Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Closing ceremony - The final photo shoot of the 2014 Winter Olympics

This morning I got up at 3:45am to get to the Sochi airport. Even though my flight did not leave until 8:30am, we were warned to get to the airport very early. It is a good thing that I did, since I only had 30 minutes between getting through allthe lines and boarding the plane. We just took off from the Sochi airport, as I make my way to Frankfurt, Germany and then ultimately to San Francisco. I am still in the Olympic mode of making use of every waking minute, so here I am writing this blog. This blog will be posted from 38,000 feet, since there is WiFi on the long flight home.

I had this last set of photos, from the closing ceremony, that I wanted to share with you all.

Before we go through the photos, I thought I would tell you a little about the difference between opening and ceremonies for me. For opening ceremony, I had to be in place 3 to 4 hours before the event started. For the closing ceremony, all of the photographers who covered the gold medal hockey game, had a tough time making the closing ceremony. The hockey game started at 4pm and went until 7pm. The closing ceremony started at 8:14pm, so there was very little time to download photos, post, and then get from one location to the other. I ended up leaving the gold medal game early.

The nice thing is, I picked photo position B, which was facing the opposite direction from where I sat in the opening ceremony. I figured that a different location would be refreshing (and I didn't know if they ever repaired all the broken seats in the other position). As it turned out, it was a great pick, because there were handicap seats behind our position that were not being used. Before the show started, myself and a couple other photographers, hopped over the railing and sat there. This way we could have ample room for all our bags, cameras and lenses. are the photos and stories for you.

Before the ceremony started, they had numerous performers to warm up the crowd. Nobody that I had ever heard of, but they were fun nonetheless. This group was the most visually interesting, with their amazing outfits and colors.

I brought a combination of cameras and lenses for this event. For this photo, I used the Canon 1DX with the 200-400mm lens to try and get in close to the subjects. I left the camera in aperture priority mode most of the time, because of the ever changing lighting during the show. For this shot, I was at ISO 3200, f/4, and 1/125 sec.

Then everything stopped for a long time, and we waited 20 minutes for the show to begin. It was really awkward, because unlike other Olympic ceremonies, where the hosts practice the big countdown and get every psyched, they just had silence and a countdown clock on the big screens.

One of the first parts of the show was this large group of people who came out and formed the Olympic rings. But, just like in Vancouver where they mocked there own problems in the ceremonies, the Russians poked fun at themselves, when the rings did not open correctly. This made me laugh.

But after a slight pause, the people did form the Olympic rings correctly and all was good.

All the wide shots in this blog post were taken with another Canon 1DX mounted with a Canon 24-70mm lens.

I saw these drummers coming out from the middle of the stage, and I thought that this would be another great time for a motion blur shot. So, using the long lens, which was mounted on my trusty Gitzo monopod, I slowed the shutter speed and panned slowly with them as the entered the stadium. I lowered the ISO to 2000, changed the aperture to f/8, which gave me a shutter speed of 1/15 sec. Notice the movement in the snare drummers sticks.

And then when they came closer to me, I did the same technique again. The difference here is that they were in much brighter light, so I changed the aperture to f/22 to lower the shutter speed again to 1/15 sec. I thought that this would be a perfect moment for motion blur, with everyone's faces and bodies still, but the arms in motion.

Then they had this whole element of the seasons, similar to the opening ceremony.

Honestly, for those of you who watch this on TV, you probably know much more than I do, since we get no commentary while in the stadium.

I saw this woman suspended in the air, and really liked the composition of her in the white dress against the blue background. Very Mary Poppins esque. :)

Then came this pianist, who I believe is well known in Russia. I shot with the wide lens to show how many others were on the stage with him.

And then I switched to the long lens and slowed the shutter again. Figuring that, with the main pianist not moving, but everyone else moving around him, would make for a cool effect. I shot numerous photos at this time, since I needed the main pianist to keep his head still for one frame.

One of the benefits of using the long lens and getting the 400mm reach, is that I could zoom in and isolate performances.

This is my favorite photo from the closing ceremony. The perfect lighting of the main ballerina, while having muted lighting on the others, makes for a very cool image. To me, it almost looks like a painting. Even the background looks like a painting.

This photo was taken at ISO 3200, f/4, at 1/100 sec and I dialed in -.07 exposure compensation to make sure that the main ballerina was not too bright.

They had these adorable kids throughout the show. I loved it when they had all these papers flying out from the stacks of books.

Mid way through the show, they got down to business and they handed over the Olympic flag to the mayor of PyeongChang, Korea, the site of the next Winter Olympics in 2018.

On the program, it said that they had a whole section on the hall of mirrors. I was hoping for something a little more dynamic than this, but it was still pretty cool.

Have I mentioned how much the Russians love the Olympic mascots? They came out and everyone went crazy.

I switched back to the wide lens to show the whole scene, with all the people in the periphery.

And then, after a performance, the mascot extinguished the Olympic flame.

This famous opera singer came out and sang a song from a suspended boat / blimp. I saw all the fake snow falling around them and though that it would be a cool shot. For this photo, I had to manually focus the lens, since the autofocus would keep focusing on the snowflakes.

At the end of the show, they filled the stage with all of these people. There was supposed to be one more performance, but the fireworks started going off outside the stadium and everyone ran out to watch those.

