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

Sochi – Women Drivers Deliver Precious Metal

After a morning at the Men’s GS, I made it down the mountain to the media center and then back to my apartment. Traveling via the Gorki Media Center is not a direct route, but it involves the least walking and as such the least expenditure of energy and if I am lucky I can get a quick power nap in on the bus. That just doesn’t work as well for me when I am walking!

The Bobsleigh (yes it’s officially Bobsleigh no matter what they say on NBC), venue is actually the closest to me. It is a short walk to the Krasnaya Polyana Cableway and then a short ride to the venue. The cableway lets me off at turn 7 of 17. Which gives you an idea of how much I have to walk to get up  to the start.

Although Delly and I had been there shooting during the day, I wanted to come back at night and get some start shots. It is at the start that you really get to see the interaction between the athlete and the Sleigh.

I found a great position, on the right side of the track just after the start. Although I thought I was in an official photo position, Oops. Nikita (with the pink hair) told two of us that we were in an Olympic Broadcast System (OBS) only area. We had however cleared it with the OBS Camera Man in advance so we were good to stay – frowned on but good to stay.

I also made a new friend up there – the security guy. It is not the uniformed security personnel that I worry about, it is the ones without the uniform. They just stand there with a don’t mess with me and step over that line look. With him here, the Photo Manager who was likely a really good guy, was the least of my concerns. Over the next couple of hours my new friend would come over look at the display on my camera and smile, give me the thumbs up. He even had me take a few snaps of him with his cell phone.

As he was getting ready to head down to the finish, he pulled out a red leather ‘wallet’ with gold embossed letters on the outside. I have no idea what it said, by it was enough to let me in on the fact that we was no ordinary security guy. He smiled, waved good bye and headed to finish. I exhaled and relaxed.

The bobsleighs are clearly built for speed and not for comfort. The US machines were designed and built by BMW. Getting in is a real issue, there is no easy way to do it. Think how a driver would get into a Formula 1 car, if they had to do it after pushing it to it started!

Here are a few shots of the various ways to get going and before you laugh too hard at the positions, think about if you could even fit in the bobsleigh let alone get in while it was moving.

OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games -  Women's Bobsleigh OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games -  Women's Bobsleigh OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games -  Women's Bobsleigh OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games -  Women's Bobsleigh OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games -  Women's Bobsleigh OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games -  Women's Bobsleigh  OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games -  Women's BobsleighFinally here is a shot of Lolo Jones pushing.

OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games -  Women's Bobsleigh

The Canada #1 Team took the Gold by 0.10 seconds, with the USA getting Silver and Bronze.

More soon,

Paul

Sochi – Really, What Day Is It?

I asked at breakfast this morning and the told me it was Saturday.  I checked my iPhone and it said the February 22 and I know I leave on the 23rd, so I guess it is Saturday.  Days of the week have completely blended together. I do go by the date and the schedule.

Just as I was counting down the days prior to leaving and trying to get everything done, I have been counting down the days here to see what else I can shoot.

I had planned to do a blog at least every other day while I was here and up until the 18th (Tuesday, right?) I was doing great. Then somehow things got away from me.  The problem now is that I actually have to look at my files and the schedule to remember what I shot on Wednesday.

I guess I was at Men’s Giant Slalom on Wednesday. How could I forget that? That was the day that it actually felt like I was watching the Olympics!

I made it up to the Alpine and found the media center, which was HUGE. It should be no surprise that most of the media was from Europe and like I cover primarily Triathlon, these guys cover primarily skiing and they are good – REALLY good at it.

When I got there one of my Italian buddies Joe introduced me to the Photo Manager. I told him it was my first day at Alpine and asked about Photo Positions. He was French and asked: You have skis? No. You have Crampons? No, not here. I thought only the finish, he said no, you can walk up the side and shoot from off the course, but you have to be high because there are 2 meter fences! It’s not too dangerous, you will be fine! You have to be in position in 22 minutes, don’t worry, you will be fine.

I smiled, and using my mono-pod as a walking stick I started to climb. It was certainly not the steepest climb of the week, the problem was that it was either ice (these guys don’t ski on snow, it’s really ice) or soft mid-shin snow. I made it and cheated a bit by moving higher in between  runs.

I managed to get a few good shots, but another day at the venue would have been great – lots of better places to shoot. Now I believe – Crampons – don’t leave home without them!

For the 2nd Run, Joe said – now you shoot from the finish. You get one shot as they cross the line, turn and get one more shot as they celebrate!

Here is the view from my first position.

OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games -  Speed Skating - Mens Giant SlalomYesterday’s rain in the valley was snow at altitude, I could see the Laura Biathlon & Ski Complex across the valley.

OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games -  Speed Skating - Mens Giant Slalom

Here are a couple of shots from the side of the hill. Wait in Minnesota we have hills, I was on the side of the mountain! First is Golden Boy Ted Ligety, who put a full second on the rest of the field in his first run.

OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games -  Speed Skating - Mens Giant Slalom

OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games -  Speed Skating - Mens Giant Slalom

After the last skier, I scrambled down grabbed some water and then was back out to find Joe and get a finish position for the 2nd run.

