Thursday, August 11, 2016

The women of USA Gymnastics take home gold medals!

The other night many of you saw my ugly mug on television over and over during the women's gymnastics team competition.. Sorry to subject you all to that. :)

After another long day of shooting, it was a last minute decision to head over and photograph the women's gymnastics. I checked with my contact at the USOC to see if there were any tickets left (since this was a high impact event requiring a ticket even for us media) and there were. I took a bus back to the main press center to switch gear and to visit the USOC office on the 5th floor, where I grabbed my ticket.

Since I had already been shooting for countless hours, and was getting tired of hauling the Canon 200-400 lens, I thought I would travel light. I went to gymnastics venue with just one Canon 1D X Mark II and one lens, my Canon 100-400mm. This lens is comparatively light and it was nice to "take it easy" for a change.

I thought it would be a good challenge for myself, bring limited to one camera and one lens that the everyday photography buff could afford.

I showed up to venue and went straight to where the US team was starting their rotation. The photo position was literally inches away from where the athletes were seated. I even had to be careful resting my camera on the ledge, since I did not want it falling over on their heads and creating a worldwide incident.

Since we were by the run up area and not able to get close to the vault, my photographer friend said that this was a "no shot" area. I decided to take the lemons and try to make lemonade. Heck, there were hundreds of other photographers crammed into the far end of the shooting area, and they would surely get thousands of photos of the girls doing their vaults. I decided to try and shoot motion pans of the girls running to the vault.

The U.S, was paired up with the Chinese team, so I photographed some of them as well. I set the camera to shutter priority with a shutter speed of 1/30 sec and moved my lens at the exact same speed as my subject.

From where we were standing, we also had visibility of the floor exercises across the venue. I zoomed all the way to 400mm and waited for this woman to jump over the Olympic rings. You will notice that throughout the blogs, I am trying my best to include the Olympic backgrounds in my images. But I have noticed that many of the venues have spartan backgrounds. I just heard today that only 15% of the signage that they ordered for the Olympics actually arrived here. That explains why there are so many walls without Olympic logos and rings. This sucks!

I then followed the team over to the balance beam. For this action, I decided to be less artistic and just capture the performance. I waited for the peak of action and fired the camera (at 14 frames per second) to grab Aly Raisman high above the beam.

Each time these girls would jump from the beam, I would hear hundreds of camera shutters firing off all around me.

I leaned way down to get this photo of Laurie Hernandez with the Olympic rings in the background.

You can see how I was using the Canon 100-400mm lens to zoom in for tight shots, and then zoom back out for wide shots. This my friends, is why I prefer zoom lenses to prime lenses.

I shot vertical and horizontal shots to change it up a bit.

These athletes are fearless and amazing at what they do.

Simone Biles on the beam.

Incredible, right?!

It was cool to photograph Gabby Douglas once again. I took a photo of her doing this exact same maneuver 4 year ago, but I shot it from the end of the beam, looking straight into her eyes.

And...for those of you who have been following the blog since before these Olympics, you may remember that I posted a blog of the images I want to capture here in Rio. One of those challenges to myself was to capture some cool multi exposure shots. I had only used this mode once in my life and I wanted to see what it would yield.  Pretty cool right?

I was pretty happy with what I was getting, but when looking at the images on the back of the camera, I determined that I needed to keep the camera perfectly still, so that the background and beam were not duplicated.

This was ultimately what I was after, but it still was not exactly what I had in mind. Not to tease you too much, but I used this mode (after perfecting it a bit more) last night in the fencing venue and got EXACTLY what I wanted. But, hey, that is the next blog. You will have to wait a little bit for that one.

With this last performance, you could see by the look on Simone's face, that they had this one in the bag!

She ran straight to her awaiting teammates. As you can see, the pool photographers were all over them to get the shot. For those of you wondering the difference between the pool photographers (in the green vests) and the rest of us, I can explain this for you. The pool photographers are shooting for the big agencies like Getty, Associated Press, AFP and others. They get special access that we don't get. But I would not want their jobs, since they are told what to cover, and I like the freedom to shoot what I want.

About 15 minutes later, the team came back out to get their gold medals.

The Chinese, Russian and American teams all on the podium.

I love this shot. Great smiles from Team USA!


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Anonymous said...

Amazing shots! My dream is to photograph gymnastics of the Olympics! I am working to get where you are! I hope you have a great time finishing out the Olympics!

Anonymous said...

Amazing shots! I really love the panning ones! My dream is to photography gymnastics at the Olympics and I am working to be where you are one day! I hope the rest of your trip is amazing!

Sierra John said...

You are doing an incredible job Jeff, especially since you are not in the "pool".

Thierry said...

No doubt you are a good photographer but rather than images of the competitions that can be seen everywhere, it would be interesting to show us backstage with pictures of the photographers at work, equipment, media center, the atmosphere of bus, brief life of a photographer at the Olympics