Athletes aren’t the only ones performing feats of strength and endurance at the Rio de Janeiro Games — Olympic photographers have it pretty tough, too.
Getty Images chief photographer Al Bello spoke with INSIDER from Rio, where he’s currently shooting aquatics events like swimming and diving. Bello revealed that snapping those iconic Olympics images involves a lot more than just pressing a button on camera: It’s grueling — but rewarding— work.
“If you want to do this job and you think it’s just pretty pictures, spend a day with me, and I’ll show you the other side of it,” he said.
Here’s a look at what it really takes to be a photographer at world’s biggest sporting event:
Al Bello is currently in Rio, covering his 11th Olympic games.
He got his start in the 1990s as a boxing photographer.
And he’s spent his career capturing some pretty iconic images.
He told INSIDER that Olympic photography — particularly underwater photography — is not exactly glamorous.
“It’s very stressful. It’s very much a grind. I probably don’t enjoy myself till after I go home,” he said. “When you do put a lot of effort into getting good photographs, it makes it all worthwhile.”
This picture of an American diver, from the London Olympics, is one of his most famous underwater images.
So how, exactly, does he capture shots like these?
Before the athletic events begin, Bello sets up his Canon camera inside a waterproof enclosure.
Then he dives into the pool (in full scuba gear!) to set it up at just the right angle.
Courtesy Al Bello
Then, he and his team run wires from the camera out of the pool and into a computer nearby. From there — thanks to robotic technology — they’re able to adjust the camera and fire the shutter remotely.
“It is something that I still marvel at, considering I come from the days of film,” Bello said. “It’s a little overwhelming at times, but that’s the world we are in. It’s moving at lightning speed.”
Once a photo is taken, it can be cropped, edited, and sent out to Getty’s clients in two minutes flat.
The winter games presents a new set of challenges.
“I think downhill ski racing is one of the hardest things to [photograph],” Bello said. “You have to ski with 60 pounds of gear on your back, on the same mountain that the skiers are on.”
“The Olympics as a whole are insanely difficult,” he added. “The physical part of it wears you out.”
But Bello and his team have prepared for the long haul.
“It’s a little bit hectic,” he said. “Our team has been working very, very hard, and I think we’re just about ready.”