Let’s Play I Spy

Greetings from the 2014 USAT Age Group National Championship in Milwaukee.

Over the next 2 days, I will be tweeting images from the course.

If you find your photo, follow us at @CompImagePhoto and re-tweet, I will send you the print or a digital file!

Good luck and have fun.

Cheers

 

 

It Lives – The Spirit of Triathlon Photo Contest.

APOLOGIES! Fool that I was I thought I could continue to review images, post blogs and promote the 2014 Spirit of Triathlon Photo Contest while I was shooting the Sochi Olympics.  If you have managed to follow any of my blog posts, you will understand my work schedule and hopefully forgive. Well either that or just concur with how stupid I was for thinking I could do both!

But Triathlon Season is starting and I am off to the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon this afternoon. In addition, in Minneapolis after a brutally cold winter spring is in the air. Well that is if you count walking my dog for the first time without wearing thermal underwear (me, not my dog), it is a good sign.

Since I have been utterly remiss in things we are extending the contest entry date to April 30th! All other details are the same, and we really have an amazing prize list.

Over the next few weeks, I will be shooting at the Oceanside 70.3, San Juan 70.3, St. Anthony’s Tri and St. George 70.3. If you are going to be there, shoot me an email and perhaps we can connect!

Here are three recent images that have been submitted. First is Pro Guy Crawford running into T-1 submitted by Dennis Tan.

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Cool early mornings are always create a special atmosphere at an event, this one at the Savageman 70.3 by Barry Young.

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Finally for today, where would any of us be with our family support. The Spirit of Triathlon goes well beyond the athlete. As we all know, competing is really a family event! This shot by Nick Morales.

~_Images_201_MoralesNi_3Get your photos together and sent in! We have some great shots this year – let’s see yours!

I am off to Abu Dhabi, but will post more in the next couple days.

ENTER HERE and after you enter, tweet your photo with the tag #SpiritOfTri

More soon -

Paul

Sochi – In the Rear View Mirror – Part 2 – Olympic Fitness Program

I knew going to Sochi was going to be physically demanding. London was hard, but I at that time I was still in recovery mode from my run in with the SUV in 2011. This year after my triathlon race season had wrapped up in mid-November I made a commitment to myself to get in shape, with the lofty goal of being Not Bad for an Old Guy!

With the help of my friends from Core Power Yoga in Edina, MN I was there 5 days a week for the next 13 weeks! I know what you are thinking, I do not quite match the typical demographic of the yoga practitioner and OMG – He’s Wearing Yoga Pants! But with the help and support of some great instructors and friends; and the fact that working alone they were the only human beings I got to see during the day, I made it.

After 3 flights over 2 days and over 6,000 air miles, I arrived in Sochi without too much physical stress. I had gotten a good night’s sleep in Moscow and had a couple of good meals. I was now rested and ready to go!

I was lucky enough to get a ticket and as such, my first event was the Opening Ceremonies.  Scheduled to begin at 8:14 PM (20:14 duh) at first sounds like an easy day. However I had to be at the USOC office to get my ticket at 2:00, which since I was unfamiliar with transit times, I left my apartment at 11:30 AM.

Ultimately we had to be in place at Fisht Stadium by 5:00 PM before the public was allowed into the venue. The good news is that I was with a great group who I would have the privilege of seeing at varies venues over the next two weeks.  The bad news was we had to go up 10 flights of stairs, down eight, back up five flights, walk through a tunnel and then finally up to our position. Of course I was carrying all of my gear, except my laptop which I left locked at the media center.

Little did I know this was the warm up for what would become the norm for the week. Arrive early, haul equipment and climb stairs.

I know what you are thinking here – what if you had a party, invited the entire world and well, no one showed up? Sochi Opening Ceremonies

Nope, I didn’t get to see the lighting of the torch, it was outside and I was inside!

