Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sochi Olympics: Photos from the Opening Ceremony

Last night was the opening ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics, and once again, I was lucky enough to be there to capture the event.

Before we get to the photos, let me explain how this process works for us photographers. There are approximately 1200 photographers here at the Games, and there are not enough photo positions for all of us at the opening and closing ceremonies. I think they have about 500 positions that get split amongst all of us. This means that you have to go to your organizing committee (the USOC in my case) to get your ticket. Yep - it is one of the few Olympic events where we sit in seats with the spectators. Since I have been doing this for a long time and have good contacts at the USOC, I did not have to wait in a lottery like I used to. I had my ticket a couple of days ago. Phew - that was a real relief, not having to find out last minute, whether or not I would get in. There were 5 photo positions (groups of us) in the arena and I picked position "A" since it would give me the best view of Team USA coming into the stadium.

This is what position "A" looked like. There was just a little bit of money in camera equipment there.

Even though the ceremony did not start until 8:14pm, we had to be in position 3 hours early. This makes for a really long event for us, since the show did not end until 11pm. Nothing like sitting on hard seats for 6 hours. And...for those of you who saw my blog post, the seats were literally buckling under us. The row of seats where I was sitting, started to fall forward into the row before us. It was so uncomfortable, trying to shoot while keeping myself from sliding into the person in front of me, that I found an empty seat in front of me and switched to that position. Then, maybe an hour later, that row started to collapse as well. It is hard to believe that this could happen to a brand new venue. I know I have gained some weight, but I really don't think it was me!

OK, time to take you through the photos from last night. Warning - this blog post could be visually overstimulating. Beware! :)

Before the opening ceremony starts, they always have a warm up for the spectators. This included some bands and some MCs.

They asked everyone to hug the people next to them. Needless to say, us photographers looked at each other and shrugged that off. We like each other, but not that much!

They gave everyone lights to wear and then controlled them throughout the show. It was pretty cool.

The show began with these scenes which flew in through the stadium. If you watched the opening ceremony on TV, you probably got background and information about the events, and you know way more about what it is going on, than I do.

It was a flying horse...

As I do at every Olympics, I find someone who has been to the rehearsal and I ask them for the key moments. This helps me be prepared to photograph the "unexpected". Well...I was told that the big moment of this ceremony was when these 5 snowflakes came in and then transformed into the Olympic rings.

As they got closer to each other, I was anticipating the big reveal and ready for the giant fireworks that were to burst from the rings.

And then...this happened. One of the snow flakes just stopped, and did not become a ring. Uh oh! So, there was a pause and then they removed them from the arena. Bummer! Last Winter Olympics, it was the failed Olympic Torch. Oh well, maybe things will work better in Korea.

When the rings failed to work, Vladimir Putin turned to me. I think he was looking for some technical advice. But I was busy being a photographer, so I shot this photo of him and kept doing my job. Sorry Mr. President.

These people came out lit in red, white and blue. I quickly reframed to include the matching colored lights.

The stage was basically a giant screen all night.

Then the floor opened up and the teams entered the building. Greece always comes first.

There are some small teams...

And there are some really large teams.

I caught this moment with one of the American athletes playing up to the TV cameras.

I usually do not photograph people (or teams) from the back, but I liked the pattern of endless USA.

Most of the photos that you have seen so far, were taken with the Canon 1DX with a 200-400mm lens, and they get us fairly tight to the stage area. But, I also wanted to shoot some wide shots as well. So...I had another Canon 1DX with the 24-70mm. And later in the evening, I switched from the 200-400mm lens to the 70-200mm 2.8 lens.

When the Russian team came out, as expected, people went crazy. I turned the camera with the wider lens and shot this up over my head.

People here love the Olympics mascots.

These horses were fun to photograph.

I felt like I was back in Red Square with all these amazing colors.

As I understand it, the story was about the girl growing up in Russia and going through different times in the country's history. This was a cool point where they lifted her into the sky.

This boat was projected onto the stage and the people moved along with the projected image. It was pretty fun to watch.

Dancing men...

Dancing couples...

Then came the giant train in the sky...

This was one of my favorite parts of the ceremony, when these ladies came out and spun around to form these shapes. I was shooting at ISO 3200, at f/2.8, which got me 1/50 sec (minus 1 stop exposure comp).

