At the recent 2016 International Photography Awards, Kai Schwoerer was awarded second place in the Sports — Field Sports category with his image Rubgy in the mud (seen below). Schwoerer moved to Christchurch, New Zealand, after leaving Germany where he was primarily a sports photographer. We caught up with him about his place-getting and about his plans for his photography now that he’s made New Zealand his home.
D-Photo: You’ve recently taken out second place in the Sports — Field Sports category at the 2016 International Photography Awards. What does this win mean to you?
Kai Schwoerer: It’s a great feeling. It’s second place but it doesn’t matter because being among the winners at this competition means you are a winner. This is one of the most highly regarded awards in the photography world and I expect this will give me a further boost and really good exposure with exhibitions in New York and other cities around the world.
Can you describe your favourite styles/genres of photography, and what drew you into shooting these styles?
Before I moved to New Zealand two years ago, I exclusively worked as a sports photographer. And this meant in my home country, Germany, I mainly covered football. After moving to Christchurch I had to widen my field of work because there is simply not enough happening to make a living from sports photography. I was lucky enough to get in touch with Tourism New Zealand very early on and therefore had the chance to get into many different genres, like landscape, event, and even food photography for them. Since the beginning of 2016, I have worked a lot for Getty Images, and now cover basically everything from architecture to portrait photography. I still love to cover sport, but I get more and more into studio photography. And with all the possibilities in New Zealand, I absolutely fell in love with action and adventure photography. I definitely don’t want to work in only one genre any more.
Can you please give us a bit of background around your winning shot — where was it taken, how did you capture the moment, what gear were you using?
The shot was taken in the dying minutes of the Crusaders First XV rugby semi-final between Christ’s College and Shirley Boys’ High this August in Christchurch. It was raining the whole day, so the pitch was extremely muddy. In fact, I could not even recognize the shirt numbers of the players after a couple of minutes. This created a very special atmosphere. I had been hoping to get this in a rugby match for quite a long time. I wanted to get as close to the action as possible, so I took the photo of the ruck with my Nikon D4 and a 400/2.8 lens. The most important equipment was the rain cover though, to protect the gear from the masses of mud.
What’s in your photography kit at the moment? And is there anything on your wishlist?
I’ve got a Nikon D5, D4, D810, D800, and Nikkor 400mm f2.8G ED AF-S VR, 70–200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR, 24–70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S, 14–24mm f2.8G ED AF-S and 50mm f/1.8G AF-S lenses, a 1.4 converter, and Elinchrom lighting gear. The next item on my wishlist is the Nikkor 400mm f2.8E FL ED VR lens, but that’s not too urgent.
What projects are you working on at the moment? Any plans to enter more competitions?
I just started a new project named Missing Out where I accompany athletes that were close to being able to take part in the Olympic Games, but missed out. I find it interesting to see how they continue their daily life, especially what they do on the day they would have competed at the Olympic Games.
I’m definitely keen on entering more competitions. Although I’ve won a couple of international competitions, I never managed to win at national photo competitions. So that’s my new target for New Zealand now.