Sports photographer Tom Jenkins shoots for The Guardian newspaper in the UK. Here, he reveals the practices that allowed him to capture this dramatic image of horse-racing jockey Nina Carberry being thrown from her horse.
“This image was taken at the Grand National in Liverpool in the UK. I have been going there for the past 25 years and, in that time, I’ve worked out a bit of a routine that allows me to get to as many different locations as possible in the ten minutes it takes for the steeplechase to be run. I don’t just go to one fence and record one piece of the action – I try to tell the story of the race from as many angles as I can.”
1. Use remote cameras
“The Chair is the biggest fence on the whole of the Grand National course and stands over five-feet high with a very big ditch in front of it. It’s also quite narrow, meaning the horses funnel together as they power over it at a breakneck pace.
“It’s dangerous for a photographer to get too close to it, which is why remote cameras are so important here. They let you get down low, giving you a better chance of getting a decent image from the right angle.
“I was positioned ten yards to the right of where this picture was taken from and fired my remote EOS-1D X with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens from a PocketWizard remote trigger that was connected to my main camera.”
2. Know your subject
“It had been raining all morning and into the afternoon so the ground was really muddy; I had a feeling something could happen. Towards the back of the pack one of the horses barely cleared the fence, then the one behind it went right through it. That was the horse ridden by Nina Carberry and that’s when I caught her in mid-air.
“After all the horses jumped the fence, I picked up my cameras and ran to the finish. I didn’t have time to look at what I’d got until much later because I needed to get the celebration images. It wasn’t until I was editing my work later that I realised I had got something a little out of the ordinary.”
3. Try, try again
“This shot is a perfect example of perseverance. Over the last 25 years there have been so many times I’ve put cameras down on that fence and nothing has happened. You just have to keep trying. If you don’t try, you’ll never get it. You make your own luck as a photographer.
“I thought this picture was different. It was a bit bizarre, not straightforward. It has instant impact and it also makes you look at it in more detail. There are actually four horses in the image – two have fallen, the tail of another horse is on the right and there’s a hoof of another horse on the left.”
4. Never give up
“I felt so happy when I heard I’d won my category. My jaw hit the floor! In the past I have helped judge World Press Photo so I knew the standard of photography was top-notch. As a photographer, I’ve entered it for donkey’s years so it was amazing when I heard, absolutely incredible. It’s a stamp of approval that re-emphasises that what you do is good. When you shoot sports you have to be philosophical – good pictures don’t come easy so disappoint is common.”
Jockey Nina Carberry flies off her horse Sir Des Champs (left) as they fall at The Chair fence during the Grand National steeplechase, at Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool, UK. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 70mm; the exposure was 1/5000sec at f/4, ISO 2000.