Canon 1Dx Mark II – Part 2

Now 36 hours into the ownership of my new 1Dx Mark II body, I have yet to have time to take it out for a real test, but after sitting with it for a bit on Tuesday evening and just a few shots this morning, I do have some initial impressions to share.

The set up, both physical and the menu content is virtually the same as the 1Dx. Please keep in mind I haven’t been through everything yet, nor have I opened the manual. I will likely find a few differences, as I get deeper into it.

The first noticeable impression is that 14 fps is really fast and that shooting with Live View at 16 fps is REALLY, REALLY fast. I did hold the shutter down to see how many shots I could fire off in a row and it slowed down at about 140 frames.

Having a burst mode of 140 + frames goes into the category of just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. To translate that into a practical use, as I am shooting in 3 to 5 image burst from the back of the moto, I truly believe that I will never be inhibited by the transfer rate to the CFast 2 card.

Since I have a couple of hours to kill here at the Las Vegas Airport before my ride arrives to go to the race in St. George, this is a good opportunity to check the high ISO capabilities.

Competitive Image Blog
ISO 20,000, 1/800, f/4.0
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ISO 10,000, 1/800, f/4.0
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ISO 5,000, 1/400, f/4.0

The above images are full frame and as shot, with NO post processing and to me they all look pretty good.

To test a bit more, here are some higher crops of the same 3 images.

Competitive Image Blog
ISO 20,000, 1/800, f/4.0
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ISO 10,000, 1/800, f/4.0
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ISO 5,000, 1/400, f/4.0

Again, except for the crop there has been no post processing to these images.  Yes 20,000 looks a bit edgy but not too bad and I think the 5,000 looks pretty good.

Now you may be thinking why is this guy shooting at 1/800 in such low light?  I sure hope he can hold the camera steady. The fact is that I shoot sports and if I want to stop the action I need a high shutter speed. High ISO and a tripod will not work for me.

In the final image in each series. I dropped the shutter speed to 1/400 to accommodate the reduction in ISO, but still pretty fast.

Finally here is an image where I have done a bit of post in Lightroom.

Competitive Image Blog
ISO 20,000, 1/800, f/4.0

Just some minor post and it cleans up quite well.

Will I be shooting at 20,000 ISO? Probably not too often. The last time I did was at the Opening Ceremonies for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

It’s not really about being able to shoot in the dark, which I could probably do, it is about shooting in low light. This whole photography is really about the light. The light reflected off of your image, as well as how much image noise is inherent in the image and what you in post.

Although this is very preliminary, I am pretty impressed. I am looking forward to the pre-start shots at the Ironman St. George 70.3 this weekend for the real test.

More soon!

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

Sochi140217 2753 Sochi140220 3540 OLYMPICS: FEB XX XXII Olympic Games -  Speed Skating - Mens Giant Slalom

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

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.

Sochi140220 3507 Sochi140220 3508 Sochi140220 3511 Sochi140220 3518 Sochi140220 3519 Sochi140220 3521

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