Top 10: Official photographer Dean Alberga’s favourite pictures
My job is to take photographs of archery competitions so, with international events on hiatus, 2020 wasn’t my busiest year.
It did give me an opportunity to go through my archive. I cleaned out some dusty harddrives and, in the process, uncovered some photos that I never knew I’d taken, let alone lost.
I also reflected on the many incredible achievements that I’ve been lucky enough to witness and looked back photos from some events that I remember fondly. I’ve been so lucky to document the entire careers of some athletes, the latter days of others – and the very beginnings of some of the world’s best archers shooting today.
During my journey through the archive, I saved some of my favourite photos that I came across and they’re presented here.
There’s no specific theme, no rules or reason to the collection. They’re all just photos that I like, that I’m proud of and that I think other people might like, too. I hope you do.
Steve Wijler has impressed since he first stepped foot on the international competition field. He won his debut stage of the Hyundai Archery World Cup in Shanghai in 2017 and I don’t think he’s stepped off the podium since!
The blank space in this photo really captures the focus in Steve’s face at full draw.
Archery is not a sport with a huge amount of movement. But, for me, the composition of this photo transfers an incredible amount of action, mostly in what’s not seen. It builds the anticipation of release.
Shooting pictures of field archery is challenging, exhausting and so unbelievably rewarding.
The landscapes are often fantastic. This photo is of Sandrine Vandionant and was taken during the 2012 World Archery Field Championships in Val d’Isere. The sky is beautiful and the mountains are beautiful but the best thing about this photo is how the background really complements the target.
It can be a real challenge to showcase the depth of the sport, with both the archer and target in focus, especially when the surroundings don’t add anything to the image. Here, everything works.
Talking of landscapes, this was shot early in the morning, after the field was set but before any of the targets were scarred with arrowholes, when we were in Odgen for a stage of the Hyundai Archery World Cup.
The mist makes the whole scene look surreal.
The Armless Archer
Sometimes the subject makes the photo.
Matt Stutzman is a special human. What he has accomplished, and the attitude with which approaches the sport, is admirable. People are surprised when they see somebody shooting a bow and arrow with their feet, especially at the level that Matt has reached.
It’s been a privilege to shoot pictures of him in competition.
We were granted access to the Great Wall of China, with a target, to shoot promotional pictures for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games during the test event one year earlier.
I don’t know if you’ve visited this incredible landmark but it’s steep – and it’s usually very busy. (They cleared the public away for us.) Getting a target up there wasn’t easy! But it was worth it, even for this shot alone.
Beijing was my first Olympics as World Archery’s official photographer and an experience I’ll never forget.
This was taken moments after Ki Bo Bae, Chang Hye Jin and Choi Misun won the eighth consecutive recurve women’s team gold medal at the Olympic Games for Korea at Rio 2016. I like it for so many reasons.
There’s the emotion on the faces of their teammates framed by the beautiful colour scheme of those Games.
And their backs being turned, with their names barely visible on the back of their shirts, makes me think in a very abstract manner. I could have taken this photo, with different names, at any of the eight Olympic Games since 1988 so far. It wouldn’t be a surprise if I take exactly the same photo, again, in Tokyo.
I could make an album of pictures showing only the roar Brady Ellison lets out when he wins.
The raw emotion of a picture that captures the moment of celebration makes the hair on the back of my neck tingle. I check for it in the screen on my camera as soon as a major match is finished. It’s a win if I’ve caught something good.
Sport isn’t just about celebrating. It’s about the emotion of loss, too.
This picture of Mike Schloesser was taken when he, as one of the favourites, lost his first match at the Hyundai Archery World Cup Final in Mexico City in 2015. When I look at it, I can feel him crawling inside his hat, wishing that there was nothing else around.
There are plenty of great photos of Mike celebrating the many, many things he’s won. Those pictures mean all the more when you can compare them with a picture showcasing the disappointment he feels when he loses.
International archery events are often held next to iconic landmarks. But it’s usually the finals that feature a memorable background, like the Eiffel Tower when the Archery World Cup Final was in Paris, rather than the early phases of the competition.
The 1948 Olympic Stadium was next to the main tournament field for the Hyundai Archery World Cup stages in Berlin.
It just fits perfectly into a wide photo. I’m looking forward to heading back there for the World Archery Championships in 2023!
Bows and arrows
The picture just reminds me of why I love shooting pictures of archery – and why I still love shooting bows and arrows. That’s probably why it’s spent some time as my desktop background!
Dean Alberga has been World Archery’s official photographer since the launch of the Archery World Cup in 2006. He’s travelled to almost every international archery event since then, capturing the photographs that tell the stories behind the podiums, the athletes that compete on the field and the venues which host them.