Red Bull Cliff Diving Returns to CPH

If you’ve had your head in the sand for the past few weeks (or have just moved to the country) then you might have missed out on some pretty awesome news: the return of Red Bull Cliff Diving to Copenhagen.

Back in June 2013, several of the world’s bravest athletes stood on the roof of Copenhagen’s Opera House before launching themselves off and in to the harbour waters below. The turnout of spectators was crazy, as thousands arrived en masse to catch a glimpse of this unique event. And this year they’ll do it all again.

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There were some amazing images from the event last time around, and chances are that this year will be no different. Many photographers (myself included) were welcome to take pictures but weren’t allowed on to the actual roof. Apart from Jesper Grønnemark.

Naturally Jesper’s work caught my eye after the competition and over the next few months, so a couple of weeks ago I invited him round for a coffee and an informal interview to hear about his journey from passionate Efterskole amateur to official Red Bull photographer.

Jens Petersen-Bach, sports fotograf i københavn, sportsfotograf, sports photography, sports photographer, sportfotografering,

In this industry, being in the right place at the right time has a lot to do with it. It was certainly no different for 17-year-old Jesper when he visited Copenhagen on a class trip with his fellow Business School students nine years ago. A huge fan of Freestyle Skiing, Jesper one day found himself face-to-face with one of Denmark’s best skiiers in a sports shop in the city. Realising a great opportunity when he saw it, Jesper went and introduced himself.

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“I just went over and said hi and told him that I was a sports photographer,” Jesper tells me. “I told him to check out my website and left it at that. Though I have to admit, ten years ago, my portfolio images weren’t the best,” he says with a smile. “But I’m guessing this guy saw something in the them, because two months later he invited me to the Danish Nationals in Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding.”

This was the big break that Jesper needed and within the year he was hired to make a film – a project that lasted 18 months – and was well on his way to becoming a professional sports photographer.

The jobs and projects kept coming in and eventually Jesper landed a three-week training programme at Red Bull Media House in Austria. It was here that he learned just what it was that the company needed from their photographers in terms of style, workflow and editing of images.

Since then Jesper has been the go-to guy for Red Bull as well as dozens of sports companies around the world, and his action and portrait images can be seen on posters, adverts and in magazines throughout Europe. Nowadays he can be found photographing all the major Red Bull events, plus many other action sport tournaments and competitions.

But it was one of Jesper’s most recent projects that caught my eye: Trapped in iPhone.

“My friend bought me the very first iPhone model seven- or eight years ago and we were sat there unlocking it when we came up with the idea,” he explains. “We thought, how cool would it be to have your contacts trapped in the phone.

“I’ve got a few images now for the project, I’m just looking for a computer geek to help me turn it in to an app.”

When I asked Jesper how he found the time for personal photo projects he gave me a very poetic answer: “Time isn’t something you’re given; you have to take it. I try to do one thing each day towards the project, even if it’s just sending an email or buying something from the supermarket.” Wise words, especially for those of us struggling to squeeze our lives in to our daily routines.

“It’s important to do your own personal projects and show them to the world. It’s easier to sell the idea once you’ve already done it.”

You can see a lot more of Jesper’s work by visiting his website or find out about his upcoming Action Sports Photography Workshop by visiting his Facebook page.

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Jesper Grønnemark, trapped in iPhone, sports fotograf i københavn, sportsfotograf, sports photography, sports photographer, sportfotografering,
Jesper Grønnemark, trapped in iPhone, sports fotograf i københavn, sportsfotograf, sports photography, sports photographer, sportfotografering,

Danish Photographer wins prestigious prize

World Press Photo of the Year 2014, First Prize Contemporary Issues.
Photo by Mads Nissen

World Press Photo ward, Mads Nissen,   First Prize Contemporary Issues, Russia, Homosexuality,

The winning photo from Danish photographer Mads Nissen.

A photograph that highlights the difficulties facing sexual minorities in Russia has won the World Press Photo contest’s top prize. ‘Jon and Alex’, from a project called ‘Homophobia in Russia’, shows a ‘intimate moment’ between a gay couple from St. Petersburg and won Danish photographer Mads Nissen the Contemporary Issues category of the competition, as well as the first prize for a single image, netting him 11,500 Euro and Canon DSLR equipment.

The 2015 contest attracted entries from 5692 photographers representing 131 nationalities, and drew in a total of 97,912 pictures. Once again what constitutes an acceptable degree of digital manipulation has been questioned, with a spokesperson reportedly telling UK photo magazine Amateur Photographer that 22% of the short listed entries were rejected by the jury once original files were called in for checking. The World Press Photo foundation published Integrity of the Image (PDF), a paper dealing with the characteristics of image manipulation and the acceptable boundaries last year, which describes what it considers ‘minor/normal/subtle/moderate’ and which acknowledges that defining ‘excessive’ is open to interpretation.

For more information on the winners, the competition and to see a gallery of all the winning entries, visit the World Press Photo website. You can also hear the phone call in which Nissen was told he had won the overall prize.

What do you think of the image? Did it deserve to win?

Bikes in the Harbour: Is yours down there?

You’d be surprised at how many there are

Man it was a chilly weekend in CPH. So I’m glad I warned my friends from the UK to bring extra clothing before they arrived on Wednesday afternoon. The couple flew in from the South West of England where temperatures are slightly milder than the rest of the country, so I expected it to be a bit of a shock for them and their 16-month-old daughter (who refused to keep her gloves on, by the way).

