My travels so far, while long have been about a stress free as possible. Arriving in Moscow, they had a special Passport control line for Credential Holders, luggage arrived quickly and I was greeted by a friend of a nephew of a Minneapolis friend. Sorry, I would need a flowchart to provide more explanation.
Traffic in Moscow as they say is Difficult. My hotel is good and close to Red Square. After a bit of a nap, I had time for a bit of a walk about, dinner and then out again for a few happy snaps.
It was a pretty grey day in Moscow, but warm enough -3 C, that for the first time in a couple months I could actually have my gloves off outside.
My first photos reflected the weather, so I went back to the square after dark, when they brought up the artificial lighting!
There is daily skating and hockey in Red Square.
I am off to the airport and on the my Sochi adventure. I am glad I was able to get a good night’s sleep as I prepare to deal with the likely media housing & transit issues.
Although it will definitely show my age, my first memories of the Olympics are watching a very early broadcast from Rome in 1960 with Jim MacKay writing results on a chalkboard. Since then I have always had an Olympic dream.
Combine this with my childhood memories of my maternal grandmother telling me stories of when she was a young teenager, living in Kiev and taking the train to visit her older brother in Moscow. Her stories of the wonders of the city made going to Sochi a goal since it was announced. Shortly after her train adventures, my grandmother escaped just prior to the revolution and emigrated to Chicago.
I am not sitting in JFK with the first leg of my adventure in the books waiting for my flight to Moscow, more than 100 years after my grandmother’s last visit.
For the last several days I have experienced various levels of anxiety depending on which news report I read about security and the construction status of the media hotels. Now that I am underway, I have really settled down. The prospects of my next 9 ½ hour flight to Moscow can really temper any excess energy, either good or bad.
I am really pleased to have the opportunity to see Moscow both on the way over and on my return to see the places my grandmother used to tell me about. I am truly lucky that the nephew of a Minneapolis friend will be meeting me and giving me a brief tour. It really doesn’t get better than that.
Yes, when I arrive in Sochi on Thursday I am expecting lines and confusion, without the British efficiency of the London Games in 2012. Hopefully, I will be pleasantly surprised, but I am prepared to be patient and understanding.
My plan is to post just a bit from the Games at least every other day!
Now that our Spirit of Triathlon Contest has wrapped up and race season has begun, it is a great time to go over a few of the basics of shooting triathlon. Well not just the basics, anyone can take triathlon photo – all you have to do is look at Facebook on any Monday morning to see thousands of shots from the weekend of races and training. There will be iPhone self portraits, taken at arms length while riding, and shots of spouses 100 meters in the distance appearing as a speck on the horizon. These are all fabulous ways to share an important personal and emotional moment and a great way to remember the day.
However if you are reading my blog, my guess is that your interest is going beyond the snap that looks like everyone else’s shot and want to do a bit more. Whether you are shooting one of the top pros, elite amateurs or your spouse, partner, parent or child, you want a shot that highlights the intensity of the athlete and shows off the beauty of the venue.
My 2013 race season began with the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. It is really a great race, with an amazing pro field in a one of a kind venue. Two weeks later, I was in the Caribbean at the San Juan 70.3, another great field and a great venue. Now I am in between trips to San Diego; first for the Ironman 70.3 Oceanside and next week for the ITU World Triathlon Series events and the USAT Hall of Fame Dinner.
In San Juan, we had the advantage of being able to connect with my friend Ramon Serrano. Although Ramon is currently living in Miami and working for American Airlines, he was back in San Juan to watch, photograph and offer unending help to whoever needed it. Having access to Ramon and his knowledge of the locations on the island, I almost felt like I was cheating. Ramon drove us around while I tried to learn the course and gave us some fabulous local restaurant recommendations.
If you follow any of the pro triathletes on Facebook or Twitter you have likely seen some of Ramon’s photos. He makes it to quite a few events (working for American helps with that) and he works hard to get his shots. While driving around I asked Ramon, whom I officially address as the Prince of San Juan, if he had any photo questions we could talk about. Ramon said, ‘you know, just the usual stuff, ISO, shutter speed, f-stop, angles.
With that in mind – the usual stuff, I thought it would be time to have a review of some of the critical factors in getting a great triathlon photo. Not much new here but think of it as a cheat sheet before you head out to shoot your first race of the season.
The first and critical issue has nothing to do with photography and everything to do with getting the shot! No equipment to lug around, no exposure to worry about! It’s Planning!
Here are a just a few things you must know before you shoot a Triathlon (the day before!):
What time does the sun come up? (Yup, there are is an app for that, lots of them);
What time does the race start?
