Friday, December 27, 2013

What is it like to be a photographer at the Olympics? - The early preparations

The Winter Olympics are now 5 weeks away, and many of you in the United States are starting to see the advertising on NBC. 

As in the past, my goal this year is to take all of you along with me, to show you the behind the scenes of the Games, through stories and photos.

Many of you have followed the daily blog posts from previous Olympics, but I never really talked about the preparations and planning that goes on in the months before the trip. Many people have asked about this process, so I decided to write this post. The first of many posts related to the Sochi Olympics!

For us photographers who will be at the Olympics, the preparations actually started about 18 months ago. Believe it or not, I was working with the US Olympic Committee on the application process for Sochi, while still in London shooting the Summer Olympics for them. 

There are many organizations who apply for photography credentials for the Olympic, but very few available to be handed out. For this reason, the USOC starts this process early to determine who will be granted access. Having photographed numerous Olympics in the past, they know me well and trust that I will deliver high quality photos in a timely manner. This helps me make the cut each time, and for that I am very fortunate. 

But nothing is ever guaranteed! After applying for the credentials, there is a 6 month waiting game. At this point the USOC has to work their magic and determine who goes. And...there are different levels of photography credentials. There are some that only let you into a specific venue, so for instance, a speed skating photographer would only have access to the speed skating venue. I want the credentials that let me go into any venue to shoot. This is the EP credential, or what I call the "golden ticket". 

The credentials for the Olympics also act as my visa into the country. Since these give me access to the country and the Olympics, there is a substantial security screening process happens a year before the Games. 

I just received my credentials two weeks ago. This is always an exciting day for me, as it signifies the beginning of another amazing journey!

I know what you are thinking. You are saying "Jeff sure doesn't look very happy in this photo." But the Olympics, much like the passport office, do not allow you to smile for these official photos. Trust me, I was happy to apply for this. And when I got these credentials, it was cool to see my name in Russian. That is a first!
In the next Olympic blog post, I will tell you about all the logistical challenges of Olympic preparation. This involves what equipment to take, what events I will cover, the contracts, and the travel. And trust me, making travel plans to Sochi, Russia is a lot harder than Vancouver or London.

Oh, and remember to put your email address in the top right section of this blog to be notified all of new blog posts. This way, the blog will be emailed to you, so you can easily follow along on the Olympic ride.


Jeff said...


This is great. I am sure you will capture some wonderful moments. I remember the "swimmers" you "caught" last time.

I can't wait to see your photographs and read about your experiences. I am anxiously awaiting!

J. Ross

Steve Masters said...

Thank you for taking the time to share what you have to go through to become an official photographer for the olympics. WOW.

Unknown said...

This really great. Congratulations...

Douglas said...

I'm looking forward to your posts - aside from photography - my other love is HOCKEY ... Love to see a US-Canada Final (injuries will play a role).

Love to see what you pack and how you pack. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

If you read your name there in Russian it will sound like Djefree K'eibl' with a hard L at the end.