Skip to content

Photographer who captured Usain Bolt-lightning bolt image calls it ‘pure luck’

Aug 12, 2013, 7:47 AM EDT

Usain Bolt Getty Images

Olivier Morin turned from his photographer’s position near the finish line five minutes after Usain Bolt won the 100 meters at the World Championships on Sunday, looked at his laptop and came across a once-in-a-lifetime image.

The Milan-based Morin, 47, has been shooting for Agence France-Presse (AFP) for 25 years. He captured the photo to the right of the Jamaican slowing down about 30 meters after crossing the finish at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow with a bolt of lightning striking in the dark background sky.

“At this moment when I saw the lightning, I thought it’s kind of special photo,” Morin said in a telephone interview from Moscow. “A good photo. But I underestimated the reaction of this picture.”

Morin blogs about his photo for AFP

Before the race, Morin set up five remote cameras down the track from his position at the finish in order to get Bolt’s reaction to winning or losing. Morin, who has been shooting track and field championships for 11 years, knows from experience that Bolt takes a longer distance after a race to fully react to his wins than your average sprinter. So he sets up one camera a little farther down than normal, 30 meters past the finish.

When Bolt won the 100 in 9.77 seconds, Morin was not only shooting with his regular camera at the finish, but also recording shots with remote cameras. When Bolt was on his victory lap, Morin checked the images from his five remote cameras.

“When I looked at my remote pictures, I was looking at my pictures as little images (on my laptop),” Morin said. “I didn’t see the lightning bolt was in it (at first). I opened the pictures, and I saw four pictures with the lightning. Two were not usable. There were two more where the lightning was clean and Usain Bolt was in the picture.”

Morin said a surprising aspect of the photo was not the bolt, but Bolt.

“He was without reaction,” Morin said. “The finish line was kind of neutral for him. That’s why this picture, if not for the lightning, I would not have used. There was nothing with this picture; 99 percent of this picture is the lightning. It’s pure luck.”

Morin said it’s the kind of shot a photographer could work his whole life and never capture. But he deflected praise, instead referring over and over to luck and fortune.

“It’s never happened before during 25 years, since I started working,” he said. “I think if I want to try for the next 50 years, it will never happen again.

World Track and Field Championships broadcast schedule

“It was a good conjunction of two parameters, one predictable and the other one not predictable,” Morin said. “That unpredictable parameter that made this photo was the lightning.”

Morin was back at work in Moscow on Monday to shoot the women’s 100-meter final, among other events. He went about setting up his remote cameras the same way he did Sunday — one 30 meters after the finish line — just in case luck would strike again.

“I don’t think I’m going to be lucky two days in a row,” he joked. “If I am, I’m going to change jobs or something else.”

UPDATE (10:45 a.m. ET): Bolt reportedly said this after the race about the lightning in Moscow: “I’ve got to get that picture right now,” he said, according to R-Sport. “That’s a pretty cool picture if it’s so.”

Morin said Monday that he would give Bolt a copy of the photo if the sprinter would like it.

Video: Bolt wins 100 amid rain, lightningEaton wins decathlon, now will watch wife compete
Reese takes historic long jump title | Women’s 100 meters preview | Men’s hurdles preview

Latest Posts
  1. James Magnussen out of World Swimming Championships

    May 23, 2015, 7:40 PM EDT

    James Magnussen Getty Images

    Nathan Adrian’s biggest rival in the 100m freestyle could still be an Australian.

  2. Rulon Gardner on returning to wrestling training, getting his gold medal back

    May 22, 2015, 3:44 PM EDT

    Rulon Gardner Getty Images

    The 2000 Olympic champion continues to struggle with weight loss.

  3. Rome mayor wants 2024 Olympic medal ceremonies in Colosseum

    May 22, 2015, 9:57 AM EDT

    Rome Colosseum Getty Images

    “We want to rebuild the arena of the Colosseum so that the athletes can be lifted in like the gladiators in the Roman times.”

  4. Olympians recall David Letterman appearances

    May 21, 2015, 11:49 AM EDT

    David Letterman, Tara Lipinski

    Skaters, skiers, gymnasts, track and field athletes and more.

  5. Russian Olympic boss sets Rio 2016 medal standings target

    May 21, 2015, 9:18 AM EDT

    Russia Getty Images

    Russia ceded its place as top challenger to the U.S. in recent Olympics.

  6. First set of Olympic rings unveiled in Rio de Janeiro

    May 20, 2015, 8:10 PM EDT

    Rio Olympic rings Getty Images

    They were a gift from a previous Olympic host city.

  7. Missy Franklin, more Olympians lead most marketable athletes list

    May 20, 2015, 3:07 PM EDT

    Missy Franklin Getty Images

    Usain Bolt dropped on the list and is no longer the top track and field athlete.

  8. German amputee keeps rivaling top long jumpers, eyes Olympics

    May 20, 2015, 1:38 PM EDT

    Markus Rehm Getty Images

    Markus Rehm jumped another personal best on Saturday, moving up the list of top active jumpers.

  9. David Letterman and the Olympics

    May 20, 2015, 1:09 PM EDT

    David Letterman Getty Images

    Letterman had a special correspondent at the 1994 and 1998 Winter Olympics.

  10. Caster Semenya: I can’t stop running because of gender controversy

    May 20, 2015, 12:53 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The Olympic silver medalist has been off the elite competition radar for nearly two years.

  11. Gwen Jorgensen’s triathlon bike helmet includes Paul Bunyan, Bucky Badger

    May 20, 2015, 11:56 AM EDT

    Gwen Jorgensen

    The World champion explained the origin of her design.

  12. Justin Gatlin: ‘All is fine’ with Beijing meet organizers

    May 20, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT

    Justin Gatlin Getty Images

    Gatlin’s agent also called the sprinter “misunderstood.”

  13. Roger Bannister’s shoes from 4-minute mile set for auction

    May 20, 2015, 8:21 AM EDT

    AP AP

    A stopwatch used to time Bannister’s feat was also recently auctioned.

  14. Emily Seebohm, top rival to Missy Franklin, dislocates knee

    May 19, 2015, 12:41 PM EDT

    Emily Seebohm Getty Images

    Seebohm took silver behind Franklin in 2012 and 2013 but was faster last year.

  15. Justin Gatlin ‘kicked out’ of Beijing track meet

    May 19, 2015, 7:47 AM EDT

    Justin Gatlin Getty Images

    “They didn’t have any respect for me.”

  16. Michael Phelps self-assessment: ‘horrendous,’ ‘garbage’ after winless Charlotte meet

    May 18, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The 22-time Olympic medalist finished first or second in zero events at a meet for the first time since the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

  17. USA Diving finalizes World Championships roster

    May 18, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT

    David Boudia Getty Images

    David Boudia leads the team, while a four-time Olympian just missed.

  18. Mao Asada blogs about returning to figure skating

    May 18, 2015, 7:18 AM EDT

    Mao Asada Getty Images

    The three-time World champion is training again but isn’t definite on competing.