How many waves are there and what interval will be between waves?
What is the expected swim time for the leader?
If you are following a specific age group athlete (friend or spouse), what time do they start and what is their expected swim split?
What are the locations you can use for the swim start? For the swim exit? This will vary if you are credential or not credentialed. Remember, just because you can get access to a certain spot, doesn’t mean there is a good shot there.
The same level of planning is true for the bike and run portions of the course.
What access do you have to the course?
How are you going to get there? By car, by bike, by moto?
What time will the athletes by approaching your shooting location?
Does your location have a great background?
Does your location provide the athletes an opportunity to look good? (If you are shooting the run on a steep uphill, the answer is no.);
How many shot locations can you cover?
What time to you have to be back at the finish line?
If you do not have credentials and finish line access, where else can you tell the story? Even if you do have finish line access, is that the spot to get the best shot?
Now you are probably asking yourself if I do all of this before each race? You bet I do and then some. Since I am often shooting from a moto, I drive the course at least once, as well as meet with my driver. We talk about safety, drafting rules and how I shoot. In addition we work together to find spots on the course where we can get great shots off of the moto.
Now that you have your plan and have it written down, it’s time to think about shooting.
Just think about it at this point – pick your lens, camera bodies, flash – make sure all of your batteries are charged, your equipment is all cleaned and you have plenty of formatted memory cards. Cleaning it before the last race is not sufficient – clean it again! Nothing frustrates me more than having something on a sensor that I have to edit out of each image.
RACE DAY – I am going to try to keep my suggestions as practical and non-technical as possible, which should be pretty easy to remember.
GET THERE EARLY – At the Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, I arrived at the race site at 4:45 AM and the real benefit was that I got Rock Star parking!
SHOOT WITH INTENTIONNow repeat it 3 times, Shoot with Intention, Shoot with Intention, Shoot with Intention! This means you have to be thinking – I know you started the day before Starbucks was open, but still you have to be thinking!
ADJUST FOR THE TIME OF DAY – In the film days we could only change our ISO every 24 or 36 frames and even then our range was very narrow compared to today. With today’s amazing technology, you can start the day with a fairly high ISO and then work down from there. Depending on the age and level of your camera, you can sometimes start the day at 4000 ISO and be shooting in very low light. Be sure to check your ISO a least every 30 minutes and decrease it accordingly until the light is relatively constant.
Here is a shot of smiling Heather Jackson getting ready in T-1 shot at 8,000 ISO.
At the end of my day in Oceanside is a venue shot which was at 400.
The good news about high ISO is that you can shoot in situations you never could before, the bad news is that there may be a lot of noise in the image which will need to be cleaned up in Lightroom.
DON’T JUST STAND THERE– As I have mentioned in prior posts, if you are always shooting from a standing eye-level position, you will only be capturing the view that any spectator can see, which is really a pretty mundane view. To make your shots more interesting move around, lie down on your belly for a low angle, stand on a bench for a high angle, or move of the course to provide some additional context.
Here is a low angle shot of Heather Jackson’s coming in to the final stretch. (I love that this girl knows how to celebrate!)
Another low angle shot of Mirinda Carfrae in San Juan.
PICK THE BACKGROUND AND LET THE ACTION HAPPEN – This is my Rule #4. Avoid visual noise in the background; this includes the porta-potties, rental trucks around the venue, or lots of road signs.
First we have a shot of the chase group at Oceanside with Andy Potts on the hunt, with rolling hills and towering palms as the background.
Next is Leanda Cave at San Juan 70.3, riding by one of the few unobstructed views of the ocean.
Here is a shot of the run course rolling through Old San Juan.
CONTROL THE ACTION– I typically shoot shutter speed priority, because I want to control whether I get a clear crisp image or a blurred. If you shoot on any of the automatic settings you have turned over your control to some engineer in a cubicle somewhere in Asia. For bike shots use for a 1/1600th and 1/640th shutter speed on the run for stopping the action; for a panning, use 1/160th or below.
First we have a shot of Andi Bocherer shot at 1/2000th.
Here we have Omar Nour riding through the Arabian Desert shot at 1/100th.
WAIT FOR THE SHOT TO COME TO YOU – Patience is critical, as the athletes are approaching wait until you can tell who they are! Otherwise, it is really a context shot.
SHOOT IN BURSTS – Shoot in bursts of 3 to 5 shots and then ultimately use the image that shows off the maximum intensity and the best biomechanics.
