Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Photographing Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps at the Olympics (once again)

Two nights ago, I had an open time slot from 10pm to midnight and decided to head over to the swimming pool to catch some of the swimming action. Even though I had been shooting nonstop for the entire day, I just had to get over to the pool to shoot photos of Michael Phelps once again. I never made it over to the pool during the London Olympics since I had so many conflicts, so the last time I photographed him swimming was at the Beijing Olympics back in 2008.

Since it was really late in the evening, I decided to shoot only a couple of races. (Yes, even I get tired.)

My goal was the photograph Michael Phelps race at 11:30pm, but Katie Ledecky is one amazing swimmer, and I was excited to photograph her for what will probably be a long and very decorated career for her.

The challenge with photographing any Olympic swimmer doing the freestyle stroke, is that they barely come out of the water. Right as Katie was swimming in front of me, I was able to grab this shot of her.

I took this photo to show you all how many photographers are at the pool on any given evening, and this is a shot of the smaller photo area. I was in the larger photo location, which is probably double the amount of shooters than you see here.

I guarantee you that most of the photographers were there for one main reason.

Yep - this guy.

This guy is a swimming machine!

I used the reach of the Canon 200-400mm lens with the built-in tele converter to get me a 560mm shot. I was all the way at the other end of the pool, but wanted to get a shot of Michael diving in from the block. (And for those of you photo buffs who might be wondering, I was using AI Servo focus, activated by back button focus, and a single focus point locked in on Michaels head.)

I tracked Phelps with a shutter speed of 1/2000 sec to freeze the action, as he made his first pass towards my location.

Knowing that the Rio 2016 logo was on the wall opposite from me, I had pre-planned to zoom out as Phelps reached the halfway point of his first length, to get both in one frame.

I then quickly zoomed back in to get this tight shot.

As soon as Michael headed away from me on his first lap, I quickly changed the camera settings to try a slow shutter panning shot of him. I quickly changed the ISO from 1600 to 125 and the aperture from f/5 to f/8. This gave me a shutter speed of 1/60 second. In order to accomplish all these maneuvers (tight shot to wide shot to tight shot, and fast shutter speed to slow shutter speed), I practiced this a couple of times before the race ever started. Once Michael dove in the water, I felt comfortable making all these changes in a short time span.

Michael's wife, Nicole,  happened to be sitting two rows behind my photo position, so once he touched the wall, I quickly turned around to get a shot of her. This is a photo of her looking up at the scoreboard. 

And you may notice that she is holding their new baby.

I was able to move a little and get this photo of Boomer. Too cute.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. I am doing my best to keep up with all the Olympic action. Oh, and I would love it if you could let your friends and family know about the blog. The more readers, the more fun it is to keep losing sleep and keep posting. :)


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Unknown said...

you are like the energizer canon bunny.
love the photos and know what it takes to shoot at this level.
stay safe and get a few naps in

Tom Collins said...

Jeff, great blog post -- one of your best. Love the shots. Great work. Thank you for posting.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff, love this post, great work
I enjoy reading and follow you, please keep on

mcfotosfo said...

Jeff. Fantastic pictures and observations as usual. Your blog is my daily 'must read' plus I'm following you in Instagram. Great getting a look at the games from your inside perspective.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jeff!

One quick thought about quickly changing between normal "action" settings, and settings for a shutter drag or something like that. If you have time to dial the settings in before you need to shoot them (as it sounds like you did here), it's a perfect time to use the custom shooting modes. At least, that's what I've found. I'll set up C1 for normal action, C2 for shutter drag (slow shutter speed for panning, etc). Very fast to switch between them, that way, and no chance of fudging a setting and blowing a shot (as long as the light has been consistent, which it should have been in the natatorium, I'd think?)

Very much enjoying your posts, and living vicariously through your experience, man!


Unknown said...

The shot of the photographers raises my blood pressure haha. Fighting for that perfect shot, perfect view. It's always a challenge and one you have to be delicate with so no one gets angry or flexes their (Big Wire Service) muscles. Maybe some tips on that next time at BH :)

belma balacano said...

love, love the shots of baby Boomer! Just discovered your blog, it's awesome!