i may be in middle school but when it comes to world cup sports…i got the big picture

This winter I was offered the chance to come back to Lake Placid and watch World Cup bobsled and skeleton racing. I had been to Lake Placid once before, and I had such a great time that I jumped to be there again and watch the event at the Mt. Van Hoevenberg track.

When I arrived, I was amazed how fast a skeleton athlete zoomed past by me and my Dad. Television just doesn’t do these sports justice, you really need to be here to watch and feel the speed as these athletes fly past you at speeds of more than 80 miles-per-hour.

My dad and I set up his photography gear at what’s known as the press center. This is where all of the media (television, print, web, social media and photographers) work during the event. Before, between runs and after the race, it’s organized chaos as all of these people scramble for interviews and send out their articles and photos to meet their deadlines. It helps that most of them do this amped up on either caffeine or high on sugar, as there’s plenty of really (I mean really) bad coffee, but delicious cookies and other snacks that are served all day long.

The media center is located near the middle area of the track because it makes it easier for the media to walk up and down the mile long track, so we decided to make the half mile trek from the center to the top of the track.

When we got to the start house my dad told me to go to this one spot and gave me some instructions on how to make good photos of the athletes. My father is a professional sports photographer, who works for the EPA, which is the European Press Agency, so over the last few years he’s taken many photos of the sliding sports in Lake Placid.

I lined myself up to where my father told me to and as the first slider started pushing the sled down the start ramp towards me, I snapped my first pictures and immediately turned around and told him that this was one thousand times better than school. After all, my dad pulled me out of school for two days to be with him.

After the first day of racing of women’s skeleton and two-man and women’s bobsled, dad said that he had put seven of my photos on his agency’s website. This is where everyone from his work could see them and where newspapers can use them for their articles. In fact, later that day he said that we had a slideshow on a German news website and that I was doing a great job.

Finnian Gunther taking photos outside
On the job

When we arrived to the hotel to unpack and begin organizing all of the equipment that we would need to cover the three-day race, my dad gave me my photography credential.

These credentials have several numbers and letters and depending on what the numbers and letters are, you are allowed to go to certain areas of the track that the spectators can’t go. My credential, with my name on the front, had a bunch of numbers and letters, to include 1A, which allowed me to go to the start area; 2, giving me permission to the finish house and 3A, meant I could go to the track’s outrun, which is the finish line. It also had 4A, C, D, written on the back and this allowed me into three more areas to include all of the press areas and all of the photography areas along the track, so I was excited.

The whole event is exciting from start to finish and I learned that there is so much that goes on behind the scenes that the fans and spectators just don’t know about. It’s so much more than athletes sliding, from the media, to the television crews, the coaches, event organizers and all of the volunteers, I really saw what goes on to put together this type of event. But everyone looks like they’re having fun. They also look pretty tired at the end of the last day, and as we were packing up and saying good bye, I told my dad that I had so much fun here that I want to come back next year.

Yellow bobsled with kids cheering
World Cup Bobsledding captured by Finnian Gunther/EPA


Finnian Gunther is 12 years old and is in the seventh grade at Marshall Simonds Middle School in Burlington, just north of Boston. He is on two soccer teams and also plays the guitar.

CJ Gunther, dad to Finnian, lives just outside of Boston and works as the New England Regional Staff Photographer for the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA). He attended the University of Connecticut, studying Fine Art. He has been awarded for images in sport, news and feature photography and had a solo exhibition at the Gallery at Exposure Place and an upcoming exhibition at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek, CA. His work has been seen in magazines and newspapers world wide including Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine, USA Today and The New York Times, to name a few.