Floods, sweat and tears: The L-series lens behind this tightly-framed triumph

Scotland rugby players celebrating. Photo by Mark Kolbe with a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens.
Scotland celebrating victory against Australia in June 2012 at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle, Australia. Getty Images photographer Mark Kolbe captured this tightly-framed, emotional shot on a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV with a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II USM lens at 400mm, 1/2000 sec, f/2.8 and ISO2000. © Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Shot by Getty Images sports photographer Mark Kolbe, this stirring image shows Scotland celebrating an unforeseen rugby international win against Australia at the end of a rainy, windswept, frustrating test match. It wasn't just a triumph for the Scots, but also for Mark's L-series lens and Canon camera, which took a fair battering during the game. Mark, an official photographer at the Rugby World Cup 2019™, sponsored by Canon, tells us the story behind the shot.

"It was a windswept Tuesday evening in 2012, at the beginning of the Australian winter. I'd driven two and a half hours north of Sydney to cover a test match in Newcastle. It was unseasonably cold, there was torrential rain and the wind was blowing so hard you could hear the rain smacking against the grandstand. I knew I was in for a bad night.

"Scotland were over, playing a couple of Pacific Island tests before going to New Zealand. They'd beaten Australia earlier that year, which was pretty embarrassing, because they weren't very strong at that point. Everyone was saying: 'We'll get them back when they come', and then it was just dire. No-one could score a try, play was stop-start, with lots of scrums, lots of penalties. By this point, each team had two penalty goals, so it was six-all and we were into injury time. The scrum went down and the referee gave a penalty to Scotland. Greig Laidlaw came and set up the goal."

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Getting into position

"Usually with moving sports such as rugby, you don't know where it's going to finish, but I positioned myself right in the middle and focused on Laidlaw, hoping the rest of the team would come over to celebrate if he scored. Sometimes a player will score and then run randomly in different directions but he scored, turned away, then the rest of the team rushed over. I knew I had the shot. Alastair Kellock, punching the air, has such an expressive look on his face, and you can see how pumped he and the other guys are.

"I shot this on a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV [now replaced by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II] and a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens, and it's pretty much full frame. I now mainly shoot with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II but at that time the EOS-1D Mark IV dominated professional sports. It's a magnificent camera – the high frame rate is perfect for sports and, fortunately for this situation, the camera is sturdy enough to withstand some moisture and adverse weather conditions."

Scotland rugby players lined up arm-in-arm in the rain with their backs to the camera. Photo by Mark Kolbe with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens.
The Scotland team sing the national anthem as the rain pours down on the day of the match. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens (now replaced by the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM) at 70mm, 1/25 sec, f/4 and ISO125. © Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
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Worth the wait

"It was so dark that to be sure I'd stop the action I had to shoot at a really fast shutter speed, which drove down my aperture. Shooting at f/2.8 compacts the shot, leaving no detail at all in the background and adding to the miserable night look. You can see there's a bloke running in from the left who it might have been nice to include, but I chose to use the fixed Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM with tight framing.

"With a shot at goal, the first player in defence needs to be 10 metres back, so I knew the [Australian] Wallabies weren't going to be close enough for me to be able to tell the other side of the story. If it had been general play or a scrum and Scotland had won closer to the sideline, I'd have gone wider, hoping to include one of the Wallabies holding their head or lying on the ground while the Scottish players celebrated around them. You don't need anything in the background to tell this story. There's so much emotion.

"When I look at this shot I feel my own sense of victory. I'm an official photographer for Australian rugby, so there had been a lot of pre-game stuff to shoot that day as well. It had been a long slog. When your hands get freezing cold, it makes it really uncomfortable and difficult to work. I'm just so glad I got something out of such a horrible night!"

Written by Rachel Segal Hamilton

• Canon is an official sponsor of the Rugby World Cup 2019™, taking place in Japan from 20 September to 2 November. Getty Images sports photographer Mark Kolbe will be an official photographer at the event.

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Getty sports photographer Mark Kolbe. © Paul Barkley


Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Class-leading performance with its high-sensitivity 20.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor, expanded 61-point Dual Pixel AF system and 4K video capture. "I now mainly shoot with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II," says Mark.


Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM

Ultra-high-performance L-series super-telephoto lens, featuring a 4-stop Image Stabilizer with three modes. "It's my go-to lens because it allows me to get right in there with the action," Mark says.

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