CNN Photos

The art of shooting the Olympics

At age 9, Donald Miralle fell in love with the Olympics when he attended the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

He spent the next decade competing in swimming with dreams of someday qualifying for the Olympics, but says he “didn’t come close.” He became a sports photographer instead.

When Miralle heads to the London Olympics next month, it will be his seventh time shooting the event. He’ll be among hundreds of photographers fighting for the best images of each moment.

“For photographers who haven’t been to an Olympics before … I truthfully can say it’s the hardest thing they will ever shoot,” he says.

On a typical day, Miralle has to be at multiple venues on opposite sides of the city while dealing with security checks and carrying massive amounts of camera gear. He’ll likely go to bed late and wake up early.

On top of the rigorous schedule, he has to be “a master of improvisation” while trying to add depth to each of his images. He rarely has the chance to scope out a location in advance.

“The best pictures I’ve made at the games I believe have come from handheld cameras, capturing a fleeting moment that others have missed,” Miralle says.

But he isn’t always so lucky. During the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, he missed a shot of Gail Devers crashing through a hurdle when another photographer stood up and blocked his view.

Before landing a career in photography, Miralle got a degree in art from the University of California, Los Angeles. In college, his coursework focused on painting and sculpting.

“Once I picked up a camera, I never picked up a paintbrush again,” he says. “I really feel photojournalism, even sports photojournalism, should be viewed as a form of art – not just documenting athletes and events.”

This year, Miralle was named the top sports photographer by both Pictures of the Year International and the National Press Photographers Association.

He considers the Olympics to be the pinnacle sporting event not only for athletes, but also for photographers. Nothing else comes close, he says.

“I don’t think I can get tired of it, but just as you have so many bullets in a gun, there are only so many Olympics a photographer can cover successfully,” Miralle says. “My goal is to make it to 10 Olympics and call it quits.”

- Brett Roegiers, CNN