Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Ice Dancing - a photographic surprise!

Last night, I photographed the USA women's hockey game, edited all of the photos, posted to the wire service and still had time to head over and shoot some of the ice dancing competition. At first, I was not very excited about this event, since there would be no body checks, or people with pucks and sticks. But, as it turns out, it was a great event to photograph, with lots of skill, artistry and excitement.

Even though I showed up late for the competition, I was happy to be able to obtain an ice level shooting position, so I could photograph the skaters up close. The first performance was upbeat and comical.

Yah, there were no body checks to be seen, but these skaters had lots of skill and grace.

The next skaters were the Shibutani couple and they performed to Michael Jackson songs.

It seemed like they were having fun out there on the ice.

Next up was Madison Chock and Evan Bates, from the United States. I used my Canon 1DX with the 70-200mm lens to try and get s close to them as possible. Normally I would have opted for a longer lens, but since I had just come from hockey, and did not have time to go back to the main press center to get my 200-400mm lens, I just used the 70-200mm. This worked out well, since the 70-200mm is easy to handhold , giving me the flexibility to move freely. Since so many people are asking me for the camera settings...here you go. I was shooting in manual mode at ISO 800, f/2.8, 1/800 sec. The lighting is very good at Olympic venues, and that makes life easier.

They had great expressions and did a very nice job, but not medal worthy.

Notice the empty seats in the background. This has been an issue here in Sochi and many of the venues (just like London) are not sold out. As a photographer, this is really bad, because we would prefer to have big crowds in the background, not vacant seats.

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, from France, performed their routine dressed in these wild colors.

As I mentioned, I was shooting photos from right next to the ice. When they made this move fairly close to me, I knew that there was no way I could frame it with the 70-200mm lens. So. I zoomed all the way out, twisted the camera, and framed the shot this way. Something different - always my goal!

Again, using the Olympic rings as a background feature here.

The Canadian's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir then took the ice and really enchanted the crowd.

I am not sure if it was part of the routine, or just their presence on the ice, but they seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves out there. I just loved the way that Tessa smiled throughout the performance.

As I photographed this couple, I kept wondering if this same positive energy would come across on television. There was something really special about these two, and the crowd in the arena felt that.

As you can tell, I was constantly changing the position of the camera. Sometimes shooting in landscape mode and other times in portrait mode. As a photographer, it is important to be able to react quickly. Honestly, the best way to shoot a routine like this, would be to have seen it many times and know when the key moments would happen. I don't have that luxury, since I am not an ice dance photographer.

The Russian couple of Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov then took the ice in front of their home crowd and really enchanted everyone. And the camera just loves them. Look at these images as compared to the first couple of sets. Do you see the difference?

They performed a flawless performance.

I was happy that they performed this part of the routine in front of the Olympic rings (at least from where I was positioned).

When their performance was over, they were overjoyed. Tessa even cried.

It truly was a special moment. And even to someone like myself who knows little to nothing about ice dancing, knew that they had performed above their expectations.

This was another Russian pair of skaters, who proved to be more flexible than the others.


And then, the last performance was from the American's, Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

Much like the Russian's, they performed extremely well.

Heck - I am just jealous about all of his hair!

I love all the lifts, which make for really nice photos.

And then, the competition was over and everyone waited for the final score.

The Canadians knew that they had medaled, and were just thrilled to be in that position. They happened to be right by me at this point, so I quickly changed the camera from manual mode to aperture priority and fired off this shot.

Charlie White congratulating the silver medal winners.

Here are the Russian's overwhelmed with this experience.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White celebrating their gold medal performance, skating around the rink with the American flag.

Then they came over to those of us photographers who had congregated in one area, and gave us this photo opp.

The Russian's did the same.

This last shot was taken after all the ceremonies were over. I was packing up to leave, when I saw this. She was still on the ice, when she looked over and saw someone she knew. She just had this look about her, and I quickly took this photo. This is an Olympic moment!


Sebastian Reinhardt said...

Love Your photos. Do you shoot RAW? How much of retouching and image optimizing do you do? Or are these straight out of camera?

Dawn Gail said...

Beautiful! Those lifts are amazing. They make it look so easy and you know in reality it isn't. Watched it on TV but seeing those lifts in still photo's they are all that more impressive.

Daniel ODonnell said...

Amazing photo's Jeff, you got some truly fantastic shots :)

Love this blog

Jeff said...

Jeff, Once again...these are stunning photos. I thought the shot of the Canadians was wonderful and of course those of Meryl Davis and Charlie White are spectacular.

I enjoy getting these ringside views.

Nice Job!

Unknown said...

These are awesome photos, even though I don't especially like ice dancing. What a great experience that you are having!!

Unknown said...

First of all Jeff, Great shots I'm not a big fan of the Ice Dancing. I do enjoy seeing what you captured and how you shot it. What's your normal equipment on any given day at the Olympics? Has any venue had really poor lighting? How do you overcome the poor lighting since I'm assuming no flash is allowed?

Anonymous said...

Awesome photos!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you,thank you for taking pictures of the Ice skating dancers. They were amazing and so are your pictures of them.

Anonymous said...

I watched this on television and it was a most amazing show. The Americans really stole the show and they had some serious competition. I can't believe you were there! Photos were lovely, especially the shot of them with the flag. Such a proud moment. Great job :)

Anonymous said...

I watched it on TV. Can't believe you were there! The pictures are great. I'm so jelly!

Anonymous said...

I haven't been watching the competitions because I would have slept through them but I love keeping up with your pictures and hearing your stories. Amazing details!
I had recently read somewhere that the photographers over there are shooting in JPEG instead of raw to process quicker. Is that true?

chaisy said...

Hi Jeff,
Wonderful pictures !! Saw you on the NBC coverage of the figure skating in the back ground so was expecting this post. Told my wife, Hey this is the guy whose blog I follow. You are really doing a great job with the daily blog posting and great photos .

Keep up the great work !

Unknown said...

So you call this work? dam, what a great set of photos. They convey what was happening and all the joy of couples ice dancing and maybe a little of the pain endured.

awesome job

Richard Bauman

bonphoto@earthlink.net said...

Some great photos! Love your fresh perspective!

Texas VIP Productions said...

I'm going to say, you were one out of all of the photographers, that caught their good side. Some of the picture I saw posted on Yahoo from the AP, all of their pictures were of them not smiling, the skaters looked like they were in pain and in various positions that looked painful. Your on the other hand is what Ice Dancing should look like poised, smiling, etc. Big difference. Thank you for sharing your behind the scenes, I learn so much from all that you shared! I sent your link to friends and family and they all loved your pictures too!

Texas VIP Productions said...

Thank you for sharing,I learned so much more about the Olympics than I ever did from watching it on TV.

Your perspective and/or angles were always so much better, on the Ice dancing, than the other pictures I saw posted on Yahoo from AP, they seem to capture them not smiling and they all looked like they were in pain, and awkward positions that looked painful,too. Maybe it was the article, and that is what they were trying to project.
But, your picture were quite the opposite, yours were able to catch them as they should be with style & grace, and with smiles.
I shared your link to your blog with my friends and family they all enjoyed your Pictures and said they were Fabulous!