Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The men of USA Water Polo put up a great fight but are out of medal contention

Yesterday was the men’s quarterfinal game and Team USA put up a great fight against Spain. The game was either tied or a one goal name almost until the end. But alas, they came up short and will do their best to play for a 5th place shot this time around.


Before many of the games (but not all), the men will huddle up in the pool and rally for the game ahead. 


Both teams traded goals, with the US taking the lead at one point. 


Alex Wolf had his hands full with the Spaniards, but played an exceptional game. 


Oh no - another headless water polo player. 😀


This was a rare site, with the goalie facing a shooter almost at point blank range. 


Unfortunately, Alex was not able to stop the shot, but it was a heck of an effort and made for some great photo opportunities. 


Luca Cupido continues to put up the big shots and the points. 



When photographing water polo, it is important to look at the action away from the ball. We tend to follow the ball as it is passed from one athlete to the next, but there is often a battle in the 2 meter position (in front of the net). We need to get that too!


This moment cracked me up. There was a break in the action, and at that very moment Alex Bowen looked at the official and gave him the look like “Really? You are not going to call that foul?” I saw this and quickly turned the camera on him to get this. 


Now that is using your head…


This was either a split second after the ball went out of play or it was Alex checking on me to see if I was shooting in focus. I was.


I love the trails of water that come off the ball.

It was the last couple of minutes of the game and the Spaniards were awarded a penalty shot. As a photographer, penalty shots are golden opportunities to get great photos. We know a shot is coming and can prefocus on the athlete. Unfortunately, they acted and it was the back breaker as the Americans went down by 3 points. 


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My photography workflow: How I go through 2000 images and deliver 25 right away!

I was joking with someone yesterday about the craziness of the Olympics, and the pressures that we are all under during the Games. We were talking about how the world has different time zones and maybe they should add another just for the Olympics. For the media here, there is absolutely no consistency to our eating and sleeping patterns and time is just different. When a bus is 10 minutes late at home, it usually is no big deal, but here at the Olympics, when you are under deadlines all the time, ten minutes seems like an eternity. And those deadlines can be really daunting. 

When I first photographed the Olympics, there really was no such thing as social media and the deadlines were in the hours, not the minutes. I remember being in Beijing and people were saying, take your time getting us images because it is still in the middle of the night back home. But those days are long gone, and we live in a world of immediacy. The team does not want to wait for hours to get my photos, they want them as quick as I can deliver them. And I am not alone in this. The media here are either working for entities that expect images right away, or they are freelance and competing to get their images picked up by the different news outlets around the world, therefore earning them an income.

I am in a different situation, in that I do not upload my images to any of the wire services, I am shooting for the team and to post on the blog. But the team has high demands, and I don't want to let them down. So I crank out my images as fast as I can. 

The good news is that the new cameras have incredibly fast frame rates and I can shoot at up to 30 frames per second. The bad news is that, since I am shooting at these crazy fast burst rates, I end up with a lot more images when the competition is over.  In a typical one hour long water polo game, it is not uncommon for me to shoot more than 2000 images. And I need to go through all of them, find the best ones, retouch those and get them uploaded to the team FAST! And here is how I do it:

The cameras and memory cards

I am shooting with Canon cameras, using a combination of the pre-production Canon R3 and a Canon R5. Both of these cameras are really fast, and both cameras write to CFexpress memory cards. These are the fastest memory cards on the market. Not only do they allow the camera to write to them quickly, they also let me download the information very fast. I am currently using ProGrade Digital memory cards and ProGrade Digital memory card readers which are the fastest and highest quality on the market. The other thing I like is that the ProGrade readers attach snap onto my laptop using a small magnet, so the reader is not dangling loosely by the cord.

The download process

I am using a MacBook Pro 16" from Apple and this laptop is really fast. I have two of the ProGrade Digital readers connected via USB-C and can usually download the 2000+ images from any event in less than 3 minutes. I download all the images into Photo Mechanic because it is just blazing fast. Unlike other programs, I don't have to wait for the images to render, I can just start jamming through them, I have yet to see any photographer at the Olympics who is not using this software.  I usually start the download process, grab another bottle of water, run to the bathroom, and then come back to start the culling process.

Culling the images

Once everything is downloaded, I have two different workflow methods, depending on the urgency from the team. 

1. If the team needs a couple of images immediately, I will make a pass through the photos and color code the best of the best, and get to work on those right away. I have been doing this a long time and I can spot the keeper images really fast.

2. If I have a little more time, I make a really fast pass through all the images and tag the ones that are throw-aways. These images are either not sharp enough or not showing anything of value. There are times when I will fire off a burst of images because I am expecting a big play, and it never materializes. While I am going through and selecting the throw-aways, I am also color coding the top images. To go through 2000 images and make these selections takes me about 15 minutes. I then select all the tagged images and delete them. I then rename all the images (which takes seconds in Photo Mechanic) to something like "USAWP-Men-vs-Japan-0001". I then filter out anything that is not color coded and this leaves me with my keepers. 

