Friday, August 26, 2016

The Closing Ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games from Rio de Janeiro

Before I start this blog post, I would like to thank all of you who have written to me over the last 3 weeks and shown their appreciation for all the photos and blog posts. It has been my pleasure to share all the photos, the stories and the passion for photography with all of you. I also need to thank my wife and kids who put up with me being completely gone (physically and mentally) for a month every two years. Photographing the Olympics is a totally encompassing experience, and I check out of the "real world" for 95% of the time.

I am happy to say that I am home and sleeping in my own bed!!! I am still fighting the darned Brazilian cold, but won't let that stop me from enjoying my re-immersion back into my "normal life".

Again, thanks to everyone for the support, encouragement, and engagement throughout the last month.

And now...on to the photos from the closing ceremony.

The closing ceremony started with lots of color and continued that way all the way through. All of you who watched this on television will know more than I do about the backstories and meanings of all these performances. I am there to capture the scenes that unfold in front of me, but I don't get all the explanations that you do.

The light was very low, so I was using ISO 3200 for almost the entire ceremony, to try and keep my subjects in focus and sharp.

The flag bearers came out with the Olympic flag and Brazilian flag leading the way. I was poised and waiting for the shot of Simone Biles carrying in the American flag.

And then I saw her tiny body coming in. For almost all of these photos, I was using my go-to kit, the Canon 1D X Mark II and the Canon 200-400mm lens. Quite often, I would use the built-in tele converter and zoom into 560mm. I did that for this photo!

I saw this guy with his selfie stick and just laughed. Even at the Olympics, you just can't get away from these things. :)

After the 45 minutes of athletes entering the stadium, the show continued.

I saw this woman standing in the middle of the other dancers and immediately thought "this would be a perfect time for motion blur." I quickly changed the camera aperture to f/13 and a shutter speed of 1/6 second. It was not easy to get this shot at this slow shutter speed and a focal length of 400mm, but I like the way that everyone else is in motion except for my subject in the middle.

I did something similar when the Olympic flag was taken down and being carried away. This time I changed the ISO to 320 and the aperture to f/11, which gave me a shutter speed of 1/4 sec. I panned the lens along with the flag bearers to get this shot.

At the time, I did not know that this was the Prime Minister of Japan, but it seemed like a good photo opportunity, and I took it.

They came out with these cool light cubes. I turned the exposure compensation of the camera down (yes, down) to further darken the scene. This accentuates the light and increases the contrast as well.

I kept a Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon 16-35mm lens at my side for wide shots.

This photo was also taken at 16mm, but I pointed the camera up a little higher to include all of the stadium opening.  These photos show you how different the same scene can look from a long zoom and a wide angle lens.

At one point, I saw that all the remaining flags were waving, and took this wide shot.

Then it was time for more colorful entertainment.

It was raining during most of the closing ceremony, but this was actually part of the performance. At first, I was not sure, and I thought "wow - the rain is really coming down now!"

The Olympic flame lit...

...and then not. The Games were officially over.

The fireworks went off and I was ready with my wide lens. This also happens to be one of my favorite photos from this ceremony.

And just before running out of the stadium to catch the first press bus out (since I was not feeling great and really did not want to get stuck in hours of traffic), I switched back to the camera with the long zoom and captured this amazing Carnival float coming in.

This is another favorite photo from the closing ceremonies. At this point, everyone was out of their seats and dancing. It was a really great moment, but also sad, as the Games concluded.

And so another Olympic Games is over, making it #5 for me. And now that I am home, people are asking me how it was to be there for a month. Honestly, I think it is too soon to answer that. I was moving so fast, that it hasn't all sunk in yet.

The most common questions in the last 24 hours have been:

* Did I ever feel unsafe? And the answer is no. There was a lot of security in all the areas where I visited, and so I never felt that my wellbeing or my equipment was in jeopardy.

* Was I ever worried about Zika Virus? Another no. Seriously, the entire time I was in Rio, I never saw one mosquito. Not one. I brought numerous cans of insect repellent and only used it on the second day.

* Did I have fun? Of course I had, I was at the Olympics. Even with all the hard work, it is always a great experience.

* How many photos did I take in Rio? Since I was shooting and culling all the time, I don't have the exact count, but I am guessing that I took between 50,000 to 60,000 shots total. This is less than I used to shoot, mainly because I have photographed many of the sports before and have a better idea when to hit the shutter, and when it is not necessary.

* How many people read the blog? I just checked, and there were more than a quarter million views of the blog in the last 3 weeks. The most read blog post was the post showing the vast amount of equipment that Canon brought to the Games to loan to us photographers (60k views).

* Will I be shooting the Winter Olympics in Korea in a year and a half? Oh heck yeah!

