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.

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