NEVER LET THEM SEE THE BAD STUFF – Keeping in mind that that photons are free, it is easy to get carried away and shoot a thousand or more images in a single day. At a typical long-distance race, I shoot around 4,000 (all raw files). Edit brutally and never let anyone see the bad shots. Take a look at my early blog post about optimizing work flow.
Follow me on Twitter @CompImagePhoto and see our #PhotoOfTheDay and some handy advice!
Even though the London course has been set for the last couple of years and many of the women have raced here, some even had their qualifying race one this course, there have been many miles in between.
From 6:30 to 7:15 AM, they girls had a chance to get out and ride a couple of easy laps of the complete course. Some rode alone, some with teammates and many with coaches.
Here are a few snaps from their preview ride.
I would be worried if Sarah Groff were not in her typical playful mood.
Sarah and Laura Bennett settled in for a couple of easy laps.
Gwen Jorgensen rode with USAT High Performance Leader Jono Hall.
Paula Findlay was out early.
Reigning World Champion and local Gold Medal favorite knows the course but takes advantage of the available time.
After their ride the girls had a chance to swim the course.
Just beyond the first turn of the one lap swim, the Olympic Rings glow in the early morning sun.
Jono meets Gwen at the swim exit. Laura and Sarah opted out of the swim this morning.
Not only were the girls practicing on the course but so were the operators of the remote TV camera which runs on cable stretched over kilometer moves over the swim course and transition area.
I couldn’t help but stop and drool over the row of BMW F650 GS motos, which is my ideal to shoot from. Unfortunately, I will not get one for the races.
As only the British weather forecasters could say, It will be a Damp and Dull in Guildford today. While the weather was a bit gloomy, the day was anything but dull.
Thanks to great facility at the Surrey Sports Park, Hunter headed to the pool for an early morning swim.
While local master’s swimmers have the left 4 lanes, we have right half of the pool. This morning it was all for Hunter.
After his swim and a good breakfast, Hunter settled in to watch the swim heats live from the Olympic Aquatic Center. While he was watching, he thought he might as well put in a couple of hours on the CompuTrainer.
When Hunter finished his spin, the CompuTrainer moved to Gwen’s room. Under the watchful eye of Gwen’s Coach Cindi Bannink, they are both watching the rowing heats!
Just an easy ride, with a few pick ups. What is that cadence?
Right from her bike Gwen and Cindi headed out to the Rugby fields for a few long laps. Cindi was kind enough to give me a few minutes warning as to when they were wrapping up, so I can get a head start getting to the field.
The Surrey Sports Park is the home of the Pro Rugby Team, the Harlequins. Gwen and Cindi caught their attention on the run.
As always, Gwen displayed her excellent form.
Manny Huerta and training partner, Leonardo Chacon, Costa Rican Olympian were wrapping up their ride.
After lunch and a siesta Manny did a light run for a NBC / Telemundo Interview.
Here their cameraman left his HD camera and used his skateboard and GoPro for some actions shots.
Manny took a few minutes to check email before his interview.
Finally an in depth interview (in Spanish of course) with Francisco Cuevas from NBC / Telemundo.
Post interview, I headed back to London with John Martin.
Today, I am heading back to Olympic Park and Central London.
Although I am still not really sure what day it is, other than Olympic Opening day, I know that it was USAT Media Day.
After checking into the Main Press Center and receiving the final packet of materials and my photo vest, I met Hunter Kemper on the Olympic Village set of NBC’s Today Show. Hunter laughed when they sent him to Hair & Make Up.
He was relaxed and everyone on the set had a great time, while he was demonstrating to Natalie Morales and Savannah Guthrie how they should cheer for him at the Olympic Triathlon on August 7th.
A quick unguided tour of the International Broadcast Center proved that even the broadcast guys like to have there photo taken.
Next I headed up to the Canon Professional Services area to have my fish-eye lens checked.
“Well it seems to work up close, but the distance seems to be a tad off – we will fix it overnight and have it for you in the morning”
Now it is time for the Press Conference with Gwen Jorgensen and Manny Huerta, both were delightful and individually fielded questions and told stories for 45 minutes.
I made a new friend on the way back to my lodging!
Tonight I have a fabulous view of the Opening Ceremonies (on TV) watching with the UEL staff.
Tomorrow I will be exploring a bit of London and checking all of the places that I can find Olympic Rings. Sunday, I head out to the Guildford Training camp to rejoin the team.
Follow me on Twitter @CompImagePhoto for photo updates.
The adventure has finally begun! Easy overnight flight to London and I was even to get a few hours of sleep.
