Skip to content

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

Aug 12, 2013, 7:47 AM EST

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. Lindsey Vonn OK after fall in Val d’Isere super-G (video)

    Dec 21, 2014, 10:07 AM EST

    Lindsey Vonn

    Austrian becomes oldest woman to win a World Cup race.

  2. Marcel Hirscher holds off Ted Ligety, passes Austrian legend

    Dec 21, 2014, 7:37 AM EST

    AP AP

    The two-man battle for giant slalom supremacy continues.

  3. Kaillie Humphries, Elana Meyers Taylor break gender barrier in bobsled World Cup

    Dec 20, 2014, 7:37 PM EST

    AP AP

    Humphries, Meyers Taylor finished 15th, 16th out of 17 sleds.

  4. Animation of what Rio Olympic Park will look like (video)

    Dec 20, 2014, 5:27 PM EST

    Rio Olympic Park

    Rio’s main Olympic Park will be half the size of London’s Olympic Park.

  5. Lindsey Vonn wins cow in Val d’Isere, one victory from record

    Dec 20, 2014, 8:40 AM EST

    Lindsey Vonn

    Background on the woman whose record Vonn is close to breaking.

  6. Pope jokes: I won’t be around for 2024 Olympics (video)

    Dec 19, 2014, 2:27 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Rome 2024 bid could include events in Vatican City.

  7. Michael Phelps gets probation after guilty plea in DUI case

    Dec 19, 2014, 12:41 PM EST

    Michael Phelps AP

    Phelps was supported by retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

  8. Steven Nyman records Val Gardena hat trick (video)

    Dec 19, 2014, 9:11 AM EST

    Steven Nyman Steven Nyman

    Nyman has won three World Cup races, all in Italy.

  9. Bradley Wiggins on Lance Armstrong, bluffing in Tour de France

    Dec 18, 2014, 4:39 PM EST

    Bradley Wiggins, Lance Armstrong Getty Images

    “He was incredible at that, almost befriending you, and then he’d slip the knife in your back.”

  10. Stephen Colbert and the Olympics

    Dec 18, 2014, 3:33 PM EST

    Stephen Colbert Getty Images

    Colbert had a memorable time at the 2010 Olympic speed skating oval and in an interview with Bob Costas in Vancouver.

  11. Adelina Sotnikova to miss Russia Figure Skating Championships

    Dec 18, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    Adelina Sotnikova Getty Images

    Olympic champion tore an ankle ligament in November.

  12. Lindsey Vonn: I don’t know if I’ll ski slalom again

    Dec 18, 2014, 11:14 AM EST

    AP AP

    Vonn entered five races in Vancouver 2010. She may never do that again at a global championship.

  13. Jon Drummond banned 8 years after assisting Tyson Gay’s doping

    Dec 17, 2014, 5:38 PM EST

    Jon Drummond Getty Images

    Decision details Gay’s acquisition and use of performance-enhancing drugs.

  14. Fukushima wants to host 2020 Olympic events

    Dec 17, 2014, 5:31 PM EST

    AP AP

    Fukushima’s previous governor pitched the area to be part of Tokyo 2020, too.

  15. Brazil names its Olympic sports athletes of the year

    Dec 17, 2014, 3:29 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    A look at host nation medal contenders for Rio 2016.

  16. Wilson Kipsang angry that missed drug test made public

    Dec 17, 2014, 2:37 PM EST

    AP AP

    “It is breach of privacy with malicious target to soil my name.”

  17. Spotlight on Ayumu Hirano until I-Pod, White return

    Dec 17, 2014, 1:51 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Japanese teen says he wasn’t satisfied winning silver in Sochi.

  18. South Korea eyes top four in 2018 Olympic medal standings

    Dec 17, 2014, 9:55 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    History shows that’s quite an ambitious goal.

  19. U.S. will bid for 2024 Olympics, no city chosen yet

    Dec 16, 2014, 7:12 PM EST

    Team USA Getty Images

    USOC could wait until February to announce its city.