The accidental shutterbug

Falling into photography by chance has taken a French journalist all over the globe

Raphael Sachetat is a man of many talents. As well as photographing international badminton tournaments, he also writes about technology for a string of publications. For the last decade, the Frenchman has worked as a columnist for Les Echos, an economic newspaper for which he writes about high-tech gadgets.

While capturing the candid moments of some of the world's best badminton players, he has managed to travel the world.

"I began my journalism career as a general reporter at a local newspaper in Paris, moving to sports photography very much by chance," said Sachetat.

"While covering a badminton event for the first time for the International Badminton Federation website - which back then was called Badminton World Federation - I realised there weren't any sports photographers covering the event. So apart from filing my daily report, I took the initiative to photograph the players in action.

"I invested in a small digital camera (800,000 pixels) and began selling photos of the tournaments I covered from then onwards. This was during the beginning of the digital era."

As Sachetat's clients increased, he began investing in more advanced camera technology and taking night classes in photography to pave a better career path for himself. On-the-job training also helped him to carve a niche in the profession.

One of the most memorable tournaments for the Frenchman was the 2004 Athens Olympics, his first Olympics as a photographer.

"The most fond memory I had was when I made a friendly bet with Indonesian ace player Taufik that he would clinch the gold medal," Sachetat said. "To cut a long story short, he did indeed reach the finals, and when he won match point to become Olympic champion, he came and hugged me, whispering in my ear, 'You were right, I won!'."

Sachetat said he has great admiration for Thai badminton players because they demonstrate mutual respect for their opponents. Thai coaches also do a good job in developing the talents of their players at a pace that best suits them, he observed. Unlike countries such as China, which expects their players to become unbeatable machines, Thai coaches understand the psychology behind building up their team members.

Sachetat has high regard for local talents Sudket Prapakamol and Boonsak Ponsana. As for Ratchanok Inthanon, who had a successful run of form during the London Olympics, despite missing out on a medal, the photographer bets his last dollar she will win gold at the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Sachetat has also started a charity called Solibad (http://www.solibad.net). Explaining its philosophy, he said: " Solibad brings together the badminton community to collect funds to initiate projects involving needy children in different parts of the world."

The photographer's travels have taken him to a host of countries, including Thailand. Here, Sachetat shares local destinations he would love to capture on camera.

Koh Phi Phi has wilderness and beautiful sea to photograph. In my opinion, it is not as crowded with tourists as islands closer to Bangkok. It also has ample places to chill out and even go scuba diving. Apart from the amazing white sandy beaches, I find the rock formations rising from the turquoise waters that surround the smaller islands a sight to behold. It really feels like paradise on Earth. PHOTO: PEERAWAT JARIYASOMBAT

Koh Samui. I visited the beautiful island for the first time as a teenager. I have always found it to be a great spot for both partying and also recharging the batteries from the stress of city life at secluded beaches where I can just enjoy being close to nature. It has a host of eye-catching temples and nature to photograph, especially the Big Buddha, a famous landmark, which I recall vividly and enjoy capturing on camera. PHOTO: SURAPHONG CHAOLAN

Bangkok also has an interesting number of temples that make subjects for a good photo shoot. Temples such as Wat Pho are always nice to photograph for their architecture and sparkling beauty. It is a real delight to experience the sights and sounds of temple life. PHOTO: APICHART JINAKUL

Chiang Mai is the [best place] for capturing trekking in the wild. I love the rainforest. Photographing wild animals going about their business would be truly amazing, but equally amazing would be to visit ethnic communities. I would be interested to observe their reactions when they see a caucasian like myself. It's always great to use digital cameras in this case as they love to see themselves on the screen. PHOTO: GOMASE THEENANON

Pak Khlong Talat, a Bangkok flower market, is one destination I enjoy visiting for its variety of eye-catching blooms. It serves as a great source of colour and inspiration for photographers. The sweet smell of flowers that come in huge quantities and different shapes are great to capture, especially with a micro lens. PHOTO: JETJARAS NA RANONG

About the author

columnist
Writer: Yvonne Bohwongprasert
Position: Reporter