lars jump around – and remember what archery is really good at ‘rediscovering’.
The World Cup season is over, and we’re into World Championship season. It went out in style though, with a spectacular finish in Rome at the Stadio dei Marmi. The weather was beautiful, not too crazy hot, and dry apart from an apocalyptic thunderstorm on the familiarisation and practice day on Friday, where the skies were almost black at 1pm in the afternoon (see photos below).
The stadium is part of the complex built for the Rome Olympic Games of 1960, and between CONI (the Italian Olympic committee) FITARCO (the Italian archery federation) and Hyundai (the title sponsor) they put on a genuinely spectacular show, with an almost carnival atmosphere, clanking Roman soldiers and a large, enthusiastic audience, especially on recurve Sunday. It was a cut above all other World Cup finals so far, I think. It was also a reminder that archery has two huge stars in Brady Ellison and Ki Bo Bae, who got the biggest cheers of the day and both spent hours with fans afterwards on hundreds of selfies and autographs. Brady couldn’t, however, get past Kim Woojin at the last, who had turned it on. The guy was a machine.
Woojin faces the public
It was pleasing to have an actual scoop, to able to break the news of Ki Bo Bae’s upcoming marriage (and attendant fiance) on worldarchery.org, and watch the Korean media gobble it up the next day. Even if a couple of people got confused with my and-another-thing-sentence on Facebook: “Oh, and Ki Bo Bae is getting married in November.” and interpreted it to mean “Oh (meaning Oh Jin Hyek) and Ki Bo Bae are getting married in November.” Will remember to be clearer next time.
But Ki Bo Bae, after surviving a ragged first match, well deserved her win. We did a double interview (forthcoming) with Bo Bae and Chang Hyejin, in which Bo Bae was asked to tell us a secret of her archery practice. She said: “Shoot one more arrow than everybody else.” – and it was never truer than this weekend. Her Friday familiarisation session on the finals field coincided with a torrential downpour that led several other archers to abandon the session. She, however, carried on in the pouring rain, pushed on as ever by her coach Park Chae-soon; him of the gray hair and noisy disposition. That extra effort in miserable conditions might not have won the title, but it said an awful lot about what it takes to do it.
Thanks, as ever, to everyone who made it happen; everyone I met, worked with, chatted to, and ate and drank with. See you all again soon.
Hyejin wanting to be somewhere else
David Pascqualucci. Tried, but was up against an impossible wall.
Braden Gellenthien finishing the job against Stephan Hansen. Two men connected in one interesting way…
Deepika Kumari. Was possibly a bit unlucky, but didn’t really bring the form everyone knows she has.
Barebow at the World Games 2017. Pic by Dean Alberga / World Archery.
July has been and gone. Quieter than the World Cup frenzy of May and June, it saw the World Games take place in Wroclaw in Poland, scene of several previous World Cups.
The World Games, if you’ve forgotten, are a multi-sport event every four years designed to provide a platform for sports and disciplines that don’t get contested at the Olympics. It’s often seen as a stepping stone to wider international acceptance, too. The archery meet featured recurve and barebow field events, and a compound target event. A lot of familiar names turned up, but it’s best you read the extremely extensive coverage over at World Archery. Brady Ellison expounded his love of field to Inside The Games after the recurve sessions – but, you know, he said he was probably going back to compound a couple of years ago. 🙂
The biggest Olympics news of all was that the next two countries to host the summer Olympics after Tokyo have been selected, after months of rumours and behind-the-scenes horse trading. It’ll be #Paris2024 and #LosAngeles2028, both hosting the Games for the third time.
You will remember, of course, that Paris will likely be putting the archery competition on at the Esplanade des Invalides in the (relative) centre of the city:
A weird aside: see those two figures in the number one lane? Whoever the artist is, they *seem* to have based them on – and I’m not absolutely sure why or how they got there – a really not-very-good picture of Chang Hyejin and then coach Rye Soo Jung that I took in Wroclaw in 2013. Of all things.
I’m guessing that’s because they’re full length and fairly easy to remove from the background. Photoshop priorities!
This pic shows the Esplanade des Invalides on the right, and on the other side of the bridge, the Grand Palais where they will be holding the fencing and taekwondo. This is excellent news: the archery will be at the very heart of the city and in the centre of the action.
Los Angeles will be building a custom venue – ‘Stadium Lake’ – at the under construction LA Stadium at Hollywood Park. Dean Alberga will have to swim to take pictures. 🙂
2024 and 2028 will probably be the last of the single-city Games, as almost all bids going foward increasingly involve more than one location – and rightly so, as the 21st century Olympics is too much of a burden on the tax base of even a major world city these days. The Olympic s of the the 2030s and on will probably look something like this.
