My worst moment

Being in the wrong place at the right time

Singapore's Joseph Schooling reacting after clinching gold in the 100m butterfly by slamming his fist into the water, which resulted in a wall of water rising and blocking a good reaction shot.
Singapore's Joseph Schooling reacting after clinching gold in the 100m butterfly by slamming his fist into the water, which resulted in a wall of water rising and blocking a good reaction shot.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Ironically, what was Singapore's best moment of the Olympics was also my worst moment of the Games.

It is a nightmare for photographers not getting the shots they want, due to a plethora of reasons - camera breaking down, focusing issues, battery dying, memory card running out of space, etc.

With sports photography, we anticipate moments, but there are elements that are beyond our control - in this particular case, how the water splashed.

The swimming venue was restrictive as photographers are jam-packed on opposite lengths of the pool. They represented different wire services and various news agencies from all around the world.

With so many photographers at the swimming competition, all were restricted to one position, and there was no luxury of moving around. So what I had to do was to head down early to queue for a good position.

I queued for four hours that night for the all-important men's 100m butterfly race to secure a central position at poolside, but I was then offered an exclusive pool position on the opposite end of the starting blocks.

I took it because it offered me a frontal shot of Joseph Schooling in action, at an angle not available to me previously from the side. It also offered me more leeway of covering the angles should Schooling win and react - whichever way he turned.

What I did not count on was when he celebrated by slamming his fist into the water right in front of him. A wall of water rose and blocked his face when he reacted most dramatically.

Photographers by the side of the pool snapped shots of him roaring in victory, with an arc of water framing him beautifully. From where I was, all I got was the wall of water. The frames before and after were not nearly as dramatic.

On any given day, I would have captured Schooling frontally framed by arcs of water on both sides of him. Just not that day.

People talk about decisive moments in photography, but the positions from which we tell our stories visually are as important.

Kevin Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2016, with the headline 'Being in the wrong place at the right time'. Print Edition | Subscribe