Retouching the images

Now that I am looking at only the top images that I have selected in Photo Mechanic, I start to determine which ones actually need to go to the team. I may have 60 images that were ranked high, but some might be redundant or not tell the story that they need. Heck, sometimes I have a killer image of the goalie but the ball is behind them, where they got scored on, and the team probably does not want to highlight that. So, I cruise through the top images and determine which ones will be retouched. If I only highlighted 25 or 30, I will retouch them all. In Photo Mechanic, I hit the "E" key and it automatically opens the image in Adobe Photoshop. I then make adjustments to the exposure, shadows and highlights, crop the image if need be, and I will also straighten the photo if it is slightly crooked (which is almost all the time). I then save the new Jpeg file with "Edit-" in front of the file name. The Olympic Committee does not allow us to clone or make any changes to the images, because otherwise people might create images that do not reflect the reality of what we are seeing here.


Upload the images to the team

In the past, I created Dropbox folders for the team, and uploaded all images to those folders. This year, USA Water Polo has me uploading directly to their new image cataloging system. If they need a couple of key images immediately, I can generally have them retouched and sent to them within 5 minutes. If I am delivering all the retouched images from the game (assuming I am delivering 25 or 30 photos), this can take about 20 minutes. When they are all retouched, I select all of them, resize them to 1800 pixels and upload them to the USAWP portal. When I get home from the Olympics, at some point I will upload all the full resolution files to them as well. 

Selecting images for me

Once I deliver images to the team, then I do a couple of other things with them. I take my ultimate favorites and move them to a Dropbox folder called "Best from Tokyo Olympics" so that I know they are safe in the cloud. I also take those same images and move them to my website. Lastly, I take the images I want to use for the blog and I save those to 900 pixels with my watermark (also done in Photo Mechanic) and upload those to the blog site. I usually add the text later, while on a press bus or in my hotel room. 

Backing up here in Tokyo

Once I get back to my tiny little hotel room, I power up the MacBook Pro and connect a 2TB Crucial x8 SSD to the laptop to backup the days images. I do this to at least two SSDs before I feel comfortable reformatting the ProGrade Digital cards for the next day. This way I have all the images in at least 3 places, once on the internal SSD of the laptop and on multiple SSDs.

Permanently backing up

When I get home from Tokyo, the first thing I will do (regardless of how tired I am) is take ALL the images from the Olympics and back them up to my Drobo 8D RAID system. This is a direct attached hard drive system that is connected to my workstation. And then I will take all of those images and copy them over to my Drobo 810n NAS drive. This way they are backed up on my working drives for safe keeping. The cool thing is that my Drobo 810n remotely synchronizes every night at 11pm to another Drobo 810n that is located hundreds of miles away at my relatives house in the Sacramento area. This way, if I ever have a fire or something bad happen at the house, I have every digital image I have ever taken that is stored off-site.

All in all, this process does take a lot of brain processing power, and to do it numerous times a day is exhausting. But it is also fun to cull through images to see what I got after each shoot. Now I need to run, since I have more images to go through. :)


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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.
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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Photographing Equestrian Jumping - One of my favorite sports to shoot!

Did I mention that it is hot here in Tokyo? Well...the days have been really nasty hot, but last night at the equestrian venue it was absolutely gorgeous. The sun had set, there was a nice breeze blowing, the venue was easy to navigate and it was decorated with colorful jumps. Add some amazing horses and the riders and what is there not to like?

Let me start by saying that I had two goals for the evening. The first was to get some photos of Jessica Springsteen (daughter of Bruce Springsteen) riding, since this is a big story in the US. The second, and my real goal, was to get at least one killer motion pan of this sport.


I arrived at the venue around 6:30pm, and since I am now past my 14 day quarantine and the venue was located near the Tokyo University, I made a visit to Starbucks and had a coffee and a sandwich. I walked back to the venue just in time for the 7pm start time. 

I decided that I would lighten my load on this evening and just take one Canon camera (guess which one) and the Canon 100-500mm lens. I looked for some jumps that highlighted Japan and started shooting there. This was one of my first photos. I liked it, but was not loving the empty seats in the background.


I moved to focus on a different jump, this time with the Tokyo Olympic logo, but I was not loving the poles in the background.


I liked the colors by the jump, and also liked that I was close enough to have the horse and rider fill the frame. Once I captured some of the riders with the "safe settings" at 1/1000 sec, I was on my quest for that much tougher motion pan shot.


Instead of shooting at a really fast shutter speed,  I set the camera to 1/20 sec, widened my stance, and started to move my lens at the same speed as the horse and riders. This was my first successful photo, and it happened to be one of the Japanese riders.


This was the first photo where I got the rider's face perfectly sharp. (Getting the face sharp involves two things: Firstly, I have to be moving my camera and lens at the EXACT same speed as they are moving AND the rider needs to keep their head still for that split second.) This shot was OK, but I wanted the horse to be going up in the shot and I wanted more interesting colors in the foreground. The quest continued.


