Friday, August 12, 2016

What is it like to be a one man operation at the Olympics? A typical day for me...

Here I am on the 7th day of my fifth Olympic Games and the usual Olympic pace is in full gear. Many people have commented on social media, the blog, and emails asking me how I get all this done. So, let me take you through my typical day here in Rio.

Here at the Games, I am surrounded by thousands of photographers and writers from all over the world. Each time I am on a press bus, I hear countless languages being spoken around me. Unlike most of those men and women who are either shooters, editors, writers or production, I am attempting to photograph the events and write articles. Why would I do this? Because it is a chance for me to share my insider view of the Olympics with all of you.

So...let's get to it.

I wake up in the morning (usually to the sound of my iPhone alarm going off and me wanting to snooze it), and take a fast shower. I try to stretch every morning, but sometimes I just run out of time. I go downstairs to take advantage of the free breakfast at this hotel. And yes, unlike Sochi, this is a real hotel with decent amenities, reasonable WiFi, and I even have a shower door this time! I usually eat in 10 minutes or less so that I can get make my morning press bus to the main press center.


The buses (called TM for Transport Media) are very prompt, so I need to be out side at the exact right time. I usually leave my room 3-5 minutes before the scheduled take-off time. This year, for the first time, there is a TM app for my phone so that I can look up any departure spot or destination and the app will tell me the schedules. This has been very handy. Like Sochi, I am not trusting the water here, so I am rationing my bottled water for brushing my teeth. 5 bottles left right now!


Once on the TM bus to the Main Press Center (MPC), I have my laptop out and I am either writing the next blog, or editing photos for a blog post. As I have mentioned on my Facebook Live posts, for the first time ever, the TM buses have WiFi and this has been awesome! Not only is this handy for blogging, but it also allows me to call home (without using voice minutes). We are all loving this new addition and I hope it is duplicated at all future Olympics.


Once I arrive at the MPC, I have to go through a security check point where my badge is scanned and we go through the metal detectors. At this point, I am in a "clean zone" and I don't need to get scanned again until I leave the park.


At the MPC, I go to my locker and determine the cameras and lenses that I need for the next event. Because all the buses leave from the MPC area, it is the center of my Olympic universe. I usually come back to the locker between events, unless they happen to be near each other on the park.

Then I am off to take one of the internal TM buses if I am going to a venue in the park, or another external TM if I am going to a remote venue. (Right now I am on a TM heading to an internal venue).

Once at the venue, I usually use another venue locker to leave the Thinktank bag with laptop and grab only the camera gear I need. I then head into the Field of Play (FOP) to start shooting. Depending on what I am shooting, I may be there anywhere from 1 to 4 hours. As soon as I am done shooting, I head back to the venue locker, which is in the venue's press room. I should mention, that along with the main press center, each venue has their own as well. Once there, I will break out the laptop and start downloading. If I just shot a water polo game for USA Water Polo, I need to get them images ASAP, so I waste no time. It is:

* MacBook Pro out and powered up
* AC power plugged in
* Lexar CR2 reader plugged in via Thunderbolt
* Cards out of camera and into reader. Since I am using the new Lexar 3500x CFast cards, the downloads happen incredibly fast!
* Start culling through the photos using Photo Mechanic to find the best ones for the team
* Retouch all the favorites in Photoshop
* Resize and put those into a Dropbox folder for my team contact
* Text them to let them know that the images are posted


Once this is all done, I am usually feeling the pressure to get the day's first blog posted. So I work on the blog for an hour or two and then my stomach is usually yelling at me. Then I find the fastest food possible, which is usually in the press area. It is not very good, and it is the same 4 choices at every venue, but it is fuel, so that works.

At this point, I am usually heading back to the MPC to do all this over again at each venue. People have asked me how many events I shoot per day. Due to transportation and other logistics, the answer is usually 2 to 3 a day. A couple of days ago, I did 4, but that was pushing it a bit.

The days here are incredibly long, and you can see this on the faces of everyone around me. Sleep deprivation is the norm here. My dinner time has ranged from 9pm to 1:30am.

At the end of each day I head back to the MPC to store lenses in my locker. And yes, so far everything has been pretty safe, and I hope it stays that way. I always grab my Canon 1D X Mark II camera bodies to bring back to my hotel room. It makes me feel better to know they are with me, and this way I can recharge the batteries.