By far my most shared story of the month was about the 35th running of the President’s competition, the biggest annual Korean domestic competition; and it’s most salient, terrifying fact: in the senior recurve division ranking, twenty men and thirty-nine women shot 1350 or above, the mark long considered the definition of world elite. That number doesn’t include a couple of dozen high school students who also made that score.
Most countries in the world have perhaps two or three recurve archers who can shoot 1350 on a regular basis – if that. The sheer strength in depth – and the deep commitment to the full FITA as a mark of quality – isn’t going away any time soon.
Also, for the first time ever, the President’s competition saw a mixed team round shot. Think it’s related to this announcement at all? 🙂 It will also be part of the Asian Games next year in 2018, an event the Korea Archery Association take almost as seriously as the Olympics.
August: the Berlin World Cup will soon be upon us, and in just one month the World Cup Final in Rome. You can check the movers and shakers who’ll likely be at that over here – and frankly, it’s going to look quite a lot like last year in Odense. You can read a little more about Berlin and what’s going to happen in the preview I wrote earlier this year over on Dutch Target. I’m not going to be at this one, unfortunately. Hope the audience tops the slightly paltry Salt Lake crowd, too.
Have a look at 51sprints.com, an amazing website about track athletics, who wins and why.
Also, enjoy Misha, perhaps the greatest mascot ever, from a slightly less spectacular time; Moscow 1980. Bye!
Welcome to the June roundup. This slo-mo video of Chang Hyejin taking a shot, produced by Gwenaël Massot for World Archery at the Salt Lake World Cup, is possibly my favourite thing of the month. Everyone seems to agree – it’s been shared over a thousand times and has over 100,000 views.
Apparently the collective slo-mo videos have hit nearly half a million views, which means they must be going outside the archery community into the wider world. Good news. Of course, I’m biased, but people may not realise quite how much work Chris Wells and the wider WA team have put into the social media; in terms of Olympic sports, it’s literally world-leading.
(On the subject of Bow International, you should buy this month’s issue featuring a many-handed interview with Oh Jin Hyek which is well worth a read).
Then it was Salt Lake City, which turned out to be even hotter than Antalya. I really enjoyed the recurve finals, there was some quality matchplay. The Korean men started sporting some decidedly bouffant hairdos. Disappointingly empty stands though. Hope they can improve that for next year.
I’ve been sitting on this for a few days, but have decided it’s better you read the BBC version linked above now rather than what some of the scummier British press may end up doing with it if it really breaks – and the investigation is apparently growing. It’s a little tricky, because I know who the coach involved is – as do many, many other people in British and international archery. (I believe I know who the archer is, too).
Archery GB aren’t the only governing body with problems like this; another major archery NGB is quietly dealing with similar issues at the moment. It’s a reminder that archery exists within a wider pantheon of sports, which have endemic problems. You have to hope everything is going to come out on the other side in better shape.
I took this photo of Brady Ellison literally just a few seconds before he went onstage for the final match at the 2017 Antalya World Cup. JC Valladont was immediately in front of him, and he’d already been waved through the curtains.
I’ve taken many photos of Brady now, but I don’t think I’ve ever had one where he’s actually looking straight at me. It’s also one of only a couple I’ve taken that seem to capture something of the man and the competitor. Mostly I prefer documentary photography, when the photographer removes himself (in a loose philosophical sense) from the subject. But the directness of his gaze in a photo like this suddenly says something about the photographer. I’m part of it. In the room. It becomes a portrait. Also, Dean Alberga was kind enough to help me with the editing, which is half the real magic these days. Pulling the grain from the stone. (If you want to go deeper, you’ll have to start reading this).
He went out there and nailed one of the most exciting matches witnessed this year, a battle of two guys who genuinely like and respect each other – they hang out and go fishing – and yet would give absolutely no quarter. Every single person in the house, every archer was hanging on to the railing for that match, which didn’t happen for anything else. Everyone wanted to be there.
Brady opened with an 8 in the third, then Valladont matched it, knowing it was bad when it left the bow, bending his body to try and curve it in. He followed with two nines, and Brady had two points on the board, but opened with a nine in the fourth with the score 4-2.
Annoyed, he angrily nocked the next arrow. Both archers had a 9 and a 10 for their first two, but Brady kicked the door wide open with an 8 to finish. Valladont only needed a nine, which he delivered emphatically – although it was instantly upgraded to a 10. Valladont had his second World Cup gold, and over one of the strongest opponents in the world.
In the end, it was Valladont’s finishing kick, which had deserted him in the mixed team. It came back, and he was simply a little stronger. He deserved it. But Brady would have deserved it too. There was something in the air.
