Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympics in Beijing - One More Event Before Heading Home

Well...I have been in Beijing for almost 2 weeks and it is time for me to leave tomorrow morning. As much as I am looking forward to getting home to the wife, the kids, the dog, American food and drinkable water, I am also sad that I am leaving before the games are over.

On my last day, I did get a chance to shoot the woman's synchronized diving competition. Shooting this event was exciting and humorous at the same time.

The building would be very quiet while the athletes would prepare for their dives, and then just as they make their jump, I would hear the shutters of 50 cameras (mostly Canon 1D Mark IIIs which can shoot 10 frames per second) bursting away as we followed the divers until they were completely in the water. This same sequence would happen every minute or so.

It was really amazing to see the divers symmetry through a camera, when reviewing the images after each jump. I have no idea how the judges could see all of this in less than 3 seconds.

The American team did not do very well at this sport, but the Australian's grabbed silver. As good as the Aussies were at this sport, the Chinese dominated.

Now that I was done shooting this event, it was time to leave the Olympics grounds for the last time and head back to the hotel to pack. As I was leaving the grounds, I took one last look behind me and shot this picture of the Olympic torch above the Birds Nest. This is not my best image, but it has a lot of meaning to me, as my last Olympic image, after shooting more than 15,000.

Goodbye Beijing and thank you for making me at home for the last couple of weeks. This has truly been an amazing experience that I will never forget. J.M.C.

To see more pictures from this trip, you can go to:


Olympics in Beijing - The Best Day

Today was amazing. I showed up to the Water Cube just in time to catch Michael Phelps swimming freestyle for his 3rd gold medal. Man, is that guy fast! Trying to photograph him swimming freestyle is almost impossible. He rarely came up for air and when he did, he was so low to the water line that you could barely capture his face.

Luckily, he ended up swimming a qualification heat for the butterfly stroke not long after his freestyle win, which is a much better stroke to photograph.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympics in Beijing - Fencing and Beach Volleyball

Today I went over to the fencing hall which is located directly across from the Water Cube and conveniently close to the MPC. Although I know very little about this sport, it was still fun to photograph this event. They turn the lights down in the venue and then spotlight the athletes, which makes for some cool high contrast photographs.

After shooting fencing for a couple of hours it was time to take a short rest before making the bus trip over to the beach volleyball venue. The bus trip took about 30 minutes, using the freeway lanes designated only for Olympic vehicles. I loved those!

Getting down on the sand level for this sport is key and provided some really great shots. Although I consider my photographs to be art, my wife has questioned me many times about the amount of images that I captured showing the back end of the girls. I stick by my original claim - it is art.

Enough said.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Olympics in Beijing - Opening Night!

They thought that it might rain tonight but that never happened. Although that was good for all of us, it did mean that the weather was very hot and humid this evening. Fighting a little bit of sickness (probably from something I ate last night - I'm not sure what that was!), I headed out for 6 hours of walking and shooting.

As the ceremonies continued for hours upon hours, I walked around and shot pictures of the performers and the building. I headed for my favorite spot on the bridge. This is the spot with the reflection of the Birds Nest. Since all of the photographers had seen images from the practice earlier in the week, everyone who was "up credentialed" and not inside the Birds Nest wanted this same shot. So...photographers got to this spot between 6am and noon and claimed their tripod territory for the midnight show. That is true dedication to get the image!

I, on the other hand, showed up at the bridge at 9:30pm and bribed a photographer from Italy (with a new Lexar 300x 4GB Professional CF card) to let me squeeze my tripod next to his. The weather was not as clear as the practice earlier in the week, but we deal with whatever weather we get. Anyways, I did get some shots of the fireworks but my favorite shot is the one with the lights coming off the office buildings to the left. Very cool lighting.

The final fireworks show was really intense. I had no idea that many of the firework cannons were placed 30 feet behind me, covered by a fence. For ten minutes we experienced the sounds of war. By the time the show was over, all 150 of us photographers (and all of our gear) were covered in gun powder and shell casings. I think that Canon and Nikon were busy cleaning cameras and lenses for most of that next morning.

Olympics in Beijing - Opening Day!

My first time in the Water Cube

It is the day of Opening Ceremonies and everything is ready to go. I went into the Water Cube today for the first time and took some photos of the different swim teams and the diving teams practicing. The building is even more impressive in person than on TV. Other than the fact that it is humid inside (although still better than outside), the lighting is very good and the architecture is truly unique. Everything carries the water theme. If you look at the picture above, you will even notice that the seats are different colors representing the splashing of water.

