The overwhelming majority of photographers questioned, highlighted the fact there was very little communication between themselves and the management. Added to this the Photo Manager had no authority and decisions as to positions of photo pens were out of his hands. There was no response to emails prior to the Games and despite best efforts of staff behind the media desk, precious little information during the Games. It was suggested that there were daily photographers meetings but these rarely happened.
In the Main arena these were too small and badly positioned in several instances. During the dressage the pen at the far end of the arena, looking back to the new grandstand, was looking into empty seats; a phenomenon we are used to at Olympic Games, but not in Aachen. On cross-country, again pens were way too small and badly positioned. It was only by last minute discussion that these were revised. In particular the water fence where most photographers worked had to be enlarged by some twenty fold.
Officials at cross country fences and crossing stewards were mostly helpful, but I understand there were a number of problems on the driving marathon where positions and movement around the area had been agreed with the Course Designer in advance by Dirk Caremans and Arnd Bronkhurst, but these were rescinded on the day with no explanation.
There was confusion as to whether photographers could work from seats or not, with some being allowed and others not. There needs to be much clearer instruction on this. During preliminary competitions when there are many empty seats, why should photographers not be allowed to work there? The reining posed problems when a commercial photographer set up lights all along one side of the arena and tried to stop all other photographers from working there. This was only resolved when Niels Knippertz was called and the photographer was made to remove his lights. This problem of a commercial photographer trying to take control only seems to happen in reining and occurred to a lesser extent in Jerez. This should not be allowed to happen again and commercial photographers will have to take their chance along with the rest.
The Ceremonies in the main arena were chaotic. This was a result of not allowing for the number of photographers accredited and officials involved in the medal ceremony being badly positioned. Forward planning and better briefing would have avoided much of this confusion. One answer would be to use mobile risers, which would enable more photographers to get into a smaller area. Presenters also need to be briefed to pose for the cameras.
This worked well splitting photographers and journalists, with room enough to work. The Technology was very fast and reliable. The large lockers were ideal with plenty of room for equipment, but not enough of them.
There was a mixed reaction to these at the endurance. For some these worked others found they ran late and were not keeping up with the leading riders. Those with their own cars who had studied the route were best off.
Guidelines for Fence Judges
There should be guidelines for judges and officials on cross-country and the marathon section of driving. These guidelines should be explained to judges at pre-event briefings.
Creating pens for photographers
These should be negotiated in advance of the event between a nominated photographer who understands the sport and the course designer or technical delegate, particularly in the case of WEG. It is difficult to try and arrange these once the event has started. A number of established events have procedures for photographers but there are a number where there needs to be discussion. For show jumping, when there are a large number of fence judges in the arena, they should be asked to remain in one spot. In Aachen they tended to wander about and consequently got shouted at by photographers, which is not desirable and causes bad feelings on both sides.
Adequate lockers must be provided as pilfering has been a problem at all WEGs and other events. If there is not enough staff for full time security then could a CCTV system be installed? Big Brother maybe but it is a solution. I would also urge all photographers and journalists to use security cables for their laptops. Much of the thieving is opportunistic and cables will deter all but the most determined thief.
Too many photographers were accredited. I blame the organisation of WEG for this. Events like to boast about how many media will be attending their event. All helps with sponsorship no doubt, but if events are going to do that then they must provide adequate facilities. An attempt was made to separate specialist photographers by issuing bibs for certain of the stadiums, however all these bibs were the same colour the only distinguishing part being the number of the stadium printed on one side of the bib. After a couple of days most officials gave up looking at bibs so everyone went where they wanted. If this system is to be tried in future events then the bibs must be of different colours and photographers made aware that they can only go to the venue/s they have been allocated.
The other issue raised by Edith de Reys who was working behind the desk in Aachen and has done so for at least three WEGs was the problem of journalists wanting to be photographers as well, and the “office camera” syndrome where a camera is given to whatever journalist is covering the event and told to take pictures. These people are a major irritant particularly when they ask other photographers how to operate their cameras or they wander about with no heed to what is going on.
Many of the points made by photographers were valid, but I felt that a number of the complaints were spurious and their seems to be an ethos creeping in that photographers expect everything to be handed to them on a plate. At an event of the size and complexity of WEG there are always going to be problems and compromises have to be made.
Worryingly was the complaint that certain photographers found shooting spots which hadn’t been seen or thought of by other photographers. I know that many photographers suffer from the herd instinct but if everyone were to shoot only from officially designated spots one may just as well restrict accreditation to a handful of photographers who can then hand out their pictures on a rota basis. There should be more flexibility to allow certain unofficial positions to be used, provided of course they do not impede the public or interfere with the competition in any way.
Much more liaison between photographers and the organisers of events is needed.