I was there working for World Archery on the media team, the fifth or so time I’ve been out to do so at one of these events. This delivery was relatively smooth, although it’s invariably a team effort which requires solving new problems every day. No-one realises quite how much work is involved by World Archery and the dozens and dozens of local staff and volunteers to make it happen, and then happen again two weeks later somewhere else. It’s a big, lumbering machine rather than a well-oiled one, but the dedication to making the magic happen is marked by almost total professionalism. It’s quite a special thing to be a part of.
We had awesome translators for pretty much every language, and came up with cunning technological workarounds for the ones we didn’t. I even managed to get the Russian team to say something. We had someone jury rig air conditioners to our media shed on the finals field so we didn’t collapse in the heat – like some team members did last year, when Antalya hit 40 degrees in the shade. Everyone else had to stay outdoors all day. Sorry.
A Korea, China and Netherlands-less stage felt like it could have the air of a letdown, but there was some incredible quality shooting going on. I wish I had more time to blog. There isn’t any spare time, or if there is, there isn’t any spare energy. None.
Denmark became the Korea of compound; you might get a look in for a gold medal, but don’t get your hopes up. One well-known compound archer got annoyed with the media team for reporting that they had lost a match, and wouldn’t speak to us again. One well-known recurve archer was suddenly removed from the attending list a couple of weeks beforehand, and everyone eventually found out why. Oh, I wish I was allowed to share more of the gossip.
Antalya is the Criterium du Dauphine of archery. History under blazing sunshine. It was worth all the sweat, all the hard work to see that final. It represented the sport at its best, as representative of the best. It was beautiful.
I was contacted by someone last month who wanted advice about archery photography, which was very flattering. I still don’t consider myself a photographer. Enthusiastic amateur, maybe. But it’s been an fascination of mine since I started writing about archery, and I went to my first World Cup with an tiny little Micro Four Thirds Olympus digital camera and a single 20mm lens – the first camera I owned that wasn’t a point-and-shoot. I wasn’t even planning on using it much. But I took some photos, just snapping away, and I noticed some of them had personality. And it made an image that was vastly better than your phone.
Ki Bo Bae. Wroclaw World Cup, 2013 (kindly edited by Michael Jones)
From then on, I’ve been steadily more hooked. I’ve progressed steadily upwards with equipment to full-frame Nikon. A lot of people in archery are fascinated by equipment and what differences this bow or those limbs make, which has never interested me as much as the people in it and how and why they do what they do. Photography, to me, is similar; while it does require you to be more familiar with specific tools, as you improve at it you realise that it’s not really about the equipment. It’s about who you are. How you are interacting with people and the environment that has the biggest effect on your photographs and crucially, their impact on other people. There’s a million examples, but I’m going to tell you about just one.
Rineke Dijkstra, from Beach Portraits (2002)
The much-decorated Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkestra’s Beach Portraits were taken at beaches in Europe and America. She mostly photographed adolescents, using a large, heavy large-format camera on a tripod, the old-fashioned kind. There’s a little fill-in flash, but technically, it’s not complicated. The portraits work because of the interaction between photographer and subject. Someone asks to take your picture and tells you to stand in front of the camera. The girl is a willing participant, but you can sense that that’s about it; not a lot of time has been been spent making her feel comfortable. Dijkestra specialises in this kind of work, setting up formal portraits in emotionally charged or vulnerable situations. There’s other factors at play too; a male photographer asking to photograph kids would probably have got chased off the beach. She could do it.
Also, people respond very differently to different cameras, too. Think how you would respond, how you would pose, what you would do if someone asked to take your picture with something like this:
as opposed to something like this:
In the international archery world, Dean Alberga knows pretty much everybody on the field, and this builds trust between him and his subjects. This trust allows him to ask people to pose for him, and also means they behave more naturally when he’s around, because they know who he is and what he’s doing there. All of this has a bigger effect on his work for World Archery than what lens / body combination he is using at the time. His position as the official photographer also allows him access that other photographers don’t get and places other people can’t go.
My favourite shot of Dean’s is this one of Brady Ellison at the World Cup Final in Lausanne in 2014:
Brady Ellison by Dean Alberga
It has incredible energy. The essential Brady-ness about it. It has motion. You can sense the crowd are there, making a noise. It says a lot about the man, but it’s a great sports photograph anyway. Anyone can understand it and what it means. It may have been a lucky moment, but it wasn’t an accident. Dean knew exactly where to stand, and positioned himself specifically to give himself the opportunity to get lucky. It’s a little like fishing. You may not always catch something, but you try and use all your experience to give yourself the best possible chance at catching something.
