Behind the Winning Shot

Delly Carr, Australia

Nikon: my best friend at every sporting event

The need for speed

The perfect five-letter word for sports is "speed." Sport is so quick, and then the picture has to be out within minutes. I need a picture out of the camera that's pretty close to 100%. I don't want to be sitting at a laptop, fixing up a half-baked image. Less time on the computer means more time I can take pictures.

Photo by Delly Carr

A lot of people ask, "Why do you only shoot JPEG?" With such a quick, instant world, a JPEG is a perfect working image for me. I don't need to shoot any more than that.

If the play of action is not close to you, you're continually thinking: What's going to happen when it does come to me? Where will the light be? What's potentially going to happen? Our brains are continually working; I can't be slow about it. I have to think as quickly as the athlete. I actually think quicker than the athlete, to anticipate what's about to happen.

Photo by Delly Carr

Getting the perfect shot

For a true sports photograph, you've got to understand light, timing, exposure, composition and forethought. And that comes from within. When we put all those five variables together to take a photograph, then the camera takes over, and translates all that energy that we've just given, to do what we need to do.

A truly good sports photograph is when we've put a little bit of ourselves within that picture. The moment is there for you, and then it's up to you to interpret it your own way. That could be a feeling - it could be happiness, it could be sadness, it could be anger. When you put a bit of your soul into the picture, I feel that makes great sports photography.

And sport is happening fast: the moments are quick and fleeting, and could easily pass us by. The sportsman's not going to do the long jump again for me, or run down the track again because I stuffed up. We're pretty much like the athletes: they're putting in everything in split-second time, and we have to think that way. We're talking in 1/1000s of a second, don't forget. That's quick.

Photo by Delly Carr

Part of photography is to make people happy. My clients, the athletes, their families: you'd be surprised, the joy that people get from a nice sporting photograph. I think that's part of photography, to put smiles on people's faces — particularly your client.

Taking it to the next level

I've definitely become more demanding of my camera over the years. As a sports photographer, you always develop. Your brain starts to think differently: you want to do more, you want to do something more creative, you want to do something more powerful, and your camera has to keep up with that.

Photo by Delly Carr

The energy that I had from the very first time I took a photograph is still there. I'm continually wanting to do better than the year before, and the technology is doing the same thing. It's going, it's jumping, it's jumping with me. The last few generations of Nikon cameras have given me images that are better than whatever the other people are getting.

A sporting event changes, but it's still athletes on bikes or it's athletes kicking a ball. So how do we make that different again? That's the challenge we face. If Nikon are bringing out cameras that can go beyond what we're doing right now — bang! I've got the tool to get me to another level.


Triathlon is a big part of my life. It has defined the person who I am. It's been 30-35 years, and the sport is only a couple of years older than that. I've grown up with the sport, I grew up with the athletes. I'm part of the triathlon book, so to speak.

Photo by Delly Carr

I love it to death, because there are three disciplines within the one sport: I have swimming, biking and running. The athletes are such pure athletes, and as each year goes by, they get faster and stronger. It's a gorgeous sport. We go to different locations around the world, and I've experienced so many things. My playground is 1 1/2 km of swimming, 40 km of cycling and 10 km of running. It's not a 50-meter pool. It's such a big field that I get to play in. We could be in beautiful countryside, it could be something rustic, and that's up to me to then bring that into the photograph.

In the zone

When I'm shooting with Nikon, and my hand's there and I'm firing and my brain's thinking and the camera's doing its stuff — that's my world. I'm in my own little bubble, right there and then. I can't think outside of that particular space at that time. It's me, and whatever's happening in front of me. Everything else outside of that doesn't exist at that point.

Photo by Delly Carr

People who have seen me say: "You've gone into Delly World." It's part of my obsession with photography. Not an unhealthy obsession, but a healthy obsession with my work, and the quality that I want to bring out. Outside of the bubble, right then and there, nothing exists.

Early inspirations

I grew up in a very big rugby area as a kid, and we were always following the local team. The moment I knew I wanted to be a sports photographer was when I got a copy of a Rugby League magazine. It was my favorite player on the cover, he was concussed, blood running from his nose and mouth, and he'd scored the winning try in the grand final. The headline was "Tears of Blood," because the trainer was pulling him off and he didn't want to get off. That showed me the power of photography. That's when I went, "Wow, I want to be a sports photographer."

Photo by Delly Carr

The Nikon relationship

From the beginning, from when I first started sports photography, Nikon has been a constant companion. When you say the word Nikon to me, I will smile. It's the number one reason, outside of my creative head — it's the reason why I'm here. It's why I have achieved so much in my sporting world, and in my career.

The D5, right now for me, is my best friend. It is my workhorse camera. It does everything that I need it to do, for me to get the image that I want. When you know what your camera is capable of doing, it's so easy to move all that energy that's within you to the camera itself.

The D5 has to help me with the workflow. Throughout the whole event, we're changing lenses, we're changing cards, we're changing settings. I know for a fact that when Nikon cameras are designed and made, they're looking at how our hands are working, and how we're looking through the camera. It's made for comfort; it's made for the whole workflow.

You do put your trust into the camera and the lens. It has to be a partnership. It may sound geeky, but it's my best friend at whatever sporting event I'm at. It is a "we" thing.

The right gear for every occasion

My kit will change daily. I have the full gamut of lenses, from the widest to the big telephoto lenses. The big lenses are my favorite by far. They let me get right into the action. My pictures tend to be very tight, very close, but it will depend on the sport that I'm doing.

I take the lenses according to what I need. For triathlon, for example, where I'm constantly on the move or jumping on a motorbike, I'll carry a lighter lens with different focal lengths. The AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR is perfect for that. For the finish line, I'll use a wider lens like the AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED. When I'm at the swimming, I'll use the AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR to get close and tight to the main four, or the AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR if I need to come out a bit. When I'm on the back of a motorbike for a cycling race, I'll carry the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR. The 70mm will get me from the top of the helmet to the wheel, nice and tight, whereas I can zoom out to 24 mm, which gives me the whole bike and the whole athlete.

We really give our cameras a workout. Our conditions could be rain, snow, dirt, mud or extreme heat. It could be 16- or 20-hour days, for 14 days in a row, and my kit and I are going to have to work through that. There'll be fatigue, there'll be hunger, there'll be a lot of other things. When that sets in — when you're tired or cranky or sore — you want your cameras to continue working. You don't want them to be feeling like you do. You want them to bring you back up again, and uplift you.


Delly Carr is Australia's top freelance sports photographer. He has been capturing various sports for over 30 years, and is a Nikon Oceania Ambassador. His recent work has been featured in promotional campaigns for companies including Casio G-Shock, Oakley and Red Bull. See more of Delly's work on his website: