Behind the Winning Shot

LingJun An (China Sports News), China

Chasing the perfect moment

Nikon: Built to last

My name is LingJun An. I'm a press photographer for China Daily Sports News and I've been shooting with Nikon cameras for over a decade. Over the last ten years of working with Nikon I've traveled to dozens of cities around the world, covering countless sports events big and small. Whether it's windy, rainy, or in extreme hot or cold weather Nikon has never let me down.

Photo by LingJun An/ China Sports News

Nikon's stability is crucial in my opinion. Whether it's in the sand and dust of a desert or the snow and ice in freezing cold environments - Nikon never fails. I once challenged the conditions of -40℃ to -35℃; I thought Nikon's battery wouldn't last long in such a harsh environment. What surprised me was that even in such harsh conditions, Nikon's battery operated as well as in normal temperatures and still gave me perfect shots. The freezing cold is never a problem for Nikon. All we have to do is to get ourselves prepared and focus on getting the best shots that we can.

Nikon - the perfect assistant

With Nikon's AF system, I can always get what I see. Whether it be football, basketball or any other sport, there is no challenge that a Nikon D5 can't handle. With Nikon being my closest buddy for such a long time, I feel the two of us have just become one. This allows me to have a sense of harmony between myself and the environment - allowing me to relax and focus on capturing the right moment as it happens. No matter what, I can always precisely capture the image I want. Taking a good picture becomes so easy and intuitive for me.

Photo by LingJun An/ China Sports News

My growth as a photographer and the improvement of Nikon's various upgrades are actually inseparable. This, of course, is due to the process of accumulating experience, but I do believe that the growth of a sports photographer and the improvements of a camera are exactly the same.

Otherworldly intuition

When considering sports photography, that one splendid moment is critical for a photographer to pursue. I think every photographer feels that when you capture the right moment or the image is exactly what you imagined - you can just feel it. I think this is a kind of supernatural prediction ability one must possess. Often times as a photographer, the best moments are often invisible. But, through experience, you can begin to feel when that moment might come to fruition.

Ultimately, a photographer has to rely on his experience to make the call. This requires photographers to judge not only through their own experiences, but also fast AF is very important because of the fleeting nature of athletes in the field.

Photo by LingJun An/ China Sports News

At sports events, when other photographers use a telephoto lens I try to switch to medium telephoto or wide-angle to switch the perspective and get a slightly different angle of view. That's the kind of time when the magic moment happens and I am the only one who is able to capture it.

Reliable in a variety of situations

As a professional sports photographer, I often find myself facing different photography needs and I have to shoot three or four sports in a week. I could be shooting a boxing match today and then tomorrow I might be at a snow sports event. Under these varying circumstances, Nikon's camera system is so supportive. During most snow sports events, you can't even tell when an athlete will appear or even determine the exact angle and altitude they emerge from. For example, in ski jumping the skier would make a distinct position in the air. This would last two to three seconds but the chance of capturing this is less than a second. So swift, accurate AF and high image quality are critical for photographers in this kind of situation.

Photo by LingJun An/ China Sports News

Even when it's very dark, the Nikon D5 can focus very accurately and quickly. This enables me to respond very naturally and capture those wonderful moments. Also, NIKKOR lenses' high image quality and the D5's wide ISO range enable me to finish my work smoothly under changing light of a full-day shoot.

Always an ideal environment

The most important part of my job is to strive for and achieve the perfect shot. Only with accurate and decisive AF, you can capture the most joyous moments. For me, the Nikon D5 is my first and only choice. As the saying goes: "Better tools make for good work."

The D5 allows me to get the kind of shots I want without worry and this is very reassuring to me. It is indeed the combination of Nikon's lens and the D5 that allows me the ability to accomplish my work seamlessly whether it's indoor or outdoor shooting. The focusing ability and image quality of Nikon are so excellent it really helps me maintain a perfect working state. No matter what the task, I can be fully engaged thanks to the stability of Nikon.

Photo by LingJun An/ China Sports News

Speed made simple

Thanks to the D5's fast wired and wireless connectivity, I can send my photos to editors just as soon as I take them. This is a very big improvement especially because modern media is so time-sensitive. Press photographers benefit from this kind of advancement. With Nikon's help, we can focus more on shooting and quality of photos without a worry.

An important part of my job is to take photos as fast as I can and then send them to my editors so that they can publish them as soon as possible. Normally I'd take the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR and NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8 E FL ED VR lenses with me in my gear bag with two D5 camera bodies. I may use a 105mm lens and a tilt-shift lens or a super wide-angle lens depending on what the assignment is.

Tried and true

Sports events are full of fast actions. If you want to grasp a true sense of speed in the picture you are taking, high shutter speed is not totally necessary. Personally, I think following a subject with a slower shutter speed can effectively recreate the sense of speed. In order to effectively and intuitively show the speed of movement I normally take advantage of the NIKKOR lenses' vibration reduction system.

Photo by LingJun An/ China Sports News

I would say that I use the latest AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR the most. The focal length of 400mm allows me to get as close as possible to the subject. The f/2.8 aperture offers a higher shutter speed. More importantly, the relatively lightweight lens allows me to shoot handheld without using a monopod, which is great since I can then act as freely as I want.

The D5's ergonomics feels very comfortable and the touch-screen monitor is especially useful when we shoot snow sports. When you are wearing gloves, it's not easy to press those small buttons. But now you can switch menus or navigate pictures easily with a touch. I can rely on muscle memory while shooting and not have to worry about breaking concentration on the subject at hand. Whichever button you want to press; or whenever you change the ISO, burst shot settings, or focus mode - I don't have to double-check because I've already got this muscle memory. The body design, the control system, and the menu are so reliable that it's become a standard in my mind.

Photo by LingJun An/ China Sports News

Solid support

The support from Nikon Professional Services is very important to me and I have a close relationship with the staff. When I need their support, no matter what kind of event or location, NPS always respond in a timely manner. NPS also facilitates communication between photographers and Nikon companies. They arrange meetings for photographers and engineers before big sports events. We have a deep discussion about how to improve cameras and lenses.

Earlier this year when I met a senior staff of NPS I asked, "How's the D6? When will you release it?" He then gave me a mysterious smile and said, "It will be the one you've been dreaming of but I can't tell you when it will come out."

I was so thrilled to hear that the D6 would be the camera of my dreams. I'm looking forward to taking the D6 with me to the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 and take a perfect shot. The main reason I continue to choose Nikon is that I can always rely on it ー just like an old friend who grows old with you over time.


LingJun An is a senior photographer for China Daily Sports News, based in Beijing. He's shot only with Nikon cameras for the last decade and has travelled to dozens of cities around the world, capturing indispensable moments for the most traditional newspaper in China.