How I got the shot: The AJC’s Curtis Compton tells story of iconic photo

AUGUSTA - Even a fall down a muddy hill didn’t stop Curtis Compton from getting the photo.

Compton, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution photographer, is working his 35th and final Masters this week. The veteran was asked which of the tens of thousands of photos he has taken over the years was his favorite. He chose the photo of Adam Scott celebrating his playoff victory over Angel Cabrera in 2013. A framed copy of the photo hangs in the media building at Augusta National.

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Here is the story behind the iconic photo.

The photographer: Compton’s first Masters was in 1986 when he covered the tournament for UPI. That was the year Jack Nicklaus won this sixth green jacket at age 46.

The details: Scott defeated Cabrera in a two-hole playoff, winning in sudden-death with a birdie on No. 10 after each had parred No. 18 on the first playoff hole. Each birdied No. 18 in regulation to force the playoff. On No. 10, both players hit the green from the fairway. Cabrera missed a lengthy putt and tapped in for par. Scott then made a 15-foot putt for birdie and the dramatic victory.

The equipment: The photo was taken with a Canon EOS-1DX camera with a 70-200mm f2.8 lens at 200mm at 1/800 second and a F-stop of 3.5 at ISO 10,000. Compton didn’t use bigger lens so he didn’t miss the background.



The story: It had been raining all day making for miserable conditions for a photographer covering the vast grounds of Augusta National taking pictures of the participants and action.

Compton shot the 18th hole from the big scoreboard tower. When both players parred the hole in the playoff, Compton knew what to do next.

“Having been here a long time, I knew (the playoff) was going to (No.) 10 at that point. I shoot from the big scoreboard side, so I’m the closest to the 10th hole. I went under the rope, where you really aren’t supposed to go, and go down the rope line to avoid the fans. I’m the first guy on the way. I got passed by two people that were almost running.”

There was a photo tower at No. 10, which doesn’t exist anymore, and the limited spots fill up fast. If you are there in time, you get an overhead spot with an unobstructed view of the green.

“It was really slick,” Compton said. “Right when I got to the hill at the tower, I slipped and fell. I hit the ground. I jumped up, grab all my stuff and climb up the tower and clean off my cameras.”

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There was some luck involved as well.

“I was in the perfect spot,” Compton said. “(Scott) was standing kind of sideways from me. When he putted, and made the putt to win the Masters, he turned right toward the photo tower and put is arms in the air. (His caddie) Stevie (Williams) is right behind him and he is reacting as much. Right behind Stevie is Cabrera, who lost. It was the perfect photo – the winner, the loser, all in one frame.”

Compton got many images of the celebration, but it was clear which was the exact moment.

“When it goes to a playoff, it’s always harder and the day gets late, but the photos are incredible when someone wins in a moment like that,” Compton said.