As we arrived in London and heading toward Customer, there was a table of Olympic Staff there to validate our credentials and answer any questions, as well as directing us to a Games Only lane at Passport Control. Wow rank does have its privileges!
My new favorite passport stamp:
From there I headed to the Heathrow Express, again courtesy of the Games. Easy Peasey, in fact it was a little too easy. Now the work begins as I go from Paddington Station to the Tower Hill Station, to the Tower Gateway, to DLR (Docklands Light Rail), change at Canning Town and finally to Cyprus, across the street from the University of East London (UEL) USOC housing.
As you have seen from my prior posts, I do not travel light. Upon arriving at UEL to my 3rd floor walk-up dorm room, I sat town and thought that the most physically demanding part of my Olympics is probably over!
A quick shower and then over the meet members of the US Triathlon Team while the when through their initial processing. Jonathan Hall, Hunter Kemper, Gwen Jorgensen, Manny Huerta and Andy Schmitz are ready to begin.
Hunter selecting his 4th Olympic ring.
Manny sitting on just some of his Olympic apparel that he needs to try on, here wearing his Podium uniform.
Although there are five smiling faces, this was shot at 7:00 in the morning, the day after the San Diego ITU race.
On Wednesday, July 25th we all start our adventure to London. I will be with these amazing athletes, not only to shoot the races on August 4th and 7th, but to show you some of the behind the scenes environment as well.
I will be trying to do a blog post with at least a photo of two!
Early in my athletic career, the bragging rights for which have long since expired I was a bike racer. I loved it then and still love it now! I remember a friend and I placing late night calls to the Sports Desk at the Minneapolis StarTribune to get them to print at least a few results from the prior day’s stage at the Tour. Eventually they just got tired of us calling and in the mid-70s, we would get about an inch of coverage the next day – Stage winner, GC all in very small print. In 2001, I was able to see a few stages of the Tour with my son. And now, it almost seems unfathomable that I can watch real time coverage on my iPhone.
Greg Lemond made a huge impact on US recognition of the Tour and in 1989 used technical innovations developed for triathlon for is final Time Trial victory!
Fast forward to 2012 and Lance Armstrong is a household name, not only winning the Tour an unbelievable seven times, but almost more so as a role model, a cancer survivor, prime mover and supporter for cancer research.
Now at age 40 Lance has returned to his roots in Triathlon and now matter how well he does, it is a big deal for all of us. While there are only 198 riders in the Tour d’France, we can in fact be out racing along side Lance in an Ironman or 70.3. This is worth repeating: Age Group Athletes can be racing on the same course at the same time as the seven-time Tour d’France Winner! (Just like we do with Crowie, Chrissie and Rinny!)
Lance is not like Michael Jordon who decided to have a go at baseball and had 51 minor league at bats or even like Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson who for four seasons played for both the NFL Raiders and MLB Kansas City Royals.
Lance is an endurance athlete going back to his roots in Triathlon and he is here to race. He has the background, knowledge and resources for meticulous analysis and training.
Lance is clearly, not just another guy on a bike or another pro to add to the mix. He has to be treated as a serious contender and even while he finished a “disappointing” 7th at the Ironman Texas 70.3, he now has two top ten finishes in his first two races!
While Lance is feeding his own competitive nature, what he is doing for the rest of us is bringing new attention from non-traditional sources to our sport. There will be more fans, more publicity, more news and ultimately more sponsors and not only will it be good for all of us, it already has been.
What better way to illustrate the difference than on the left we have Terenzo Bozzone at the Press Conference at the 2011 Ironman Texas 70.3 and on the right is Lance at this year’s Press Conference. Notice the reflection of the vacant seats in Torenzo’s glasses and the crowds reflected by Lance. Out on the course it was much the same.
Finally in the water and ready for the day to begin: Tim O’Donnell in purple, Michael Raelert in red and Lance in yellow. Always easy to track.
Lance moved into the lead as the group approached the turn-around and rode an individual TT on the way home.
Although traffic is typically congested on the Ironman Texas 70.3 course, everyone slowed down to get at least a look at Lance.
On the run he still had his moto and live video escort.
Although Lance had been run down by Tim O’Donnell, Sebastian Kienle, Ronnie Schildknecht and had faded to sixth, the thrill of passing Lance Armstrong was not lost on Jordan Jones. Admittedly, the additional $750 in price money was more significant to Jordan than it was to Lance.
The weekend ended, as it began, with lots of media attention.
Lance, I will see you at the races and I am thrilled that you are here!