Ane Marcelle Dos Santos before her final match, Samobodromo, Rio de Janeiro, July 2016
The best pictures I have taken of archers have less to do with sport. I suppose I’m more of a documentary/street type photographer who happens to focus on one thing. If I have a style (and I feel I’m kind of fumbling towards one) it’s trying to capture the essence of a person or situation, and I like people to behave naturally, so they’re not (usually) aware they’re having their picture taken. The better pics I took in Rio were like this.
So, if you want to be an archery photographer – or any type of photographer – lucky you. There’s never been a time in history where you can own equipment capable of taking astonishingly high-quality images for the lowest cost, and with automatic modes that allow you to work in almost any way you’d like.
For a general introduction to digital and sport photography, read this thing I wrote a couple of years ago, which sums up the masterclass Dean Alberga gave at ArcheryGB.
Archery does require some specialist lenses. Because you can’t get very up close and personal to an archer unless you’re in a private setting, you will need a lens at least capable of a 200mm reach, preferably more, and the fastest you can afford. A common problem in archery situations is that the backgrounds are often very busy/noisy with people and colour, which needs a fast, long lens to focus attention on the subject. Careful use of cropping and vignetting to push the background away is a vital part of the post-production work.
Suddenly, it’s not a cheap hobby. However, the one good thing about expensive, heavy lenses like this is that they are an investment which could last you decades without losing a great deal of their value (unlike camera bodies).
Choi MIsun practising, Odense World Cup final, November 2016
Archery comes broadly under the category of ‘sport photography’, which is of course a specialist discipline in itself. It demands particular equipment and techniques, usually around capturing motion. But a lot of it is knowing the sport well. Have a watch of this video to see how pro sports photographer Tom Jenkins captures cycling:
Some of the special issues around professionally photographing the Olympics are in this fascinating short documentary, showing how images from the men’s 100 metre race are available to clients within a minute of the race finishing:
In the wider world of photography, one of the best documentaries I’ve seen is in this recent Netflix series, called Abstract: The Art Of Design. The photography episode focuses on a photographer called Platon, who has taken distinctive portraits for some of the most famous people in the world. He discusses, in great detail, his technique for getting what he wants onto film. The equipment he uses, while high-end and specialist, isn’t the reason he is one of the highest paid and most sought-after photographers in the world. It’s the interaction between himself and his subject that makes the difference. If you have Netflix and any interest in photography at all, watch it immediately.
Read and look, always. There’s almost limitless resources available online. Don’t read them all. If you want to know how a particular lens can do, try searching for it on Flickr. Read Ken Rockwell’s blog – a most extraordinary resource. Read this book and that book – even if you only do it in the bookstore. They will introduce you to a range of some of the greatest photographers of the past 100 years. Buy second-hand equipment and flip it on eBay if it’s not for you. Don’t worry about whether Nikon or Canon is better. Just pick one and run with it. Or go with Sony or Fuji. Read about Vivian Maier – a classic outsider art tale – and watch the documentary. Read this extraordinary dissection of Melania Trumps’ photographs. But most of all: get out there, shoot, reflect, and repeat.
Even if it’s just you and your smartphone (and/or your Instagram account) photography is always something that you can practice and do better. For the rest of your natural life, most likely, you will have a camera in your pocket capable of making images that can dazzle and fascinate. It’s at least worth learning a little about how the magic is made.
Chang Hyejin’s Instagram page is awesome. It’s not the formal look-at-me-I-did-this page of an Olympic champion, it’s the page of someone enjoying the hell out of taking very arch photographs of themselves, someone obviously enjoying their life and – as previously mentioned – finally being in the spotlight. It’s also someone with a decent sense of how to compose a picture, selfie or no.
There’s are plenty of archers racking up views on social media, you can have a look at some of the American Insta wing here, although for sheer numbers no archer even comes close to Deepika Kumari’s quarter of a million Facebook followers. But nobody is yet beating Hyejin for awesomely silly, exuberant joy on social media right now.
Somehow missed this excellent short about the Korean team which came out shortly after Rio last year. It features Kang Chae Young, who had to suffer the agony of coming fourth, by the tiniest of margins, in the Olympic trials and not making the trip to Brazil. It’s pretty amazing to me how she dealt with it.
On a wider level it contains some interesting notes about the Olympic roots in traditional archery, mental strength and about dealing with fear – apparently by bungee jumping. The long-repeated canard about the Korean team once being made to handle live snakes in order to face down fears comes out again, although I’ve never been able to ascertain if this is true or not.
At the end Kang says that she hopes to be able to come back and win medals at the Olympics or the Asian Games again; notably, the World Championships are missing from that list. 🙂 It’s difficult to get across just how important the Asian Games are to Korean archers and Korean sport in general, played out against a backdrop of fierce historical rivalries and regarded almost on a par with the Olympics. (Next year’s edition will be in Indonesia). Anyway, enjoy.