Sunday, February 21, 2010

OLYMPIC BOB SLEIGH: Fast action on a wall of ice

When I came up to Vancouver to scout out the area a couple of months ago, I had dinner with a good friend of mine who is coordinating all the photographers for VANOC. We talked about all the different sports at the games and he told me, "If you are going to catch any winter Olympic sport, you have to see the bob sleigh". With that in mind, and since there were no USA Hockey games yesterday, I made the trip to Whistler yesterday to check out this unique sport.

The bus ride from the Main Press Center in Vancouver to the Main Media Center in Whistler took just over 2 hours, and the ride was as beautiful as people had promised me. This made the two hour trip go by pretty darned fast.

Since I arrived in Whistler by 12:30, I walked around the area and shot some pictures to give you an idea of the atmosphere here. Like most ski resorts, this area consists mostly of shops and restaurants.
They have live bands playing all over the Vancouver area, although this is the first time that I have had time to walk over and get close enough to grab some photos.

This guy was singing a Will Smith rap song, but I had to photograph him because he looks like "Shaggy" from Scooby Doo. Doesn't he? :)

And then I was off to the Olympic Sliding Venue for the bob sleigh competition. The competition started at 5pm, but I arrived at the venue at 2:30pm so that I could go walk the track and figure out best shooting positions. This came in handy later in the evening, since I really wanted to get shots with the sleighs over the Olympic logos. In my investigations, I found out that only turns 4, 7 and 16 had the logo. I knew that I would focus on these areas from 5pm-8pm.

I started at the top of the course and grabbed some shots of the guys running and jumping into the sleighs.

This shot was taken at the first turn. As you can see from the photo, I basically had my camera in the track. I had my strap wrapped around my wrist and held on for dear life. The last thing I needed was to drop the camera and make International news. That would be my last Olympic shooting experience. I shot this image 1/500th of a second to freeze the sleigh, which works up at turn one, but would not do the trick once they got to full speed.

This Australia sled crashed on turn 5 and I was standing there as it went over. Remember, that means that these guys are sliding down another 11 turns at high speed in this precarious position. These guys are crazy.

This is the shot that I envisioned when I planned on shooting this event. I was very happy to grab this shot with the USA sled just past the Olympic rings. It really helps to have a camera that shoots 10 images per second! I saw tons of people trying to take pictures of the sleighs with their little point and shoot cameras; almost impossible!

Then, once I had the picture of the sleigh and the Olympic rings, I headed down to the final turn (turn 16) to try and grab a motion blur shot of these fast moving sleighs. As you photographers out there know, the key is to slow down the shutter speed of the camera and pan at the EXACT speed of the moving object. This is a really tough shot. Of the 50 that I shot, only 10% were sharp.

This is my favorite shot of the night for numerous reasons. For one, I was able to pan and grab the sleigh in perfect focus while blurring the spectators. Secondly, the sleigh was right over the Vancouver logo. Thirdly, the sleigh was high on the wall (as opposed to the previous image). Lastly, I met a guy from USA Today who was excited to have a similar image. Any time that I can grab a shot like one of these seasoned pros, I am happy.

For the last shot of the night, I thought that it would be good to grab a wide shot of turn 16 to show the size of the turn and the spectators. I framed this shot to get the full logo on the wall of ice.
Then I took the 2 hour bus ride back to Vancouver and made the 14 block walk back to the condo. I grabbed this shot of the crowds downtown to show everyone what this place has become. When I first arrived in Vancouver, I wondered where all the people were. It was dead here until the evening of Opening Ceremonies, and has steadily grown night by night. This was taken by Robson Street which is a popular shopping street in the city.

Tonight! Oh tonight is the big night. USA vs. Canada, the big hockey game of the Olympics! It is all that people are talking about here. Supposedly tickets are selling for as much as $5000 a piece. Even with my photo credentials, I had to get a special media ticket to get in. And then I had to work with the USOC to get a shooting position on the ice. This should be a great game. And if you think the city looked crazy last night, tonight is going to be mayhem!


Don Smith Photography said...

Hi Jeff,

Looks like you have been having a great time! My sons and I have spent many evenings watching. Thought I spotted you at the last US hockey game. Hope you are going to be at the US/Canada game this afternoon. Keep up the good work! -Don

Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

Oh yeah - I will be there (on the glass again!)

Shelly said...

The bob sleigh pics are great. I too love the motion blur. I walked around Robson and Granville yesterday with friends and the thousands of others. So great to see the Olympic spirit alive and well.

Friends of mine are going to the game tonight and if Canada wins, the party will be of epic portions but if the US wins, it may be a riot.

Can't wait to see the images from tonight's game.

Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

Either way, Robson Street and downtown is going to be CRAZY!!!!!

Ian Selway said...

Hi Jeff,

so how torn are you photographing Team USA with so many Sharks playing the lines for Team Canada? Still trying to spot you on the TV coverage, and really looking forward to seeing the shots posted, and your comments on the game.


Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

I was on the glass (on the side where USA shot twice). My son said that he saw me. :)