As with most Brits who experience Copenhagen culture for the first time they were shocked / intrigued / curious to see other babies and toddlers sleeping outside cafes in their prams and pushchairs whilst their parents sipped on a nice, warm mug of hot chocolate or chai latte inside. And of course they were impressed at the amount of cyclists streaming past, despite the sleet and snow and close to freezing temperatures.

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The team continue their search for missing and stolen bikes as onlookers take pictures. Temperatures that day were close to freezing

Which is when we all spotted something kinda cool down by Holmens Kanal: a recovery team retrieving abandoned bikes out of the crystal clear waters. There was already quite a little crowd taking pictures of the operation, which included a barge which was already heaving with rusty bicycles covered in aquatic plant life and the such.

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A bike is retrieved from the water by the team

The team was made up of at least one scuba diver that we could see, who was using a video camera connected to a monitor onboard the barge. Via the monitor we could see what he was seeing whilst listening to the dialogue between him and the crew. At this point my friend Laura pointed out how cold it must be down there for the diver, before her husband Alan – an independent Hot Tub specialist from South West Spas – replied that a supply of warm water was being pumped in to the diver’s suit, keeping him as comfortable as possible. Only a Hot Tub specialist would notice that!

Slowly and methodically the barge made its way down the canal, with the number of bikes being dragged out increasing every few minutes. Eventually Laura asked a very good question, “How the hell did they all get down there?” On average, 200 bikes go missing every day in Denmark, with the vast majority of them in Copenhagen. What’s more, just one in every 100 bike thefts result in criminal charges, reports the newspaper Politiken.

“If you register your new, expensive bike as stolen, but we do not have a suspect, we cannot investigate the case further,” Kaj Lykke Marlund, spokesperson for Copenhagen Police Station City, told Politiken. “So we can only find it if it is turned in as lost property, if we see it listed on Den Blå Avis, or if we stop someone who is riding it.”

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A member of the team throws another bike on to the pile of recently discovered bikes, tyres and trolleys

But the question still remains: if a bike isn’t stolen for financial gain then what is the reason? Kleptomania, perhaps? A quick getaway from another crime? Throwing a bike in to the harbour seems like a simple if not temporary way to hide evidence. Or maybe it’s the actions of drunk people on a night out. There are dozens of reasons, no doubt. In England we don’t have as many bikes to throw in the rivers that run through city centres, though interestingly, shopping trolleys seem to find their way in to the murky waters on a daily basis. I’d say there’s definitely a link here.

So if you’re new to Denmark and think that crime rates are low then you are absolutely correct. But, don’t forget to spend a little extra on a decent bike lock, otherwise you might find yourself identifying your precious mode of transport in a Canal Barge lineup this winter.

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Bikes and a mobility trolley can be seen onboard the barge

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen recovered from the waters of Copenhagen or your home town? Sign off below, with pictures if you have them.

Getting the shot: Nykredit CPH Marathon

January is usually a quiet time for me and probably most photographers in the Northern Hemisphere, but thankfully there’s been enough happening to keep me busy. Two weeks ago, for example, the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten printed a massive full-page advert for the Nykredit Copenhagen Marathon, which you can check out below.

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The full page Nykredit Copenhagen Marathon promo for Sparta

The brief for the picture was simple: get a few members of NBRO Runners to jog along Dronning Louises Bro (a wide bridge in the city centre) and make it look relatively empty of traffic.

I arrived half-an-hour early to scout out a decent spot where I could get high and look down on the runners. I even enquired in a few shops if it was OK to shoot from their upstairs windows. The answer was yes, but the windows wouldn’t open wide enough. So instead I reverted to plan B – a step ladder that I found lying abandoned in a stairwell. Remarkably I actually found the owner of the ladder in a restaurant and asked if it was cool to use it for 10 minutes. Like all Danes I meet, he wasn’t at all bothered and was only too happy to assist.

At 3:30pm the runners arrived and group leader Anders suggested they run right down the middle of the road. It was a daring idea but one I liked, so, with cars, buses and cyclists screaming past continuously, we got to work.

My assistant carefully held on to the ladder, which I had positioned on the central reservation along Nørrebrogade. Her instructions were to catch the camera first if I fell, and worry about me later. But with the light fading and the rush hour traffic increasing, time was against us and we had to work fast.

Nykredit Copenhagen Marathon, København Maraton, CPH, KBH, sports and action photography, sports fotograf, NBRO runners, running, løb, motion, photography by matthew james

Taking ridiculous risks as usual to get the shot.

Every 30 seconds or so we were given a window of easy traffic as the lights turned red, so in those moments the runners got in to formation and started jogging towards me. Unfortunately there wasn’t a single shot without some kind of vehicle in the background, but I thought I could worry about that later. And within five minutes we were done.

Back in the lab I started the “fun” process of elimination, whereby I had to choose which picture looked best, despite most of them all looking identical. I eventually found one with just one van in the background and immediately got rid of it in Photoshop.

Next I did a few basic edits to the sharpness and contrast, before converting it all to black and white and then popping the colour back in to the runners. Funnily enough I usually tease other photographers who do this, but on this occasion it actually seemed to work. I don’t know, you tell me.

Looking outside the window right now it’s hard to imagine spring, let alone summer. But time seems to fly by these days and it will be the Nykredit Copenhagen Marathon before you know it once again. If you’re taking part this year I’d love to hear from you, especially if it’s your first marathon. And if you crossed the finish line last year then you might like to see a selection of pictures from the race itself. Head over to and let me know what you think.

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