The women of USA Water Polo arrived in Rio about five days ago, and had their press conference a couple of days later. I am going to start off with a couple photos from the press conference and then show you the game.
This first photo is of the team captain, Maggie Steffens. She and her sister, Jessica, were on the gold medal team back in 2012, and they are both really great athletes and people. As you can tell from her smile, she was also having a good time being at her second Olympics.
Kami Craig (above) and Courtney Mathewson (below) also returning for another Olympic Games.
I love that when Courtney and Maggie came into the room, they gave me a nice greeting. It is one thing to photograph the athletes and another thing to get to know them. It makes it more personal for me. I actually share the photos with them to post on their social media and to have for themselves. Heck, today right after the game, I texted some photos to them.
Ashleigh Johnson is the goaltender for the team and one cool customer. I have photographed her before, and when I look at the images, I amazed at how calm she looks in the net. She, unlike the others at the press conference, is at her first Olympics.
Here is a wide shot of the girls up on stage.
Before breaking out into smaller groups to be interviewed, I asked them to get together for a quick group shot.
And then today...it was game time.
Here is the team lined up for the National Anthem.
This is their coach, Adam Krikorian, who has had a very difficult week. I will get back to that in a little bit.
I happened to be at the right place at the right time, to get the women walking out and being met by the coach.
And, lucky for me, they started on the same end of the pool that I was shooting from, so I could get this huddle. I am not sure if they show all this on television (since unlike you, I almost never see the TV coverage of the Games.).
For being a first time Olympian, Ashleigh sure looked calm to me.
Team USA scored almost immediately.
And kept the scoring coming.
Here is Maggie launching a bomb for another goal.
Not long after Maggie's first goal, she scored again on this penalty shot. As a photographer, I love penalty shots, since it allows me to frame the shot and prepare for the moment. I moved slightly so that the Olympic rings would be in the shot.
This is a very physical sport.
Ashleigh is an amazing goaltender, and I want to capture all of her athletic moves. But as you can see, she has very dark skin. This is very tough for us photographers who are shooting in a brightly lit outdoor pool. If I meter for the white caps and water, you would not see any of the features of Ashleigh's face. The solve this, I increased the exposure compensation of the camera (so that the images would be brighter). With that said, I am also careful not to go so bright that the images are blown out.
It also helped when she would look up towards the sun, therefore adding light to her face.
This will all be solved soon, since all of the preliminary matches are being played outside, and then the medal rounds will be held in the main swimming venue. But I do love shooting outside and using smaller apertures (like f/8) to get more in focus, while still achieving a fast shutter speed. I also like getting the backlighting off the water.
This photo shows how the Spanish swimmer and American are battling for position.
After the game, it was time to head into the mix zone to photograph the athletes being interviewed. As a photographer, our job is to help tell the story with photos. Well...this photo was a tough one to take. You see, Adam's brother, Blake, unexpectedly died last week at the early age of 48. Adam found out the news after landing in Rio, and immediately turned around and flew back to the US. He was there to be with his family, which is always the priority. He then returned to Rio to make the first game, with his other family, the team. This photo shows him being interviewed and asked about the situation. I can not imagine the emotions he must be dealing with right now.
Turning back to a brighter note, the women ended up crushing Spain by a score of 11-4, so Maggie and the others were all smiles.
This is a wide shot of the mix zone (which are usually indoors), to show you how it all works. All the athletes walk through this path, and the press can usually stop and interview any of them, if they are willing to talk. Most of them are, even after a tough loss.
Is it bed time yet? Nope! It is only 12:15, and I still have a ton more photos to edit.
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