I ran out to shoot some of the fireworks, but since I was so close to the stadium, with no interesting foreground or background, they were just regular old fireworks shots.

This, folks, is my last Olympic photo taken. I was carrying all of my gear from the Fisht Olympic Stadium back to the main press center, and as I passed the extinguished flame, I put everything down and shot this closing shot. With the flame out, I figured it was the perfect photo to end my journey.

Thanks to all of you for following along, and for posting the hundreds of comments along the way. You all inspired me to keep blogging. When I first started blogging from the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, I think I had 50 readers a day. This time there were more than a quarter million viewers. I feel so fortunate to be able to go to the Olympics, to share the experience with you all, and to get your feedback. Thank you, thank you!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. Great pics

Unknown said...

No thank you

Anonymous said...

Thank you! Thank you for taking the time to share your amazing journey.

Garen T said...

It was a great series Jeff, with amazing photos and interesting, and captivating writing and just awesome to follow along your day by day journey! Thanks for sharing despite the long hours! I know I can speak for all us readers that we can't wait for Brazil!

Barb E said...

Thanks for taking the time to post. I really enjoyed reading about your journey. Awesome images!

Barb E said...

Thanks for taking the time to blog. I loved reading about your journey. Awesome images!

Paul said...

You are great. Thanks for sharing all you Sochi photos with us.

John and Ingrid said...

Gorgeous photos! I thoroughly enjoyed looking at all your Olympic photos and reading the info you posted with them. Thank you!

Marty Becker said...

Thank you Jeff for all of the Olympic blogs! It was great to see the Olympics through your eyes.

Mike B said...

Jeff, You brought the Olympics alive for me in a way I've never experienced. Clearly, you are a gifted storyteller. Have you considered writing a book about your experiences? There are many photography books about the technical aspects of taking pictures, but your story is unique.

Many of us hobbyist photographers hung on your every word about the behind-the-scenes action. Plus, the hotel lock incident will get a few laughs.

I'm volunteering, right now, to write the Forward. I'll pay for my own copy, but I want it autographed for free. Deal?


Mike Anatra said...

Thanks Jeff, you are a true pro great coverage though out the games.

Jack nevitt said...

Jeff, I really enjoyed your blog during the Olympics. The only thing that could have made it better would have been the USA hockey teams winning gold. Thanks for posting, I know it took a lot of time, that you had little to spare. But us fans really enjoyed the blog. That put a new perspective on the Winter Olympic for me. I am also in favor of the book idea.

Dennis said...

Thanks Jeff - I've enjoyed every post and will be a regular follower of your blog from now on ! The photos are amazing, and I love the stories that go with them.

sanfranade said...

Wonderful shots - great commentary - made it so much more real than watching on TV...thanks for a great job.

Howard said...

Jeff Thanks so much for all your hard work in putting together these Olympic blog posts, they really gave a great new perspective tot he games and I loved spotting you on TV a few times. Welcome back home, hope you recover from jet lag quickly!

Manuel Erndwein said...

Thank you, Jeff, for an incredible journey through the Olympics from a very different view - that of a photog - rather than just from tv. You showed us amazing pictures and your behind the scenes/behind the photos explanations were fascinating. It was so much fun to read your blog every day - thanks a lot for those wonderful insights.

Unknown said...

Samson from UGANDA

Unknown said...

It was nice following each and every step from Kampala, uGANDA. Interesting insights for mr as a Photographer

Bryan Stokes said...

Thank you Jeff for blogging and giving us the inside view of an Olympic photographer! As a photographer myself and a fan of the Olympics, I really enjoyed reading each and every one of your posts. Thank you for the inspiration and great stories!

Eric J said...

Thanks so much for taking time out of your incredibly busy schedule to share your experiences with us for the past couple of weeks. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and learning what goes into great sports photography!

shazly sayed said...

I started reading late, but it was a great posts and you made me part of the Olympic journey and as if I was there watching the games. It was also a great explanation of why and how a photograph was taken. said...

Jeff, Thanks for all the great photos and comments! I learned much more from you than any of the commentators about the basic set up and how people got around and what it was like to be in Sochi. LOVED YOUR PHOTOS!
Thanks again for taking the time and sharing! Bonny

Maxie said...

Your blog was one of my favourite Olympic events. A great insider view of what is going on.
Please don't get bummed out over the Hockey result. I am a Canadian and live in a hockey mad town but the victory is give too much credence. In most other sports, there is a celebration of the victor regardless o their homeland because they delivered an Olympic performance and most do it on their own dime. Only in men's hockey do they assemble a team of pros to compete and Nationalism takes over. The surprising results from Latvia was really inspiring. Next Olympics I am cheering for them just like I do for the Jamaican bobsled team - they won't win but I want to them to do well. As for the pros, we measure them in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Unknown said...

Thanks Jeff! Felt closer to the events following your blog. Great job!

Unknown said...

Thanks Jeff! Great job covering the events. Felt more like I was there.

Hoot said...


Thanks so much for taking the time in an already crazy schedule to do the blog. It was both educational and inspirational. Really provided a different perspective on the Olympics.

rcortinas said...

Thanks Jeff. You are the best.
You started strong and finish strong, you didn't miss a day without blog for us despite the hours and hours of work and preparation. Really an inspiration for all of us who love photography.
I agree with you, that ballerinas' picture is awesom, It really looks like a paint.
Thanks again for your time and be safe.

Roberto C.

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