A few months ago, I had the incredible opportunity to be covering my first international sports event. Even more, I’ve had the chance to use a legendary lens for the occasion! How did I make it happen and what cool shots did I get?

When preparation meets opportunity

Those of you who’ve been following me know that I’ve been specializing in strength-related sports in the past few years. Olympic weightlifting (O-Lift) is one of my favorites of all. I love the athletes, the movements and the explosiveness of the discipline. I covered dozens of local and provincial O-Lift meets as an official photographer and consistently upgraded the caliber, leading up to the Canadian Nationals in early 2019.

At this point, I am confident in my skills, I know what I am doing and I keeping on upgrading my game.

I saw a huge international sports event — the World Masters Weightlifting Championship — being held in my own country (Montreal, Canada) that year. Even more, the venue was only a few hours drive from home. This was my chance. I got in touch with the organization early, prior to the competition. We negotiated an agreement and little did I know, I just booked the biggest challenge of my professional career.

For those of you who might not be familiar with this huge event, let me put it in perspective. It is a huge competition where nearly 800 of the best master’s athletes (35+ years old) from all over the world get to compete. The competition lasts for a whopping nine full-packed days. Needless to say, I was honored and excited to be part of this edition … and also a little scared. I was committed and I had to deliver.

Adidas sports shoes international athlete jumping to pull a bar in a wooden platform
Even when it looks scary, sometimes we have to do just like an Olympic weightlifter and jump right into it. We might miss the bar … or we might catch it and do new PRs (personal records). EXIF: Sony a9 + 400mm f/2.8 GM at f/2.8, 1/800s, ISO 3200.

Go big or go home

When the covering of this prestigious event has been confirmed, I knew I had to go big. This first international sports event was a once in a lifetime experience and I wanted to create the very best memories I was capable of.

I’ve been working hard to develop my O-Lift photography skills and boy was I ready for this. I knew the movements, the timing and owned the best gear money can buy. Even so, one small (BIG!) detail would be a game-changer. That it would upgrade my arsenal to an Olympics photographer level. I needed Sony’s fastest super-telephoto prime lens.

A card up my sleeve

I’ve been collaborating with the Sony Canada team for a few months and I decided to take a chance. Go big or go home as they say. I reached out to my rep and explained to him the opportunity I had. If there was any kind of chance they could lend their legendary 400mm f/2.8 GM for the time of this event, I would jump on it. You know how I am a sucker for primes …

At that time, the 600mm f/4 and 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 weren’t on the market yet. Even if they’d have, I’d still have asked for the 400mm f/2.8. The widest aperture was my top priority for this event. Weightlifting is an extremely explosive indoor sport that requires high shutter speed.

After a few emails and phone calls, I had to face reality. They already had a lot going on in this period of summer and they didn’t think it would be available for the World Masters (WM). At least I tried! I did everything I could. It wasn’t in my hands anymore … but I was still hoping for a miracle.

USA athlete covering sports event
Of course, I wouldn’t be the only one trying to get nice shots over there. Athletes are often standing by curtain between their lifts to watch their friends attempt records. EXIF: Sony a9 + 400mm f/2.8 GM at f/2.8, 1/800s, ISO 3200.

Lenses work in a mysterious way

Three days before my departure to the WM, a Sony Canada staff member sent me an unexpected email telling “the SEL400F28GM was on its way.” I thought there’s been a mistake or I just didn’t understand the bunch of numbers and letters right … but it was happening. They were lending me the Sony 400mm f/2.8 for 10 days.

I learned afterward that the Sony team worked very hard to make it happen and I want to thank them once again for their amazing support! To say that I was excited would have been an understatement. I WAS F*#ING PUMPED AND READY TO OWN THIS $H!T.

International sports athlete getting ready to perform
Are you ready for it? Turkey weightlifter Salih Suvar (a crowd’s favorite) getting in the zone right before his first Snatch attempt. EXIF: Sony a9 + 400mm GM f/2.8 at f/2.8, 1/800s, ISO 2500.

The best is yet to come!

In the second part of this series, I’ll going in the heart of the competition’s action in Montreal’s Olympic Park. You’ll learn about my gear (camera bodies and lenses), my setup (you won’t believe where I was sitting), my settings (aperture, shutter speed, ISO) and get to see some of my favorite images of these whole nine days.