This is what I was aiming for, with the horse and rider jumping up and more interesting colors in and around them. I was really happy with this one, but still pushing for better.


Knowing that I had the one photo that met my criteria, I decided to slow the shutter speed down even more. going as low as 1/10th sec. This showed more motion, but made it really hard to get the face of the horse or rider sharp.


I got the horse sharp on this one, but the rider's face is a blur.


Bam! This was the one I really wanted. Great position of the horse and rider and good foreground and background.


Then I got a couple more from different locations.


Not a jump, but I like the motion in this shot, in front of the Tokyo Olympic colors.


Another good motion pan shot.


When Jessica Springsteen came out, I was trying to decide if I should play it safe and shoot at 1/1000 sec or take risk and try to motion pan her. I decided that the safe shot was a better idea.


I got a couple nice shots of her on her horse. I think it was the right decision.

I was going to pack up and leave, but decided to shoot a couple more motion pans.


I liked the colors by this particular jump, so I positioned myself there for something different.


This particular shot of the American rider is really tack sharp on his face. It is a keeper. I just wish that he had been facing forward and with some intensity in his face.

Overall I took more than 2000 images, and most of those were taken at 1/20th sec. Of those 2000 images I ended up keeping 379, and ultimately retouched only 27. Of those 27, I really like 10 of them a lot. So, for those of you who think that every shot I take is a winner, think again. I invested three hours of shooting, taking all those photos, ultimately to get a handful of keepers. But I set out with a challenge for myself and I have no regrets in doing so.


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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.
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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. 

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Men's and Women's Water Polo: Heading into the playoff rounds

This blog post combines two water polo games in one. I am combining them for two reasons. First, I am running behind on my posting images to you all, and secondly, I don't want to spam all of you (for those who subscribe to the blog) with too many email messages.

Yesterday, the men played their last game before the playoff round. They lost pretty handily to the team from Greece, but the game really had no effect on the standings. It would have been nice for the men to get a win against this unbeaten Greek team and go into the playoff rounds on a high note, but it was not meant to be. 


As much as the American men tried, they could not keep the opposing team from getting the ball into the back of the net.  



It is pretty impressive to see how muscular these guys are.


I assure you, that even after lugging all this camera gear around for a month, my body looks nothing like this. :)



The goalie, Drew Holland, was a bit frustrated and vocal about it. The interesting thing about having no spectators is that I can hear everything that the athletes are saying in the pool. Good thing you can't! 


Luca Cupido taking a big shot. I like the way that we see his Olympic Ring tattoo and the rings in the background.

And then today I photographed the first playoff game for the women of Team USA. They played against Canada and had a pretty easy time winning this game with a final score of 16 to 5.


Obviously, there was a lot of offense to photograph.


Ashleigh Johnson played a strong game stopping almost everything thrown her way.


Maggie Steffens added three more goals to her Olympic record tally.


Using back button focus has its advantages, as I was able to lock focus on Rachel Fattal and then put her off-center for this shot. I really wanted to get to the Tokyo 2020 logo behind her. I am also trying to shoot images differently from the first games of these Olympics. I have a lot of photos of the athletes firing off shots, so I am trying to look for other action in the game.


Makenzie Fischer winding up for another score. This time I pulled back to get a wider shot of the action.


The job of a photographer, regardless of what we are shooting, is to keep our eyes open and try our best to show all aspects of our event. Things happen all around us that we can not predict, regardless of whether it is sports, a wedding, a bar mitzvah... I heard Adam Krikorian (the coach for Team USA) yelling about a call. I quickly framed the camera on him and got this shot. It makes me laugh, and I know he will too.


Aria Fischer reaching out for the ball.


I saw Maddie Musselman swimming up with the ball and zoomed in close to isolate just her and the ball. Keeping the shutter speed above 1/1000 sec freezes the water in place.


Maddie saying "I am not committing a foul".


Melissa Seidermann is constantly battling in the 2 meter position and she is one tough competitor. In my quest to get other photos for the team, I zoomed in on her and photographed the battle.


I really like this shot, because it is different, with the ball and Tokyo 2020 logo in focus, and everything else is soft.


In the 4th quarter I saw that Adam had put Amanda Longan into the game, giving Ashleigh Johnson a much deserved rest. Knowing that she had not played in any games in these Olympics, I knew that I had to get a good shot for her and the team.


I basically spent most of the last quarter focusing in on Amanda, waiting for the big save. Late in the game, she went high to stop this shot, and I was happy knowing that I captured it.

After the game, Kaleigh Gilchrist was waiting to do an interview in the mix zone, and I asked her if she wanted a photo. I took one portrait of her and then asked her from a thumbs up. I am not sure why, but this is my thing. I always ask people for the thumbs up. So... she did. It really works for Kaleigh because this also shows the Olympic Rings tattoo.

Tomorrow the men face the spaniards for their first playoff game. Go Team USA!


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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. 

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