Renowned golf course photographer David Cannon will shortly be heading to Augusta National for the 34th consecutive year. Here, he talks us through some of his best Masters pictures…
The US Masters is completely unique, so I find it hard to compare to other Major Championships. It’s so different for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most significant one for photographers is the fact we’re not allowed inside the ropes. That said, it provides the most incredible clean backgrounds all the time, which is one of the great attractions. That’s what makes it stand out – there’s never the clutter of an Open Championship or a US Open in the background. There are no bunker rakers or anything like that, and only two cameramen are allowed with each group, and they are only ever on the fairways and never around the greens. Augusta is pristine.
There used to be a couple of special towers for photographers, but they have now disappeared, so we’re pushing through the galleries and jostling with the crowds in order to get the shots we want. We do get access to the backs of some grandstands, but that’s about it. Camera equipment has got much better over the years, but it’s still a challenge for a photographer. Still, it’s the most amazing feeling going to The Masters. You just walk around with your mouth open. Over the years, I’ve developed a system for shooting at Augusta and I’ve taken some shots that have come to be seen as iconic. Here are some of my favourites…
Par 3 Contest – 2011
I’ve been lucky enough to play Augusta National once, but I’m dying to play the par-3 course. This photo (top) – of the 8th and 9th greens during the Par 3 Contest – was taken on a particularly beautiful afternoon. It’s just a lovely spot and the cloudscape was gorgeous. Whenever I do a course shot, I’m almost as interested in the sky as I am the actual course.
Jack Nicklaus – 1986
Seve is my hero, and I was following him when I heard the huge roars after Nicklaus eagled 15 and birdied 16. At Augusta, when the roars start going on the back nine, it’s an extraordinary thing. The 15th and 17th fairways run parallel to each other, and I literally changed direction four times as I couldn’t decide whether to follow Seve or Jack. I had enough sense at the time to follow Nicklaus. Fortunately, he put the ball into a spot on the 17th green where I could get a photo above the crowd. Since then, it’s become an iconic image.
Sarazen, Snead and Nelson – 1999
When I first went to Augusta, the three honorary starters actually played nine holes ahead of the field. They had stopped doing that by 1999, but it was just amazing to see Gene Sarazen hitting a golf shot. You hear so much about Nicklaus, Palmer and Player, but these were the three legends before them.
Phil Mickelson – 2010
How I got this picture I’ll never know. I was in totally the wrong place back down the 13th fairway. The crowd was literally seven deep, and that’s an occasion when you simply can’t get through. I stood on my tip toes and put my monopod on the top of my foot to get an extra four inches higher. It made all the difference and I found an angle to get a shot through the crowd, right over people’s heads. I had to hand-hold the long lens to get the picture. I was lucky to get this one.
Tiger Woods – 2005
This was taken from one of the photographers’ towers we used to have access to, which gave you a great elevated position. It just shows you how narrow that driving area is. The eye of the needle is the right expression. Here, you’ve got Tiger in his trademark Sunday red, fans streaming all the way down the hole and a beautiful Augusta spring afternoon.
Sandy Lyle – 1988
This was a brilliant one for me, because I played amateur golf with Sandy. To see him win The Open in ’85 and The Masters in ’87 was fantastic. We used to have a photographers’ tower behind the 18th green – which gave you the great angle – but that’s no longer there. It’s very frustrating! I was always able to do the tee shot on 18, walk briskly to the green and get up the tower in time for the winning putt.
Seve Ballesteros – 1992
Seve had tugged his drive left on 13 into a sea of azaleas. I was probably about 80 yards from him on completely the other side of the fairway, and it’s a big dogleg. These pictures are hard to get because it’s deep shade over there, so I was really pleased with this one. I tend to spend my afternoons just roaming around 12 and 13, waiting for people to find spots like Seve did!