Today, Robert Allen Photography interviews UK based sports photographer Clive Mason. Clive was recently selected by Nikon to produce images for the launch of the Nikon D6 DSLR camera. Let's spend a few moments with Clive and learn more about his photography background and some of his incredible sports photography work.
Clive Mason Sports PhotoLONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 03: Roberto Firmino of Liverpool and Marcos Alonso of Chelsea clash during the FA Cup Fifth Round match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge on March 03, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Shot on Nikon D6, at 400mm, at ISO 3200
1) How did you get started in photography?
My interest in photography was sparked at a young age as my late father was a keen amateur photographer and he and I shot, processed, and printed my first at home picture when I was 5. I always knew it was what I wanted to do. My first professional break came when I got to know the deputy picture editor at the Northampton Chronicle and Echo, which at the time, was a lovely, highly respected regional broadsheet black and white newspaper. They used pictures well and a core of staff photographers who I learned much from.
2) Do you look to other photographers for inspiration? If so, who would they be?
You would be a fool to think that all inspiration is home grown, I constantly look at other photographer’s work for inspiration, not just in sport, but all genres. I’m hugely inspired by work that I would never feel I could accomplish for whatever reason…I’m not brave enough to do news, I wouldn’t want to do war and I know nothing about fashion or portraiture, so I hugely admire those that do or are! They are too numerous to mention and I’m a company man, but Getty Images do employ people who are absolutely at the top of their game, so if I had to name someone our chief entertainment photographer Gareth Cattermole would be one, his work is amazing ..always, as is the news and feature work of Jeff Mitchell, also a Getty Images photographer.
Clive Mason PhotoCOWES, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: China SailGP skippered by Phil Robertson in action during Cowes SailGP on August 11, 2019 in Cowes, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) Shot on Nikon D5, at 350mm at ISO 400
3) I see you are with Getty Images. How did you get your start at Getty?
My start at Getty Images was a lucky break in the spring/summer of 1994. I had got to know a couple of photographers who at the time, worked for Bob Thomas Sports Photography, who were based in Northampton. I had been to see Bob and his legendary business partner and ex Fleet Street sports photographer Monte Fresco and they had steered me in the right direction with some honest feedback ( sometimes far too honest !!) and given me some freelance work. When Bob started to slightly wind down his live sports coverage to concentrate on his newly acquired archival library Popperfoto, some of the guys I had got to know, moved down to the London based sports picture agency Allsport.
It was then I got to hear through my friends, that Allsport, were looking to hire an experienced sports photographer. To be clear, at this point I was neither experienced, nor a real sports photographer. I had been doing all manner of work but had worked out quite quickly that what really got me excited, was shooting sport. Anyway, the experienced sports photographer they had in mind, changed his mind, thus leaving an opening. I was persuaded by my friends to contact Adrian Murrell, the then boss of Allsport, to introduce myself as a keen young and inexperienced photographer who would do whatever it took to work for them. My pals, Clive Brunskill and Shaun Botterill (both of whom I aspired to become as good as – still trying BTW- and to this day, extraordinarily talented sports photographers) also had a word with the powers that be and fixed me up with a meeting to show them my somewhat sketchy portfolio. The rest is history. They said yes, I said yes. I moved to London a week later and my feet haven’t touched the ground since. (Allsport was acquired by Getty Images in 1998 and this year 2020, Getty Images is celebrating its 25th Anniversary)
4) Out of your extensive portfolio, do you have one image that is your favorite or a few that rise to the top?
I’ve been so lucky in my career that I’ve got to shoot some amazing events over the years, so have many pictures that I’m pleased with for various reasons. Some I just like, some sell well, some have happy memories of great trips with great colleagues so it’s hard to pinpoint my favorites. The two images that come up time and time again when people talk about me or my work are 1- Monaco sunbathers as Michael Schumacher races past on a street below from 2002 and 2- West Indies v Australia in St Kitts as a cruise liner floats by in ridiculous light after a storm from 1995.
Clive Mason photoABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 23: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB14 TAG Heuer on track during practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 23, 2018 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) Shot on Nikon D5, at 300mm, at ISO 50
5) As for equipment, what photography gear are you currently using?
I’m currently using the Nikon system which I switched to from Canon in the summer of 2018. I was lucky enough to be asked by Nikon Inc Japan to shoot the launch images for the new flagship DSLR the D6 back in November and its spectacularly good.
6) I see you started in the film period. When did you make the transition to digital?
The transition from film to digital was gradual because in the sports I was shooting (F1), at first, digital only replaced the onsite C41 images for live transmission and we continued to shoot transparency for clients and quality reasons for a few years alongside the digital. From memory, we started introducing digital in the late ‘90’s but I think one of the first major events to be shot on digital was the 2002 FIFA World Cup and from 2004 (Athens Olympics) onwards, it was all digital.
Clive Mason photoWEYMOUTH, ENGLAND - MAY 14: Nicolas Martin and Romy Mackenbrock of USA in action during a Nacra 17 class race on May 14, 2019 in Weymouth, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Shot on Nikon D5, at 500mm at ISO 200
7) When on assignment, what is your work flow? What software do you use? How do you deliver photos to the photo editor?
Mostly we transmit live from camera, whether that is with the use of a hardwired ethernet cable plugged straight into camera or, in the case of the Nikon, via a WT-6 wireless transmitter connected to my unlocked Huawei mobile hotspot loaded with a data only sim from whichever country I am in at the time. The images are sent to our own unique Dropbox folders so can be picked up by any editor anywhere in the world. We have our own custom built editing software called FOCUS in which we caption, tag, select, route and is linked to Adobe Photoshop with preloaded actions so everyone is working within the same parameters.
8) Do you have formal training as a photographer?
I had no official training as a photographer, I am completely self-taught.
Clive Mason photoLONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 11: Rafael Nadal of Spain in action against Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina during their Men's Singles Quarter-Finals match on day 9 of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 11, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) Shot on Nikon D5, at 70mm at ISO 400
9) What details do you believe make the best photographs? How do you go about focusing on them in your work?
As we all know, photography is very subjective so it’s hard, particularly in this modern world where ‘blurred seems to be the new sharp’! For me, I love shots with movement but there absolutely has to be a point of sharpness somewhere, I don’t subscribe to the ‘blur is art’ type of photography. Very, very occasionally, I have submitted the odd frame that possibly should be sharper than it is, but it’s rare. What does frustrate photographers such as I, who work for major agencies and who have to adhere to a strict set of editorial guidelines, is when pictures appear that have clearly been either put together, bits added, bits taken away and frankly sold to the viewer as a representation of reality when the resulting image, clearly didn’t even happen in reality!!!!
Clive Mason photoSINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 14: Sparks fly behind Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB14 TAG Heuer on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 14, 2018 in Singapore. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Shot on Nikon D5, at 600mm, at ISO 400
Thanks Clive for spending time with Robert Allen Photography.
To learn more about Clive Mason and to see more of his work, visit his website at https://clivejmason.com/