Sunday, February 25, 2018

The blurring speed of short and long track skating

Well folks, after 3 really long weeks of shooting here at the Olympics in PyeongChang, things are coming close to an end. I am currently writing this blog from my shooting position in the Olympic Stadium. I am all bundled up and typing, while connected to the Olympic press WiFi. The Closing Ceremonies start at 8pm, but I got here by 4pm to make sure I was here in time for the photographers meeting at 5pm.

My last sporting blog is a combination of short track and long track speed skating, and features a lot of motion panned images. Why? Yeah, partially because I love shooting these challenging shots, but also because these sports really look better when shot this way.

These first images were taken at the long track, and show the teams competition. As you can see, I was playing with angling the camera to add more drama to the shots (similar to what
I have done with motorsports). I have been shooting all the panning shots with the Canon 1D X MK II and the Canon 100-400mm lens. I like the 100-400 because it is easier to handhold, and I don't like panning on a monopod.

I normally shoot my panning shots with a slightly faster shutter speed, but wanted to challenge myself to see how slow I could go and still freeze at least one of the athlete's faces. These shots were all taken at ISO 100 and 1/10th sec. A challenge for sure, but the results are so cool, with the faces pretty sharp and all the motion in the arms and legs.

Of course, I had to pan with the Americans.

I love the placement of these three skaters because they are under the rings and going right through the Olympic slogan.

For short track speed skating, I motion panned the skaters but used a slightly faster shutter speed of 1/25 sec for this shot.

I shot the skaters as they came towards me, and as they skated away through the turn.

I did shoot some "safe shots" at 1/1000 sec, but as you tell, they are not as interesting to look at.


In order to catch the winner's reaction, I usually do switch back to a faster shutter speed. It would be a bad idea to try and capture these reactions at a super slow shutter speed.

When I showed up to shoot short track speed skating the second time, I walked into the venue and saw all the North Korean cheerleaders. All perfectly in order. And no, I did not try to motion pan them. Although, in hinds site, I probably should have done that when they were waving their flags. :)

This photo was taken at 1/15 sec and is a perfect example of what I look for in a motion pan shot.

Here is a tighter crop of the same shot to show you exactly what I am referring to. There is motion everywhere (helmet, hands, legs, and feet) except his face.

Two days ago I photographed long track speed skating for another client. And when I showed up, the north Koreans were there again, but in different outfits. By the way, I should mention that the South Koreans are really enamored with the North Korean girls, because it is so rare that they see anyone from North Korea. The people here have no animosity to the North Korean people, just the government.

Here are a couple of motion pans of Shani Davis, from the US. 

I need to capture good images of him, so I stayed at a more reasonable 1/40 sec for panning his race.

As soon as the gold medalist started to come around the bend, I switched back to manual mode (at 1/1000 sec) to freeze his reactions.

The last event that I attended at these Olympics was a new one for the Games. It is called mass start long track. Since it is a brand new sport for the Olympics, I wanted to be there to capture some images. I also thought it would make for some cool panning shots with lots of skaters in the frame. 

I started shooting in my normal "safe mode" once again, and good thing I did. I needed the 1/1000 sec shutter speed to freeze the action in this wipe out.

This mass start event is not what I expected. I thought that it would be like short track skating but on a larger oval. Instead there are certain laps which are slow and certain laps that are sprints. As you can tell from this photo, they were coasting a bit at this moment.

For the first time, I even tried a really slow shutter speed at the start of the race. And I am glad that I did, as this worked out nicely.

This shot took some skill and even more luck, getting the cool pattern of skaters on the right which are all blurred and the lead skater who is perfectly sharp.

You can see which skater I was panning on - the guy in the middle who is sharp.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I don't usually pan through people, but since I was shooting at a really slow shutter speed (1/8 sec), I thought it might add to the shot.

Before going to the mass start race, this is what I envisioned as my key shot. I long line of skaters all panned at the same time. I was happy to get that shot.

More shooting through the crowd, with the skater in green perfectly sharp.

Once I thought I had all the shots I wanted, I tried the angle shot here as well. 

I still have a couple more blogs to share with you all from these Olympics. I have done two tours (which the organizing committee put together for the press for free). I did a tour of PyeongChang and a tour of the DMZ. Those will come soon, as well as my favorite photos from tonight's Closing Ceremonies.

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