Luck, location help photographer capture Michael Phelps and family

April 30, 2012 | By Ezra Shaw | Olympics, Sport

Michael Phelps was the biggest story of the Beijing Olympics, when he broke Spitz’s seven-gold-medal record. And I was lucky enough to get a shot of it from a very different angle as I was one of the few photographers allowed in the gantry right above the action.

We were only allowed one lens with us at a time for safety reasons, so I went to exchange my 500mm lens for a wider 70-200mm. With the smaller lens in hand, I positioned myself above Phelps’ mother and two sisters – thinking he might wave to them from the pool side.

When Phelps began his victory lap, he not only waved to his mother, but walked through a sea of photographers to hug her and that’s when I got the image.



Michael Phelps of the United States greets his family, sisters Whitney and Hilary and mother Debbie, in the stands as he is surrounded by photographers after receiving his gold medal in the Men's 4x100 Medley Relay at the National Aquatics Centre during Day 9 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 17, 2008 in Beijing, China. The United States team set a new world record with a time of 3:29:34. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: Getty Images photographer Ezra Shaw has worked on the Olympic Games, Super Bowl, World Series, Tour de France and numerous other events. His pictures appear in publications around the world. He’s won awards in the World Press Photo, Best of Photojournalism Awards, Pictures of the Year International and the Sony World Photography Awards… and here, he tells the story behind one of his most striking Olympic images.

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  • James Clews

    What an amazing image and angle. It must feel amazing to get a shot like this but ever so risky as it could all go wrong and not even get a shot worth keeping.