Sochi Opening CeremoniesWe finally got out of the stadium after 11:00 PM and decided to walk back to the Media Center since the buses would have probably taken longer! It was a long walk at the end of a long day! I transmitted a few images, picked up my things from my locker and headed to get the bus back to the mountains.  Keeping in mind it is my first day, I asked for bus TM10 to Gorki and the smiling volunteer said  – you can also take TM5, so I did. As it turned out, TM5 just drove in a 20 minute loop to the hotels around the Olympic Park and returned to the Media Center.

At this point I was far to exhausted to be upset and well, what good would it do? I found TM10 back to the Gorki Mountain Media Center and transferred to TM13 to my hotel. When I asked the transportation volunteers how long until TM13 arrives, they said 10 minutes. Funny thing over the 2 + weeks I was there, it was ALWAYS 10 minutes; never 5, never 15 – always 10 minutes. Finally just after 2:00 AM, I collapsed!

The next day was my first day at the Laura Biathlon & Ski complex. This was much more convenient, a 15 minute walk through security to the Krasnaya Polyana cableway (and yes it is pronounced just like that, but my iPhone auto-correct kept changing it to Polly Anna).

Sochi Walk About

More on Security later, but I took the big cableway (20+ capacity) to a smaller cableway (6 capacity) to the top of the venue. It was really pretty easy. Easy until I got off the cableway and looked up at the stairs I had to climb to get to the venue. 10 flights, yup I counted them!

10 flights of stairs and I had made one critical omission. I had somehow neglected to consider the venue was DUH – on a mountain and instead of the my Minneapolis normal 800 feet above sea level, I was now at almost 5,000 ft! I started walking up the stairs at my normal pace and after a few flights I felt like I was going to explode! Couple more flights, more of an explosion! Hot, sweaty, dehydrated and sucking wind!

OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games -  - Mens Giant SlalomI was able to gather myself together, get in position to shoot the Cross Country event, and then back to Biathlon to get ready for the evenings race.

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USBA140208 013Post event, I was totally oblivious to how far I had walked earlier – I was sure it was about 7 miles. I asked if there was a bus to the cableway. Of course! I took MX1 to the cableway. Just one problem, different cableway. Which ultimately ended in much discussion to find another bus and a late night 30 minute walk carrying all of my gear back to my apartment! This is only day 2!

I think it was day 4 when I realized that I was working at altitude (there was a reason they called it the Mountain Cluster – previously I was thinking Cluster was the key word), from there I just climbed the stairs more slowly, used my yoga breath and could make it up all 100 flights (oops, I mean 10) without a problem.

For the next couple nights, it was a quick and easy trip down. However on the 3rd night, I could no longer take the 10 flights of stairs directly down to the cableway, I now had to take an 18 minute side trip up and down hills through slush and ultimately up 5 more flights of stairs to get to the same spot. Why you ask? The ubiquitous answers to any question like this is: Because this is Russia!

As the games progressed I was able to find ways to conserve my energy, mostly by using the Media Transportation System, often more connections but less physical stress.

It really shouldn’t be a surprise that I actually left Sochi in better shape than I arrived, although I was doing pretty well when I arrived. You know, Not Bad for an Old Guy!

My re-entry was a 7:30 AM yoga class about 12 hours after getting home and an afternoon massage. Since I have another 26 hour travel day coming up next week, I have been at yoga every day since returning.

Just to put your mind at ease and so you will allow young children to possibly look at my blog, I do NOT wear yoga pants!

More soon.

Paul

Sochi – In the Rear View Mirror – Part 1

I have been back home for a week now and I am really just starting to figure out what time zone I am in and what day it is, I am sure of one thing – it has been REALLY REALLY cold here in Minneapolis. So far have had the most days (53) with a below zero (F) temp since 1888! Who would have ever guessed that I was going to Russia for the equivalent of Spring Break!  I am doing my best not to complain, my neighbor Steve plowed out my driveway and well, I am leaving for the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon on March 10th for a week. By then, I am cautiously optimistic the weather will have turned. That is turned in the right direction and be racing toward spring.