When I do get back to the hotel, I have a list of things to do. I need to go through the day's images and purge all the duplicates and rejects. This can take another hour or so, depending on how much I shot that day. I then connect up two of my Western Digital Passport drives and back up the photos. I should also mention that I have a 3rd Passport drive in my locker at the MPC. I like to have lots of redundancy. I also take my favorite photos (which might be 3 or 4 for the day) and upload them to Dropbox and the Drobo 801n at my house. Once that is complete, I will upload those favorites to my Zenfolio web site, to share with everyone.

Oh, and I can't forget another important function that needs to be completed every couple of nights. I have to do my laundry. I purchased laundry detergent on the the second day in Rio and use that in the sink to wash my clothes. I became pretty proficient at this in Sochi and have kept it up here in Rio. There are laundry services at the MPC and the hotel, but they are both expensive and / or too much of a logistical challenge. I actually have fun with it. You should see my room, with clothes drying on any available hook and rack. :)

As I mentioned before, I have 3 batteries for the Canon cameras and make sure that at least two are fully charged for each day. I also charge the laptop and iPhone overnight.

Throughout the day, I am constantly checking email and looking at all your comments on Facebook, Instagram, and here on the blog. Your feedback is what keeps me going. Thanks to all of you for taking the time to read the blog and become part of this community. It is usually night at night that I can respond to people.

Due to the 4 hour time difference from here to home, I can call home even at 1am or 2am and not worry about waking anyone up. It is nice to FaceTime with the family for a little bit before going to sleep.

Before shutting myself down for the night, I determine which bag I am taking the next day. I have the choice of my ThinkTank roller or my ThinkTank backpack. I get those packed up, minus the batteries that are charging. I also lay out my photo vest (which is a requirement for me to be in a photo position) and my credentials. I don't want to forget these in the morning!

Then I crawl into bed and sleep for a little while before I start it all again.

Does this tire you out just reading this? It is an exhausting 3 weeks, but totally worth it!

OK - Time to run to the next event!!! I have two buses to catch. It's 3pm and I have not eaten yet. This blog needs to be posted. Social media has to be updated. And the next event is 45 minutes from starting. The pressure!!!! :)

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If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.

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14 comments:

Jeff said...

Hi Jeff:

Thanks for keeping us informed. Wi Fi on the bus? I am impressed with that! I am sure after all that moving around and lugging the equipment as well as the hectic schedule you are dead to the world when your head finally hits the pillow!

Hang in there and keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences. I can't even imagine how well you are organized. And you also manage to find your venues. *respect*
Kind regards
Jenny from Austria

Greg Brennfleck said...

Thanks for keeping us updated. We appreciate you going out of your way to give everyone the inside scoop.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all the behind-the-scenes looks! The logistics alone of getting everyone where they need to be is pretty amazing.

Anonymous said...

thank you for this blog - i love it - and i love your photos - please keep taking more and sharing them. can you share at what speed the photos you take (this will give us an idea of how much of light there is in the venues and the speed of the sport especially in the panning.
thank you very much
eric from France

Terry Howell said...

Your Olympic coverage is awesome. I have actually spotted you a few times, dont worry your mug is not bad. Big thanks for enlightenment to multi exposure mode, have been playing around with this, very cool. Everybody is out of the house so the dog is my subject....I'm sure she is wondering why I'm throwing dog treats all around the house, LOL!! Keep up the good work, were loving it.

Jeff Newland said...

Pretty amazing! Thank you for sharing. It is very enjoyable to read!

Ven McAndrew said...

Jeff ... Any gold medals for photographer endurance challenge? Keep up the great work as it is fun to see your posts and different views of the athletes.

Marcia Barkoff said...

You are absolutely amazing photographer and a wonderful person! I delight reading your blog and yes your photos are fantastic!!!
xoxo

Anonymous said...

You have to change the color format of the blog. Its so hard on the eyes!

Anonymous said...

I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog and how much I admire your work. It's mind-boggling to me how you manage to always capture the most amazing photos. Thank you for taking us along with you. It's really quite fantastic!

Thierry said...

Here is a very interesting topic backstage Jeff. Having covered the Games in London I recognize there, the pace of such an event. The race after the time ....
I have to be in Rio, but not easy to complete a budget for freelance! Grrrrr

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jeff for your extraordinary effort to keep your fans fed such great insight to the games. We are lucky to get to watch the athletes as well as the pro behind the scenes. Stay safe and healthy.

Anonymous said...

I've followed you for about 2 years and have been impressed with the way you share such great content but it's even more impressive that during this stressful and busy time that you still find the time to keep us up to date with what it takes to photograph an event like the Olympics. Good luck with the rest of the Olympics and look forward to reading your future blog posts, thanks for taking the time to do this, Cheers John Osman UK.