This was the first time I really felt the energy of the crowd at the Olympics. By this time, the Stadium was full. Keeping in mind that the run times were less that a minute and a half, I could watch the start on the big screen TV and see the first part of the run. Then they would come over a ridge and I could watch about 10 seconds of them skiing, take 5 seconds to line up my shot and shoot for about 1/2 second. All with cheering fans in the background.

Here is an Austrian skier at the final gate, which really just lines them up for the finish line, you can see the finish line and the stadium reflected in his helmet.

OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games -  Speed Skating - Mens Giant SlalomLigety was the last to go – the top 30 started in reverse order of the first run times. Here he is just after the final gate.

_IX_1532And as they say – The Crowd Went Wild! Sochi140219-3422-3More soon,

Paul

Sochi – This Could Make You Dizzy

For the last week or so, I had planned to spend Tuesday the 18th down at the Coastal Venue. My primary reason was so I could at least have a walk-about in the Olympic Park. I have been here 2 weeks and really haven’t seen it. I don’t want you to get a Hogan’s Heroes view of things, but the Media are typically on one side of the fence (the Clean Zone) and the spectators are on the other size of the fence.  You know, sort of like the Minnesota Zoo, with the animals in the clean zone. Wait, perhaps that is based on how grumpy and grubby we are after two weeks of shooting. But I will stay positive.

The good news about being there in the rain is that the venues are inside.  After some delay due to phone issues and transportation issues, I arrived at Short-Track Speed Skating.  Unlike the text I sent a friend yesterday, it wasn’t Speer Skating, although that does bring an interesting visual to mind.  It was the Men’s 3,000 meter relay. Lots of laps, lots of guys on the ice, sort of like Roller Derby.

From there to Adler Arena for Long Track – the Men’s 10,000 meter.  24 laps of the oval, 2 guys at a time, 7 pair, lots and lots and lots of laps. Since I could only shoot from my position, I could get the same shot over and over and over and over and over and, well you get the idea. The good news is that it gave lots of time to practice different kinds of shots, such as panning, which I personally suck at.

In the small world category, I sat down next to a guy and after a while said, where are you from? He said, Minnesota. Really, where? Minneapolis, Really? – Carlos Gonzalez from the StarTribune – I knew he looked familiar.

It was a Dutch sweep and there was a lot of Orange in the house, but that seemed like it was the natural order of things, even though I know that Hans Christian Andersen was from Denmark, it still seemed right.

One of my better panning attempts.

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Classy but crazy Dutch fans – her dress looks sort of like a tin of cookies I once received.

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The Belgium’s (remember the gold bobsleigh?) have very classy race kits,

_IX_2300Finally, here is what an Olympic Record looks like._IX_2293I  am off to the Alpine Center.

More soon.

Paul

Taking Off in Sochi – Don’t Try This at Home

And on the 14th day, he rested – but not really.  I took most of the day yesterday off which meant that I stayed in the apartment editing.  The weather was still socked in with the cloud line just above the Mountain Cluster Hotels. Biathlon was delayed until the afternoon, pending possible reschedule and the Snowboard Cross was reschedule for today.

By the time there was a sign of things clearing I had two choices, Men’s Aerials Skiing or 2 Man Bobsleigh.  Since this was my only chance to shoot Aerials, I headed up to the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.  Short bus from the Apartment to the Cableway and then a ride up.

I was lucky enough to tag on to a young Chinese photographer Huang who with his pretty fair English skills and my two remaining Chinese words left over from the 2007 Women’s World Cup (hello and thank you), helped me through the maze to the venue media center.

After mentioning it had been my birthday, Huang asked my age, which I proudly told him and in true Asian tradition, with great respect he offered to help carry my gear. I declined.

I am not kidding there were at least 500 steps down from the Cableway to the park. Not such a big deal going down, but I was sort of dreading going back up after the event.

I made my way to the photo position and I had absolutely no idea how to shoot this thing.  During the practice runs, the skiers would come off of 1 of 4 jump points without warning. I  was using my 400 mm lens on a monopod (because no one hand holds a 400, right?). I had lots of shots of nothing and a couple of shots of them smashing into the snow for a landing.

When the competition began, I was able to watch the start on the large screen TV count to 5 and then know they would hit the lip of the ramp.  The only way to shoot it was to hand hold the 400!

For a couple skiers I went back to using my 70-200 just to show some context of what they are really doing up there.

Remember – DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME

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After the 2 qualifying rounds, I packed up and left. I found out that I could avoid the 500 steps, which post event looked more like 1,200, by taking the media transport bus back to the Mountain Media Center and then a bus right to my apartment door! It took probably 30 minutes longer to get back than it did to get there, but my guess is that if I had to walk up the stairs with my gear, I might have come out ahead on time with the bus anyway. I might be old, but I am not stupid. This Olympic media thing is about pacing!

It’s raining in the Mountain Cluster this morning and we all hope it is snowing up on the mountain.  I am heading down to the coast to shoot a bit of skating and if the weather clears see a bit of the park.

More soon –

Paul