We’ve been trackside at the IAAF World Championships throughout its 30-year history, using the latest in camera technology to capture iconic sporting moments.

Our photographers have documented every soaring high and gut wrenching low at the championships since 1983, creating an unrivalled visual legacy of the IAAF. And it’s a legacy that continues to grow due to the human vision and ground-breaking technology used to achieve each shot.

As a result moments such as Jonathan Edwards in tears after breaking the men’s triple jump world record in Gothenburg in 1995, Colin Jackson’s patriot contact lens at the Athens event in 1997 and Marion Jones floored by an injury at 1999’s Seville championships have all been immortalised by our photographers – and appear in our slideshow of 15 iconic images below.

The Moscow meet

This August we sent seven photographers to Moscow to continue this visual legacy at the 2013 Championships. But it takes more than a single camera to capture these unforgettable images and ensure they reach the client in a matter of minutes. Fortunately they were supported inside the Luzhniki Stadium by Director of Sport Photography Steve Rose, four editors, two operations staff, an IT expert – and crucially the latest in digital technology.

Rose has worked on every Championship since it began in 1983 and has been at the forefront of the digital innovations being made to ensure our images are unrivalled.  This year was no exception; for the first time we used robotic cameras rigged up to the stadium roof which offered a unique perception on the action below.  “These can fire shots from unique areas where an actual photographer can’t go for health and safety reasons,” explains Rose.

The results achieved by our team and its technology were once again ground-breaking. Despite extensive briefs, quick turnarounds, 18-hour days and a cast of unpredictable sporting stars the end result was a rich edit of inspired shots. Many were taken by photographer Julian Finney who’s photo diary of the 2013 event can be seen here.

The early years

Things haven’t always been so high-tech, however. Rose recalls how only two photographers were sent to the first World Championships. “It was all shot on transparency film and edited back in our office in London,” he says. “It took many days to go through the thousands of rolls of film before it was sent out to clients with the help of couriers.”

Fortunately digital technology quickly evolved; by the Rome championships in 1987 we were offering the first syndication of transparencies, while by Tokyo in 1991 that had developed into a full live transmission service. As a result our iconic image of Linford Christie crossing the 100m finish line to clinch gold at the 1993 Stuttgart championships could reach a global audience in record time.

The next huge technological milestone would come eight years later when digital cameras were employed for the first time at the 1999 Seville event, streamlining our practice further. That summer our photographers captured every moment of Michael Johnson’s demolition of the 400m world record – and his animated celebrations afterwards – thanks to their digital capabilities.

The human touch

In today’s digital age such innovations have enable us to maintain our position as an industry leader and continue to drive us forward.

So will there ever come a time when our IAAF coverage will be created completely remotely? Rose thinks not, insisting the “manned photographer” is irreplaceable. While technology may be able to reach beyond human limitations in a literal sense, it can’t replicate the human touch or the natural instinct to turn a lens and capture that unexpected moment of sporting gold.