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. Usain Bolt not happy with Tyson Gay’s reduced ban

    Jul 22, 2014, 5:21 PM EDT

    Olympics Day 15 - Athletics Getty Images

    “It is sending a bad message,” Bolt said.

  2. Gabby Douglas helps girl’s dream come true with Make-A-Wish

    Jul 22, 2014, 4:58 PM EDT

    Gabby Douglas

    Amarissa, 13, is a former gymnast who suffers from lupus.

  3. David Boudia ponders a third diving event leading to 2016

    Jul 22, 2014, 12:24 PM EDT

    David Boudia Getty Images

    Olympic champion finished his season in Shanghai last week.

  4. Guide to the Commonwealth Games

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:35 AM EDT

    Usain Bolt Getty Images

    Top sprinters from Jamaica, swimmers from Australia and more gather in Glasgow.

  5. First Olympic golf qualification rankings released

    Jul 21, 2014, 6:09 PM EDT

    Rory McIlroy AP

    U.S. stars would not make the Olympic field if it was determined today.

  6. Big 12 commissioner says men’s Olympic sports could be cut

    Jul 21, 2014, 3:13 PM EDT

    Bob Bowlsby AP

    NCAA’s current lawsuits may cut funding.

  7. Dutch cyclist cheats death twice, avoids both Malaysian Airlines flights

    Jul 21, 2014, 2:11 PM EDT

    Maarten de Jonge `

    “It’s inconceivable,” Maarten de Jonge said.

  8. 90-plus-year-old men set 3 world relay records at USATF Masters

    Jul 21, 2014, 10:43 AM EDT

    Champion Goldy

    Extraordinary men include war veterans, longtime NASA worker, Methodist minister.

  9. Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics chief quits

    Jul 21, 2014, 8:33 AM EDT

    Kim Jin-sun AP

    Kim Jin-sun had been the committee’s president since October 2011.

  10. Mariel Zagunis wins silver at World Fencing Championships (video)

    Jul 18, 2014, 3:09 PM EDT

    Mariel Zagunis Getty Images

    U.S. Olympic flag bearer returned to the podium after missing medals at 2012 Olympics, 2013 Worlds.

  11. Henry Ellard, former NFL All-Pro receiver, competes at USATF Masters

    Jul 18, 2014, 10:10 AM EDT

    Henry Ellard Getty Images

    Ellard triple jumped at 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials.

  12. Jesse Owens biopic cast headliners revealed

    Jul 17, 2014, 3:42 PM EDT

    Jesse Owens AP

    Multiple Owens biopics in the works.

  13. Lifetime doping bans not legal, WADA president says

    Jul 17, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    Craig Reedie Reuters

    But a four-year ban would stand up in court.

  14. Olympians, Paralympians at the ESPYs (photos)

    Jul 17, 2014, 1:49 PM EDT

    Jamie Anderson

    Sochi stars and a 12-time Olympic medalist were at Nokia Theater.

  15. Monaco Diamond League on world record watch; preview

    Jul 17, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT

    Absel Kiprop Getty Images

    Asbel Kiprop goes after 16-year-old mark in 1500m.

  16. South Korea men’s hockey team might not qualify for 2018

    Jul 17, 2014, 10:53 AM EDT

    South Korea hockey Getty Images

    Host countries aren’t assured spots in the Olympics anymore, and South Korea is ranked very low.

  17. Paralympic champion Josh Sweeney receives Tillman Award at ESPYs

    Jul 17, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT

    Josh Sweeney AP

    Sweeney, a Purple Heart recipient, scored the gold-winning goal in Sochi.