I hope that you all continue to follow along on the blog in the months and years ahead. Thanks again to all of you for sharing this with me. I loved reading all your comments through my days in Rio. Now it is time for some sleep. Oh wait, never mind, I am shooting a Bar Mitzvah all day tomorrow. :)


And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post or send my monthly newsletter.

If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Synchronized swimming - A fun time photographing the Pairs and Teams

Along with providing photos to USA Water Polo, I also helped out the USA Synchro team with some images for their web site and social media.

This year, the US only had a pair and not a full team, which I hope changes by time the Tokyo Olympics come around in 4 years.

This first photo shows Anita Alvarez and Mariya Koroleva competing in the pairs competition. For this session, I shot everything from a high position, looking down at the ladies.

It is hard to believe that they can perform maneuvers like this without touching the bottom of the pool. I can see where synchronized swimmers and water polo players have a lot in common.

And like the water polo athletes, these girls use their leg strength to get themselves high out of the water.

Anita and Mariya were both very happy with their performance and their advancement into the finals.

For their next performance, I decided to shoot from a low position, to get a different look from the previous competition.

The lower position allowed me to get in closer to the ladies...

...and include the logo.

They had great symmetry in the pool.

Even though they did not win medals, they were once again very happy with how they placed.

On the second to last day of the Games, I decided to photograph the team performances of synchronized swimming. I had shot this once before, albeit very briefly, in London and remember it being pretty nice for photographic compositions.

Unlike the pairs competition, eight women in the pool to perform even greater maneuvers out of the water. Remember, none of the swimmers are touching the bottom of the pool. They are supporting these ladies with the strength of their kicking. Pretty remarkable.

From my position (which wasn't really a photo position, but an area in the spectator area which I liked), I was able to capture the teams facing me...

...and facing the other direction.

So cool!

This woman came slowly out of the pool and just kept going higher and higher.

Just like when I photographed the Rhythmic Gymnastics, I looked for good patterns and symmetry.

These ladies were showing off some amazing arm strength, to get themselves this high out of the pool.

This was not a difficult sport to shoot. The three biggest challenges were:

1. Finding the right location to shoot from.
2. Making sure the focus was in the right spot, since they move around under water and then come up quickly.
3. Keeping my hands on the zoom ring, since I was sometimes keying in on one athlete and then the group would all come together forming a cool shape and I would have to zoom accordingly..

I really enjoyed capturing images of this sport.

I hope that you get a sense of how much fun this is to watch. I know a lot of people joke about synchronized swimming, but takes a lot of strength, finesse, lung capacity and skill.

Well folks, this is the last blog post showing sports from the 2016 Summer Olympics. The only post left is from the closing ceremony. And since I am writing this on the way to the airport in Rio, the last one will likely be posted from the good ole USA. And even better, from my house, with my own bed, safe water, fast Wifi, and safe streets. As amazing as it has been here, I cannot wait to get home!!!


And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post or send my monthly newsletter.

If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.

Rhythmic gymnastics - Trying something different again

I have photographed artistic gymnastics before, but never had a chance to shoot the rhythmic gymnastics until a couple of days ago. It was the day before closing ceremonies and most of the other sports had completed, so I thought I would give this a try.

I started from a high position, thinking that this would be more visually interesting.  The other reason I went to this photo position, was that it was on the same side as the judges, and most of the performances would be facing in this direction. Surprisingly, all the photo positions on the floor were behind the ladies.

As always, I tried some motion panning to see if I could get some nice motion blur shots.

I slowed the shutter of the camera to 1/20 second and followed the ladies as they moved on the floor. I think you will agree that this adds more interest to the photos.

This is a wide shot also using the 1/20 sec shutter speed. But for this photo, I kept the lens steady and had my focal point on the girl in the middle. You will notice, at this very moment, she was still for a split second when the others were moving.

After shooting in the high position for a while, I decided to take my chance and shoot from one of the low positions. I went to a spot where I would have the Olympic rings in my background.

Even though I could photograph the girls anywhere on the floor, I only shot in this spot where the rings and logo were behind them. Honestly, the other backgrounds were just not visually compelling.

This was the shot I wanted, with one of the athletes in the air, right over the Olympic rings. I just wish that the judges had been a seated a little higher to give me a clean background. And yes, it is all about the photographer! :)

When shooting this sport, I generally looked for clean lines and good symmetry.

Here is one of the few shots I took without the rings  in the background. This photo would have been so much stronger if there was a solid wall behind them.

This is another one of those shots that I was aiming to get. They were at the height of their jumps and in front of the rings. But once again, not the best background. Ugh. As photographers, we can move positions and change camera settings, but some things we can not change.  But it was still fascinating to watch them perform, and fun to try something new once again.


And also, remember that you and your friends can enter your email address at the top right of this blog to get an email any time I write a new blog post or send my monthly newsletter.

If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.