Capturing Live News: IronMan in Cascais, Portugal

Today was the IronMan 70.3 Cascais, Portugal competition featuring 2,200 athletes from 71 countries . I’ve just invested the morning and early afternoon capturing live news and submitting to various agencies.

What’s an IronMan?

For those that aren’t familiar with the IronMan, it consists of (in this order):

  • 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim;
  • 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride; and
  • A marathon 26.22-mile (42.20 km) run

I think I can do the bike part only (over two days) 😀

[UPDATE: Just received a confirmation that this was in fact a half-IronMan, so the distances of this event were half of the above, but still a quite impressive achievement for the athletes, nevertheless]

90km bicycle ride as part of the IronMan event, passing Cascais city centre

Enjoying Capturing Live News

I’m quite enjoying these events and getting the hang of them, which means my workflow is becoming more efficient.

As I’ve done in previous blog posts about live news, notably capturing Yemen Protests, Milan Gay Pride and the Grand Opening of the Apple store in Milan, I’ll outline what was going on in my crazy eccentric head so perhaps I can sow a seed to consider capturing live news.

This event was in the works

To be able to prepare myself, it certainly helps that I know which major events that are happening when and where. In this case, I even tried to submit images in preparation to the event (two days prior), as the town was swarming with sub <5% body fat folk, particularly from Benelux:

Athlete training and the finish line

However, I noticed that the pre-event images weren’t accepted by REX Features (unlike Alamy that takes everything and anything) and I emailed them, receiving an interesting response:

“We did not keep these images as the empty finish line two days before the event is not newsworthy. However, the actual event taking place is a different matter. If you are planning to shoot it please send us the images in the usual way and we will judge them on merit.” – Picture Editor at REX Features
Fair enough and makes sense, so a lesson learned for next time. Glad I didn’t invest too much time on pre-event shots.

Getting Lucky: Preparation Meets Execution

One definition of luck is: “Preparation meets execution”. I’ll add the following parenthesis to this quote, “Preparation meets execution (and waking up at 6:30am on a fucking Sunday)”. In other words, making my own luck, unlike some of those doom & gloom clowns on these microstock forums who just whine and complain. Anyway….

But that’s just the sort of sacrifice you have to put up with if you want to make it in this competitive game of a live news photographer. Plus the light was superb – seems like summer lasts forever in this part of the world.

What do I mean by preparation?

It means I already know which are the angles I would like to capture and at what times. It also means researching the competition course and anticipating where those sub 5%fatties will be at and what time. Most importantly, it means arriving early and setting up.

One of the first shots of the day were of the athletes warming-up in the cold Atlantic water with the crowd watching. I made sure to get myself a high perspective for a clear shot + long exposure (using tripod)
A closer-up of the 1000s of athletes lined up at the beach taken a few minutes later

Start of event! Go go go!!

…and they’re off! This is a cool time as different groups set off….first the elite men and then elite women and then the rest.

The elites start their 4+ hour adventure, just when the sun starts to rise with a beautiful orange glow at Cascais Bay

Time to move to a different perspective

Below looked quite crowded down there and I was arguing with myself whether I should go down and get some closer-up shots of the athletes of stay in my cool yet safe high perspective. The decision was made easier since I didn’t really have the right zoom lens (only the trusty 24-70 and shooting at DX mode so was 100mm).

Took the risk and headed down to the beach!

Was a good decision to head down to the beach

Live News Video

I’ve yet to come across an agency that accepts live news editorial footage (if anybody knows of one please let me know). In any case, I thought it would be cool to capture some clips as there was a lot of running and splashing around with a gorgeous morning glow. Maybe they’ll sell in 11 months just before the same event next year.

As you can probably see above, I had a few technical issues…such as the tripod sinking into the sand halfway through the video when the water washed in! Also tilted horizon and some shaking. Some can be mitigated later using Adobe Premier.

I’ve asked the in-house video expert, Theo of BestravelVideo for his input on the videos and this what he has advised me:

Theo: “I try to reflect on what I see, so usually my initial reaction is the most sincere one. I liked on the second one the way humans swimming could be interpreted as a flock of fish or seals on the surface against the morning light. Beauty lies in the simplicity, like a clean woman’s face that needs no makeup!”

