Thursday, January 23, 2014

What is it like to be a photographer at the Olympics? - Schedule planning

It is now Thursday, January 23rd, which means that I am less than a week from my trip to Europe. London will be the first stop, and Moscow my second stop, on my way to Sochi, Russia. The flights and hotels have been booked for quite some time now, but the real scheduling challenge is for the Olympic games.

I talked about the air travel challenges in the last pre-Olympic blog post, but even more daunting are the internal travels from one Olympic venue to another. Most cities that host the Olympic games will use existing buildings for their venues, which means that the venues are spread across the city, In Beijing, Vancouver, and London, there were many times when a trip from one venue to another could take 2 hours. For those of us trying to photograph as many events as possible, this means that you have to plan very carefully, allowing for bus schedules, traffic and other possible issues that can not be foreseen.

If you look at the map above, you will see that the UBC Thunderbird Arena (Women's ice hockey) was very far away from the Canada Hockey Place (Men's hockey) which was downtown.

Image from Google Maps
The great thing about the Olympic Park in Sochi, is that everything has been newly built for the Games, with all the buildings walking distance from each other.

Before my first Olympics, I had no idea what to expect when it came to travel, so a month before the Games began, I made a spreadsheet with the times and locations for the sports I wanted to capture. Well...that didn't last very long. By the third day of the Olympics, I realized that my planning was not realistic. There were days when I planned on capturing 3 or 4 events, but often times I could only capture two events in a 24 hour period. At that point, the spreadsheet was then crumpled up and thrown in the trash. After that, I had to wing it, which is not an easy task, with so many things happening at one time. Remember, it is not just the sporting events happening. There are press interviews at the venues, press interviews at the Main Press Center (MPC), concerts, public events...

Some people might think that with each event being a couple of hours long, it would be possible to see 4 events per day, but for us photographers who are capturing the sports, we still have to download, cull through the thousands of photos, find the best, retouch those (exposure, white balance, cropping), and then upload them back to the U.S. This can take a couple of hours per event. And yes...I will be working hard to blog every day with my favorite images and stories. This takes another hour a day.

Something amazing happened in 2012 and it was a real game changer! For the first time, I was able to use an official Olympic app on my iPhone to see what was happening each day. This made a HUGE difference! I remember one instance, in London, when I went to the MPC to catch the press bus to Wimbledon. All the press buses depart and return to the MPC, and as it turned out, there were very few buses going out to Wimbledon and I had missed the one I needed. Shooting tennis was not a contractual obligation, so there was no need to panic. Instead, I looked at the app on my iPhone, to see what else was happening in that time frame. I saw that there were numerous events happening at the ExCel Center (wrestling, fencing, weight lifting...) so I headed that direction. I love the fact that, during the time when there are no USA hockey games (which I am contractually obligated to shoot - happily I might add), I can pop out the iPhone and see what interesting events are coming up. My goal is to photograph as many different events as possible.

This year, there is an official app for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and you can find it here.

The next pre-Olympic blog post will show all the gear I am taking with me, and talk about the challenges of packing and traveling with so much equipment.

1 comment:

Thierry said...

Freelance photographer I'm in France and I appreciate reading your section on preparation for the games. I myself even covered my first Olympic games in London in 2012. A Great experience. A dream for a sports photographer! I will not be in Sochi this winter. As a freelancer, it is difficult to bear all costs. I hope to be the trip of Rio ... Highly future articles