Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Photographing the gymnastics team competition

OK folks, after waiting almost 24 hours for me to get this blog post written, I am finally getting a chance to share the images and stories from last night's big gymnastic teams competition. 

The venue was packed with photographers who were lucky enough to get their hands on tickets to the event. (Any event that is considered "high demand" means that even us photographers have to have a ticket in. This limits the amount of photo journalists who can enter the shooting positions.)


I made a decision to park myself by the balance beam for two reasons:

1. I really like the photos from this particular apparatus.
2. I wanted to photograph Simone Biles on the beam (like I did in Rio)

Since I have not photographed gymnastics since the last Summer Olympics, I warmed up on the gymnasts ahead of the US Team. 


I had fun trying different photos, including detail shots like this.


Even from the beam position, I had a small window of unobstructed view to the floor exercise, and got a couple of photos of the women doing this event.


While photographing gymnasts from the other teams, I experimented with some slow shutter motion pans.


These photos were taken between 1/25th and 1/50th  of a second.


Then as we got closer to the American team, I switched back to my normal shooting (aiming to have a shutter speed of approximately 1/1000 sec).



I may have mentioned it before, but the Olympics is heavily geared for television, and us photographers definitely play second fiddle to the Olympic Broadcast System (OBS). They had this camera installed right behind the beam, which really ruined my backgrounds when the gymnast was not on the far left or right of the beam.


As the second rotation ended, I waited for the women of Team USA to walk our way. Ahead of them were the team from Great Britain. This young lady gave me a wink as she walked by.


And then our team came by and we finally got a close up shot of Simone Biles and her teammates. But we were all wondering why she was in her jacket and not warming up with the others.


I photographed each of them as they took turns on the beam, wondering if Simone was going to change and get on the beam. (Unlike you folks who watch the sport on TV, we are not given any background stories or updates.)


All of the American gymnasts were calm and having fun in front of us. They were no more than 4 feet from us and we can hear them joking and laughing. No sign of any injury or issues that we were aware of.


They alternated with the other team and I kept waiting...



Simone Biles was not competing, but she was doing a great job of cheering on her teammates.




And all of them came through without any big issues on the beam.






Simone was standing right in front of me, so I took this photo of her looking into the stands.




With the final performance on the beam, it was time to celebrate a strong showing on this unforgiving apparatus.


The coaches were happy as well.


I moved to a higher position to get some photos of the floor exercises.


I was also positioned directly along the length of the balance beam, and took advantage of that with some more photos.


Since I was using the Canon 200-400mm lens, I could zoom all the way across the floor and get a shot of the Chinese gymnasts as they performed on the vault.


I was not happy with the images from the floor exercises, so I went back to photographing the gymnasts on the balance beam.





After all the competition was completed, the Russian women were announced as the Gold Medalists and they were elated, as they should be.


We even had a close encounter with Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee.


Then it was time for the medal ceremony.

We waited to see if the three teams would join together for one big photo (which is typical), but due to Covid protocol, that did not happen this year.

I hope you enjoyed the photos from this event.


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3 comments:

Michelle M. said...

My favorite of these is the 29th photo - the one with the blonde gymnast in blue on the balance beam but all these pictures are really interesting! Thank you for sharing! When obtaining a spot to shoot from does the fact that you’ve shot multiple Olympics enable you to gain priority access at all? I’m guessing the major media get designated spots.

Any chance you’ll be shooting track and field when it comes around?

David Bowdish said...

Great work as always. I love the photos of the activity on the sidelines; they give a glimpse into what is feels to be there in contrast to the packaged-television experience.

Unknown said...

I am loving your blogs and the photography!!