A diver practicing from the 30 meter height. That takes guts!

After the visit to the Water Cube, it was time to head back to the Main Press Center (MPC) to get organized for tonight. I also had a chance to join a couple of press interviews with the USA woman's gymnastic team (yes - my same friends from the flight over) and also with the Murray brothers (British tennis).

Now it is time to get out of the MPC and get ready to capture images outside the Birds Nest. It turns out that, since there are so many VIP motorcades and foreign dignitaries, you have to have a special "up credential" in order to be on the grounds. I managed to get one of those this morning so I am good to go.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Olympics in Beijing - Day Before Opening Ceremonies

It is the day before the Opening Ceremony and you can tell that the Chinese people are very excited. Security is definitely tighter than the previous days and there is more activity outside the gates of the grounds. As I walked around the Olympic grounds taking some last pictures without crowds of people, I watched them put the final touches on everything from the gardening to the walkways.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Olympics in Beijing - Day One

Every four years, millions of people from around the globe gather in anticipation for the Summer Olympics. This year I was in the enviable position of working at the Olympics.

Going to Beijing to photograph would have been an adventure in itself – but going to Beijing to photograph the 2008 Olympic Games was beyond my wildest dreams! I can not begin to explain the adrenaline rush at the thought of capturing both the city and the games.

As I boarded the plane to Beijing in San Francisco, the excitement and photo opportunities were already presenting themselves. Our flight was full of Olympic athletes still quite relaxed before entering the international spotlight. However, this momentary calm was fleeting. As soon as we disembarked at the new Beijing International Airport the press were swarming around our jet. It was at this point that I decided to join in the fun and I took out my camera and started shooting the athletes as they got off the plane. My Olympic photographic journey had begun!

Members of the USA Women’s Gymnastic Team (just off the plane in Beijing)

On my first day in Beijing we had blue skies (this turned out to be the one and only day that was truly clear), and thankfully I took full advantage of this great lighting by capturing as much of the city as I could in one day. I arrived days before the games started, which meant the common grounds within the Olympic Green were mostly deserted, allowing me to capture the buildings and sculptures in all their architectural glory.

A sculpture on the Olympic grounds (with blue sky!)

I explored the Olympic grounds on a mission to find the perfect view of one of the most monumental pieces of Olympic architecture, the Bird’s Nest. I did my research before leaving San Francisco and noticed that many images of the Bird’s Nest were taken with a reflection from water. My goal was to capture the fireworks display over the Bird’s Nest during the Opening Ceremony and what better shot to get than one that would include a water reflection?
Finding the perfect spot for this shot in advance really paid off!

The Beijing National Stadium (otherwise known as the Bird’s Nest)

I tore myself away from the Olympic grounds to photograph the other beauties Beijing had to offer. First stop, The Forbidden City, photographically, this is an amazing place. There are 9,999 rooms in this seemingly endless compound, with architectural details that would excite any photo enthusiast. The buildings are intricately detailed, boasting vivacious and contrasting colours - making them perfect for both long and wide lenses.

The Forbidden City

After 5 hours exploring the Forbidden City in heat and humidity that this Californian was just not used to, it was time to return to the hotel. As soon as I got there, I received a text message on my mobile phone informing me that the practice fireworks over the Bird’s Nest were starting immediately. Thankfully, I made it to my pre-determined perfect spot to take pictures of the fireworks overhead, while 90,000 Chinese practiced inside for the Opening Ceremony. Rehearsal over, 100,000 people then tried to leave the area at once resulting in a three hour wait to find a taxi home! It was now 1am and I was exhausted, this was the first of many long days photographing in Beijing. The end result was definitely worth it, I was thrilled to get the shots exactly as I had envisioned.

Fireworks and the illuminated smoke above the Bird’s Nest

Since the games were yet to commence, The Great Wall was next on my list. I could not wait to see this great wonder of the world (and had an ulterior motive of scouting out the area to shoot Lexar Media’s next advertisement!) The hazy air quality did not allow for distance photographs, but it did create an ambient mood and more interesting and creative photographs. Since professional photographers cannot control the weather, we must learn to use it to our photographic advantage. Despite the heat, the humidity and the poor air quality, The Great Wall lived up to all my photographic expectations and was a great site to behold.

Me shooting on location at the Great Wall (Photo by Nick Didlick)

A couple more days and it will be the opening ceremony. My focus will change from the city sites to the games themselves.