As seductive as it was to be shooting in Sochi, with great venues, the worlds best athletes and other wonderful photographers, it feels just as good to be home!

I appreciate all of the great Facebook and twitter feedback on my blogs, which is a good thing since I still have a few more to post, some of which really could not be done until I returned home, just to be sure I could give you the full reflection of my experience.

For my final full day in Sochi, there were several events that I would have liked to have shot, Alpine, Bobsleigh and Cross Country, but when I managed to get myself moving I realized I had hit the wall.

After 19 days of travel, 23 events in 15 days, editing every night and only 2 reasonably decent meals since I arrived, I was totally spent, exhausted and I still had to pack. Actually the phrase that was most commonly used was Utterly Smashed.

I had really made this decision returning from breakfast. It was a crystal clear day with fresh snow on the mountains and I realized that I hadn’t even taken a shot of the view. I went back up to my room grabbed a camera (not wanting to just use my old iPhone that I save for using International SIM cards) and headed back out. Not a bad view at all.

Sochi 140222 4022-2I have very few shots of the Mountain Cluster. Generally at the end of the day if I went out at all, I rarely brought a camera – I was typically on a mission – FOOD!

My last night up at the Laura Biathlon & Ski Complex I had realized that I hadn’t really provided any context shots of the amazing venue. I had tried one prior night but that was the day the race was postponed due to the fog.

There really wasn’t a viable spot to get a shot of the entire venue, even from the spectator seating, I wouldn’t be high enough to get the shot that I wanted. Our photo manager was a great guy and gave me a tour of how I could get access to the roof and shoot from there. When I arrived, I was alone. Keep in mind that alone anywhere in Sochi, includes a security guy! No worries about getting lonely here.

To understand why the Biathlon Venue is so spectacular and so important to Russian 20th century history and culture, you should really take a look at the fabulous Boston Globe article by William Frank Why Russians Love Biathlon.

Here is the start of the Women’s Relay, the 17 athletes give you an idea of the expansiveness of the venue.

OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games -   Women's 4x6 Biathlon RelayThe above image was shot from the far right side roof. Several nights we were treated to spectacular sunsets. Great crowds with seating for 7,500, which by my estimate is just about equal to the total number in the US who have heard of Biathlon in a non-Olympic year. Biathlon is currently the most popular winter sport in Europe.

OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games -   Women's 4x6 Biathlon RelayNot a bad office!

More soon.

Paul

Sochi Withdrawal? I Have a Cure!

I won’t lie about it. Whether I am shooting or not, after major events that capture my attention and consume by days, I suffer from withdrawal.  I think this is why they only have the Olympics every 2 years. Otherwise national productivity would be more than our economies could handle.  I get the same way with the Tour d’ France.  Sometimes the Tour is worse. I watch it live again and then have the replays on TV the rest of the day. Worse yet is the Hawaii Ironman where I am totally consumed by the island energy (and Kona coffee) while I am there.

I am not sure if I have a cure or if it is just a way to continue your fix!

I have been really pleased with my Sochi shots,  so I am having a Twitter Contest so you can win a Large Format (16×24) print of one of my favorite snaps!

Just follow @CompImagePhoto on Twitter and for every 100 new followers, I will give away one large format print to my current twitter followers who Retweet and one to a new follower. Just as an example a few of my favorites are below, but take a look at my Twitter Contest Gallery and find your favorite.

Sochi Gallery 006

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I get to spend the day in Moscow and then on to Amsterdam tonight.

More soon.

Paul

Sochi – Heavy Medal

I had only been to the Olympic Park a couple of times – for the Opening Ceremonies, Curling, Short-Track and Speed Skating. Having said that, I never really got to see the Olympic Park at all. I was at the Main Media Center (MMC) and then on a bus to the venue.  I figured going down for a Medal Ceremony would be the best chance possible.

