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Serena vs. Andreescu: The U.S. Open final match in one image

What could have been a 37-year-old legend’s 24th Grand Slam win ended in a 19-year-old Canadian’s first U.S. Open victory. And what you’re looking at above and below is a composite of the entire match. Well, selected moments from the match to be more accurate.

This composite image of Serena Williams’ loss to Bianca Andreescu is a time-lapse of sorts — the goal was to tell the whole story of the championship match in one frame. The resulting photo is a composite reminiscent of dance-like choreography, a representation of an elite athletic event, from beginning to end.

(See larger version of photo here.)

I’ve been compositing images like the U.S. Open one since college, but I’m certainly not the first to do multiple exposure or time-lapse photo illustrations. Some composite photographers do multiple exposures “in camera” (there was a wave of photographers exploring this in the 2012 Olympics). And others composite their images in post. Stephen Wilkes’ Day to Night series is one particularly famous, and stunning, collection that merges photos taken over the course of a day. 

So how was the picture made?

TL;DR: photoshop and patience.

For the long answer, here you go:

Ideally, you set up on a tripod. This helps keep the shot lined up for a smoother editing process later.

I did a trial run of this image a week earlier, choosing a position to capture everything I’d hoped for, choosing a location out of the way of fans (a media credentials helps in this regard).

A trial run also gave me a sense of how much time it would take to edit the images together. This particular image took 14 hours of editing … and that’s because I did not use sticks …

In total, I only took 1,237 images, on two cameras. I say “only” because when I usually shoot sports, the number is much greater.

One camera (Canon 5D Mark IV with lens at 17mm) for the wide of Arthur Ashe Stadium and another camera (same model but with a lens at 200mm) for all the court shots.

Among the RAW photos, I cull these down to 160 selects, all notable moments or interesting body positions. Those are then merged together manually (there are programs to do this automatically, but I find that manual works ensures greater accuracy).

I layered all the images, and the previously selected 160 dropped down to 55 pictures that made the final cut.

It’s essentially two final photo illustrations merged into one — a stadium/crowd composite and a court composite.

It took four hours of photography, 14 hours of editing, and one massive picture (140 inches across) to tell the story. See several cut-ins below.

One section of the court in a photo illustration of Serena Williams versus Bianca Andreescu at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

One section of the court in a photo illustration of Serena Williams versus Bianca Andreescu at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Two moments composited, a celebratory court kiss, and a slam, in a photo illustration of Serena Williams versus Bianca Andreescu at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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