Wow, who knew Greeks were so poetic?! He continued…

Theo: “First I say you cut motion on the first If you do not want to stress the dangers of the profession! (sinking the tripod into huge waves etc!). On the second one, it’s a bit shaky (until you stabilise camera) and is again a bit leaning….You still have visible dust-spots at the corners.”

Wow, talk about receiving a dose of brutally honest! Agree with everything.

Lastly, Theo advises:

Theo: “On the first one, you could try and avoid the orange sea sign and try a closer zoom, without the fishing boats panning left to have sunrise on top part and athletes on lower third. Or without zooming, start revealing only the sunrise and then slowly pan down to the athletes to let the eye contrast from a typical sunrise to the new into the scene sea action. Like a smooth transition from a familiar nature scene to a non familiar sea action scene.”

Excellent inputs – thanks! In hindsight, I should have done a time-lapse…anyway…

What next?

Well, I checked the time and it was already 9:30 which means I had been working for over 2 hours non-stop. I headed home to upload the images (they were already keyworded the day before to save time) and headed to (finally) grab some breakfast, chilling out until 11:00, just before the final finish.

Again, part of the preparation means that I knew at approximately at what time the elites would be crossing the finishing line…which was around 11:30.

Setting up at the finish line

The finish line with the top 3 is the cherry at the top…featuring heavily in all sorts of news, so I had to get this right!

Remember the finish line from the first image. Well, that’s exactly where I wanted to be, except this time it was crawling with families and other photographers. Since I didn’t have a press pass I couldn’t find the most premium spots, so I settled for what I could.

To show you exactly where I was placed, here’s a shot that was published just a few hours ago:

Found myself a premium spot among the chaos (circled in red) at 11:30!

I managed to squeeze against the railing to get myself a nice angle some 20 minutes before the first finisher. Those 20 minutes weren’t just spent sunbathing. I was looking to get my manual focus as sharp as possible (practicing many times, such as when people walked in between the arches). Also checking and re-checking for the best settings. As he was only going to cross the finish line once, I had to get it perfect.

Final finish!

Without further to do here’s some of the finish-line photos that were picked up by REX, with my favourite being this one (although only rarely does my fav get picked up):

Preparation meets execution

Podium Finish

This was by far the easiest part of the afternoon as they were at the podium for a good 10 minutes giving me plenty of time to get some decent shots. Probably less commercially-interesting than the rest considering I spotted at least a dozen other photographers, but anyway, for whatever their worth, these are my favourite:


Rush home to upload the last batch

Keywording the last batch was tricky and time-consuming as I had to research who these athletes were and their finishing times, etc as well some more specific keywords. But at 13:00 they were up and for sale. It’s 16:30 now and I’ve been checking if they’ve been picked up anywhere and so far nothing…but will update this blog post in case someone does pick them up.

Keywording using StockSubmitter


As you know the flow by now, capturing these live news can be quite intense…running around, keywording, uploading and then round 2 same thing…but I tend to enjoy the experience. Also helps that I didn’t have to travel far to keep my costs low, so if they don’t sell or sell for little, it’s not the end of the world. The following are the key-takeaways from today’s session:

  • Preparation: research well before the event and scout good locations (such as a high perspective)
  • Keyword prior to the event to save time as getting those images up and for sale asap is key
  • If you only have one chance to get a key shot, as in the case of the photo-finish at the finish line…make sure you nail it and again this goes back to preparation
  • Put the images/videos up on social media and TAG the organisers…they may wish to license your content directly (I have had many requests in the past). If you’re following me on social media you’ll have seen I have been quite active today.
  • Enjoy the experience and feel inspired by others’ achievements. I sure did as completing an Ironman is something I strive to do one day!

Hope you enjoyed this post and look forward to your comments below. I’m quite tired as been up since early, in a good way, so forgive any typos of grammatical mistakes.

Best of luck…or I should say, all the best with your preparation and execution!

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage. I’m determined not to waste my life away as a corporate drone and have devoted five years to making it as a travel photographer and freelance writer. I hope to inspire others before it’s too late.

I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography

Check out my new photo review service, where I’ll help take your images to the next level and get them sold regularly!


  1. Thanks so much for sharing. I’m curious how you do the key wording ahead of time. Maybe I’ve missed it, but I’d love to know!


  2. Hi Alex. Just wondering about the press pass. I’ve had some images at Shutterstock rejected for something like “not having press credentials for an organized event.” Do you have any guidelines on what will be accepted without a pass and what will not? Many thanks.


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