With them spinning around, I thought it would be cool to slow the shutter down and get some motion in the performers. So I lowered the ISO to 640 and shot this photo at 1/8 sec. And for those of you who know photography, this is no easy feat when shooting with a zoom lens in low light. I was happy that this came out.

Then I cranked the ISO back up to freeze these two photos.

I framed this shot to get the one woman (who was lit differently from the rest) off on the far right and cropped this image to get rid of the dark empty background. Another favorite of mine from the night.

Of course, you can't have an Olympic opening ceremony without the flag raising.

After the flag ceremony and the official opening of the Olympics, there was more theatrics. These were people on roller skates.

Again, I changed the shutter speed from 1/40 sec to 1/3 sec to get some motion.

At the end of the ceremony, they were supposed to light the flame from within the stadium, but like the rings which did not open correctly, they had a malfunction, so the torch bearers took the torch outside and lit the Olympic flame where we could not see it. At this point, I got out of the venue as fast as I could, and caught some of the fireworks.

And here my friends, is the Olympic flame. Yep - we are officially under way now. I hope you enjoyed the photos.

(And as a reminder....many people have asked how to stay up-to-date on the blog posts. Just enter your email at the top of this page, and you will get an email whenever I write a new post.)


chreni_reni said...

Thanks for sharing :)

Anonymous said...

Jeff, great photos and it's very interesting to get your behind the scenes insights.

Paul said...

Great photos. Thanks.

Paul said...

Great photos. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Spectacular images from a memorable event.
The best highlights expertly captured. Thank you.

Will Starks said...

Sweet! Now, that's a surgeon's hand. 1/8, on a zoom, at that distance, over a crowd, in the cold, while your seat's giving away. Congratulations sir, you're now on my list of heroes!

Bill Carriveau said...

Awesome Jeff!, it amazes me you have time to post to your blog with all that is going on Olympic style! When do you sleep!

Unknown said...

Fantastic shots!!

Cameron Field said...

Amazing post! I am so inspired by your work. Can't wait to keep following over the next few weeks!

Anonymous said...

Great photos and great narration of the photographs and description of the technicals and the story behind hettinh the pics. Link from fb to blog worked fine. Fyi- email entry for sign up didn't work on my verizon android device. Thanks for the great blog and facebook page

Ralph Hightower said...

Great photos! I'm also impressed that Putin has you on speed dial. I love reading about your experiences covering the games.

NBC said that the stadium that you were in was built for two events, the opening and closing ceremony. So, hopefully, Russia has time to replace the collapsed seats in time for the closing ceremony.

Anonymous said...

You got better clarity and sharper images than we saw on TV

Unknown said...

Beautiful! Was one thing seeing on TV, but even better seeing through your pictures. Love the commentary you have too. Looking forward to those Hockey pictures now.

Unknown said...

Great photos, looking forward to what you post for the rest of the games!

Unknown said...

Good set of photos Jeff,good to see it from the spectators viewpoint

Kerry Frank said...

isgurag pBeautiful shots Jeff! One question is IF you need a "Bio Break" what happens then?

Shelly Schmidt said...

Wonderful pictures- I love seeing your fabulous pictures : ) I initially found your blog through Pintrest : ) The pictures really give a fantastic view of the opening ceremonies!

Unknown said...

How exciting is this being there and taking such amazingly beautiful shots! I especially loved the motion-slow shutter shots in the opening ceremony, and the selective focus of some of the performers. Just superlative colors. Better than watching it on TV, because we can see it through the photographers eye-nothing better-thank you for sharing-can't wait for the next series!

Marie Ricketts

bayozan said...

I don't regret I didn't watch the ceremony and waited to see your photos..

Internet-Cable-Guy said...

The lighting in these is fantastic. Your photography gives us a whole new perspective on the games that you can't get from just watching them on TV. Kudos.

Unknown said...

Photos are so amazing!!!

Unknown said...

Great photos Jeff! Thanks for sharing. Curious as to how you felt about being "herded" together in the stands with other photographers. Do you feel challenged to try and capture different perspectives or do you just focus on the subjects and composition and let your pictures speak for themselves?