Saturday, July 24, 2021

The first water polo match and the challenges of photographing it!

Today was the first game for the women of USA Water Polo and they unleashed a barrage of goals on Team Japan. The final score was 25 to 4, which set an Olympic record for most dominant win in any women's water polo match. But before I show you the images from the game, let me tell you a little about the venue. 

It was the women's first game playing and my first game shooting in this venue.  To be honest, the photo positions in this venue are really bad. I know. I know. You are thinking that this is the Olympics and everything should be perfect for us photographers. But folks that is rarely ever the case at the Olympics, where everything is designed around the TV broadcast and we are a distant second in the pecking order here.

There is a floating barrier behind each goal, which probably looks great as a backdrop for television, but it makes it REALLY hard to photograph here. Even if we shoot from a standing position behind the barriers, we are limited in our view of anything up close. We have asked that it be moved back, but that is not likely to happen.

The venue itself is really nice and the lighting is OK, but not as bright as I am used to. I am having to shoot all my photos at ISO 2500 or higher to achieve a shutter speed of 1/800th sec. Not horrible, but not great either. You see all these empty seats and you are probably thinking that we can shoot from anywhere, but that is not the case. There are very specific photo locations and they are severely limited due to social distancing. And most of the photo positions on the pool deck are behind the barrier. Ughh! I want to shoot at pool level so that I am looking into the eyes of the athletes, not from up in the stands (where there are more shooting locations).

The other thing you will notice in the photo above is that there is glare on the water. And this glare from the overhead lights is much more pronounced when shooting from the pool deck. This makes it almost impossible to shoot with my camera in manual mode since the light changes all over the pool, so I am staying in aperture priority in this venue.

OK - on to the game and the photos.

I came to the venue really early and talked to the photo manager. I was able to get a position at the very corner of the pool where I avoided a majority of the barrier. This gave me the view I wanted, but of course, I am not guaranteed this spot every game. I used a couple different cameras (and yeah one might have been an R3) and tried using both the Canon 200-400mm lens and the newer Canon RF100-500mm lens. Both worked really well. 

As I mentioned earlier, the women scored early (20 seconds into the match) and often!

The Japanese goaltender did not stand a chance against the firepower of the Americans.

I told you about the challenges of shooting in this venue, but on the positive side, the light coming from the rafters does a nice job of lighting Ashley's face in goal.

I really like this shot, even though you do not see the athlete's face. I just like that you can see the Tokyo 2020 logo on the ball in front of the goaltender.

Remember everyone, these women are not standing on the bottom of the pool, they are scissor kicking all the time.

And they can achieve amazing thrust from those powerful legs. 

When I am cropping images for the team, I have to decide whether I want a tight shot with just the water and the athlete or a wide shot showing the Olympic logo. I like to give them both.

You will notice that I had good back-lighting in this building which really highlights the water flying in the air.

This is one of my favorite photos of the day. I love the way that the water almost forms eye glasses which she is looking through. This is an example of where I crop tight so that you see this detail. If I cropped this wide, you would not see her eyes peeking out from the water.

Here is shot of Maggie Steffens scoring one of her 5 goals today. This means that she is just 5 goals short of a record for scoring the most water polo goals of any women in Olympic history. Go Maggie!

Here is another favorite photo of the day, with Ashleigh Johnson reaching high out of the water to stop this shot. It is also nice to have the Tokyo logo and Olympic Rings in the photo as well.

Pure power coming from Kaleigh Gilchrist.

I love capturing all the expressions of the game.

Once the game ends, those of us photographers who are shooting on the pool deck have to grab our stuff and make room for the athletes to walk by. More social distancing protocols. 

I moved out of the way, but used my long lens to get the women as they left the pool. Maggie and Maddie saw me and posed for a shot (as did all the others as they came by).

As I was grabbing my gear to leave the pool and head to the press room (where I am now), I saw one of the volunteers bringing out new balls for the next game. I asked if I could place one on the riser in front of me and he agreed. I needed this shot for the team and me.

Stay tuned for Men's water polo tomorrow and hopefully some other action as well.


Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY 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.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 



Unknown said...

I love the shots that you're able to get with the Olympic logo on the ball. It tells your story of where you are. Great photos.

Jeff said...

Hey Jeff:

Great pics and narrative! I do enjoy the ladies and the action, but the final shot is one that really completes the photo essay!

Great job and thanks for taking the time to post!

Stay well and enjoy what you do best!