Keeping in mind that it is never practical to have all of the event venues at the park, here we have a Mountain Cluster and a Coastal Cluster. I n the best of days, it took me about 1:15 to get form my apartment to the MMC and that would be if I got really lucky and the buses miraculously conformed to my schedule (I think that happened exactly once!) In general, I always allowed 2 hours and that was just to get to the MMC.

Although this may seem more typical for the Winter Olympics, in London the Triathlon Venue was nowhere near the Olympic Park, it was in Hyde Park!  Sailing and Rowing were even farther away. I have heard that in Vancouver, all of the Media Housing was 3 hours from the Mountains. This didn’t make me feel any better, but just accept things as part of my daily routine.

Wednesday’s US performances included Ted Ligety’s Gold Medal and the Silver and Bronze by the Women’s Bobsleigh made Thursday night’s ceremony a good choice.  After returning from the Extreme Park, I had just enough time to have a bite to eat (museli and yogurt) and go grab the bus first to the Gorki Media Center and then down to the MMC.

I traveled light only bringing one camera and a small one at that (5D Mark III) and 2 lens, it sort of felt like I was cheating.  As it turned out when I arrived at the Photo Platform for the Medal Ceremony the 400 would have been more appropriate, but I made it work!

The Medal Ceremony actually started at 8:14 pm every evening (that would be 20:14!) but was preceded by a concert and entertainment that began at 7:00.

There was already a crowd of the usual suspects when I arrived at the Photo Platform and by this time, knew several of the guys from other events.  It was crowded but we all made it work. In case you are wondering, all of those great head-on shots of the medalists are shot from positions that occupied by the IOC Photographers, Getty, AP, Reuters, Sports Illustrated and the other major services. They deserve that access because of their distribution and the pay a premium to get it too! The have dedicated Ethernet lines in these positions that the plug right into their cameras and beam their images back to their editors.  After the medal presentations the athletes are escorted to a position where the other photographers can get their shots.

Here are a few celebrating smiling faces!

The Silver and Bronze Medalist for the Women’s Bobsleigh.

OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games - Medal Ceremony

Giant Slalom Champ Ted Legity.

OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games - Medal Ceremony

Norway’s XC Sprint Champions.

OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games - Medal Ceremony

Norway’s Biathlon Mixed Relay Champions.

OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games - Medal Ceremony

More soon.

Paul

Sochi – Getting Extreme

Extreme sports at the Olympics have been expanding since Snowboard events were first introduced at the Nagano Olympics in 1998. X-Games genre and great spectator events. Ski Cross which was introduced as a Medal Event in 2010, is simple head-to-head competition, no judges, no points, you race to the bottom and if you are one of the first two across the line, you advance to the next round. It is sort of like Moto-Cross, you know without the moto or much protective gear.

I had the opportunity to get a Field Of Play position on the course. I took the chairlift up with my gear, I put on my crampons (my new favorite piece of winter photo gear) and walked down to position.  While the go to lens this year is the 200 – 400mm f/4.0 zoom (for Canon with a build in 1.4x tele-extender) I had my 400mm f/2.8 beast. After a few shots near the first jump the guys who were there suggested I go below the 2nd jump, it would be a better shot with the 400. And, as luck would have it, it was!

For the first run, the skiers went down individually to get a time for 1/8th final 4-up heats. The first shots will give you some context of the start area and the first jump.

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After the initial seeding the chaos begins with the 4 up heats. The first 2 across the line progress to the next round. The good news about shooting near the top is that you have a much greater chance of getting all four racers together. As they continue down, they typically spread out.

Sochi140220 3531 Sochi140220 3535 Sochi140220 3540 Sochi140220 3542-2After the first heats, I headed down and back to my apartment. My plan was to head down to the Olympic Park for the evening Medal Ceremony.

More soon,

Paul