The second week 2013 in October in Oberhof, Thuringia, shortly before the weekend that brought the first heavy snowfall of the year in the south of Germany: the Nordic Paralympic Ski Team Deutschland set off in high spirits to the national team's training camp. Running, shooting practice, fitness training - the first international competitions start in December and the Nordic Ski Team's hopes and expectations are running high.
But the expression on Michael Ebert's face is getting grimmer and grimmer. N&M's chief photographer - among other things he has photographed the "One of us" advertising campaign since its premiere in 2008 - is struggling with adverse conditions. The temperature in the ski and biathlon stadium on the main ridge of the Thuringian Forest is a constant minus 4 degrees. Although it is warmer outside, it is also foggier and it has been raining for hours. What is more, as a background for photographs the rather functional construction of the arena is just as dull as the hotel accommodating the disabled sportsmen and women, their guides, coaches and support staff.
And the list of jobs to be done has rarely been as extensive as it is for this shoot: advertising motifs, individual portraits of the athletes, training photos, team photos, motif for the press photo. And then this: inside icy fingers and bare concrete; outside it is so cold and wet that the health of the athletes is at risk. In order to keep the impact on training to a minimum, the "photo team" and "sport team" agree to attempt to shoot the portrait photos in the team canteen. Although it exudes as much charm as you might expect from typical catering premises, it is large, light and warm inside. What is more, there is coffee and lunch for all, which makes the whole thing rather pleasant.
N&M's commitment to the team, the resulting marketing ideas as well as the timetable for the photos are all discussed on this Friday in large groups and off-the-cuff conversations. Although the athletes have just completed their first training session in the Ski Arena, it is now time to get on with the individual portraits. Thanks to the team's cheerful and natural demeanour, the individual photos are taken in no time at all.
The first idea for an advertising motif with Vivian Hösch and Anja Wicker also comes about quite spontaneously - it is decided that posters from past Winter Olympics, which adorn the canteen walls, should serve as a background. A quick look at the test photos is enough to persuade them to go ahead! Vivian Hösch, who has been blind since she was nine years old, asks her friend Anja Wicker to describe the photo: "You look good!" she says with a broad grin. Last season the cross-country skier and biathlete from Stuttgart, who competes on a sit-ski, regularly battled her way onto the podium. After two more shots, everyone is satisfied with the motif and the photos. Actually, at least three or four different ideas for photos are usually realised during N&M shootings for advertisements - but if everyone is so happy with the result...
Whereas the press photo was taken in the morning in the so-called Wax Room together with the training photos, the team photo has to be finished before the next session. And now it is getting darker with a new rain front closing in on the Thuringian Forest. The photographer completely rearranges the team, climbs on tables and chairs, changes perspectives and framing - and then comes to the conclusion: later on the background will have to be changed completely. No problem; the main thing is to have a picture with a lot of smiling faces. And lots of those were taken today...