Thursday, January 13, 2022

Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics: CREDENTIALS, FLIGHTS, HOUSING, COVID AND MORE!

Talk about backwards! We are now about 2 weeks from when I am supposed to depart for the Winter Olympics in Beijing and I still do not have my flights or hotel locked in yet. 

Weirdly enough, I just received my credentials for the Beijing Games. Under normal circumstances, when I receive this coveted credential via UPS, I celebrate this as the culmination of years of planning and the signal that it is almost "go time".

This time around, it appears that I am doing things backwards. 

Credentials? Check! 

Everything else? Well...nope!

But I do have some good news to share with you all:

FLIGHTS

I did hear back from Japan Airlines and they are holding a seat for me on a flight from San Francisco to Tokyo (seems like I was just there) and then connecting to Beijing. And a return flight the day of the closing ceremony. I have yet to see an actual reservation, and I have not paid for the ticket yet, but I have confidence that this will happen.

HOUSING

Initially it looked like my only option for a hotel in Beijing was through the USOPC and going to cost me $400 a night. Since I am there for 3 weeks, that would total more than $8000. Yikes! When I saw that, I then went onto the Olympic AMS (Accommodation Management System) web site to request something a little more reasonable. Only to see that the organizing committee has stopped booking reservations as of 12.27. Uh oh!

The good news is that the people who run the AMS site sent me a list of approved hotels and let me contact them directly. I have found several options that are more affordable and hope to get something booked soon.

And here is some bad news:

COVID TESTING REQUIREMENTS

China is requiring that we have special Covid tests that must be performed at pre-determined labs around the country. I called to get more information on these tests and found out that they will cost $600 for the two tests. What the heck? I think someone is profiting off this pandemic!

THE OMICRON SPREAD

Unless you live under a rock, you have heard about the massive spread of the Omicron variant of Covid around the world. And now China has locked down approximately 20 million people in their country to keep the virus from spreading and interrupting the Olympic Games. I have heard of some press who have already arrived in Beijing (testing negative before taking off) and testing positive on arrival. This means that they have to quarantine in less than desirable conditions. This scares the heck out of me! I even know of many of my friends who have Covid now, and I am doing my best to hole up at home and stay as safe as I can. But I do have some events to shoot and will likely double mask to protect myself as best as I can in the mean time. 

LACK OF SLEEP

Knowing that the Olympics is a 3 week span of sleep deprivation, I usually try to rest up before the big trip. But with all of this stress, I have been waking up at all hours of the night. The only good thing about this is that I can communicate with the people in China, since they are working when we should be sleeping. 

NOW WHAT?

I thought I would have everything wrapped up by now, but it appears that I have another week of work ahead of me. I promise to keep you all updated.


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Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 

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Saturday, January 8, 2022

Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics: THE UNKNOWN AND THE STRESS!

"Are you going to the Winter Olympics in Beijing?"

Over the last couple of weeks I have received countless emails, IMs, text messages, social media comments, and phone calls asking this question.

This Olympics has proven to be way more complicated than Tokyo (which we thought would be the most difficult ever). As I mentioned in a previous blog post, China has cancelled all flights into the country. It wasn't until recently that I found out that I can use my Olympic credentials to get a special charter flight to Beijing. They are limiting incoming flights to select charter flights from cities like Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo, and only for Olympic athletes and staff. I was sent a couple of documents to help me with my search. One had a list of people in Beijing who are acting as "flight support attache" and another with specific contacts at certain airlines who will try to help us out. A couple of days ago I reached out to the flight attache people but that got me nowhere.

At the same time I sent emails to many of those airline contacts to see if they can help me get where I need to go and when I need to be there. The European carriers would require me to fly to Europe and then to China. That would double or triple the travel time and definitely not work for me. The Asian carriers are my best bet and I have been spending late nights communicating with them in their time zones. So far Japan Airlines has been the best at communicating, and I have the highest hopes to fly with them. Air China got back to me but the price for a round trip on the 3 hour flight from Tokyo to Beijing was $1700. What the heck? Add that to the flight from San Francisco to Tokyo and that gets really expensive!

Normally I have my flights, accommodations, contract and everything else complete about one year in advance. We are now 3 weeks from the Winter Olympics and I have nothing yet. And from what I am hearing, most media are in the same boat right now. It is craziness!

In parallel with my flight researching, I am also investigating my accommodation options in Beijing, and a little nervous about booking this at the last minute. But I have no choice and will deal with that once I can confirm that I can get to the Games.

At this point I am making the assumption that I will work all this out and get to the Olympics and lining up the clothing and gear I would need. I have already talked to Canon and they are going to hook me up with the Canon R3 cameras I need. Apple is going to get me the screaming fast new 16" MacBook Pro with the M1 Max processor.  This time I am photographing primarily for USA Hockey and the deadlines are even tighter than the Summer Olympics. I will have the new computer on the ice with me, and I will be downloading, retouching and posting from the dasher boards. Crazy, but true. Speed is even more important this time around. There is no time to go to the press room at the venue since the break between periods is 15 minutes.

Oh...and let's not forget the Covid testing requirements. They are going to require a whole bunch of negative Covid tests before we head to the Olympics, and a negative test once we get there. With this Omicron variant covering the world, this makes me nervous too! I did get confirmation that once we are in China, we will be tested everyday with swabs in our mouth. This seriously beats the anal swabs that were initially proposed!

Is all this a little stressful? Heck yeah!

I should know more details by early next week. Stay tuned!



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Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
__________________________________________________________________________
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
__________________________________________________________________________
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 

__________________________________________________________________________  

Monday, January 3, 2022

The Rain Forest of Costa Rica: My favorite images from last month's trip

First and foremost, Happy New Year everyone! I hope that 2022 is so much better than 2020 and 2021 for all of us!

As many of you know, I lead photo tours to the rain forest of Costa Rica at least twice a year. Well...in normal times I do, but lately it has only been once a year. I am hoping that Covid will subside once and for all and we can all return to normal travel at some point. Last month, myself and 9 guests met up in Costa Rica for another great photo tour. 

I flew down a day early, to make sure that I arrived in time to meet all my guests. Since I had a free morning, my buddy Mauricio picked me up early and we drove out to see if we could get a clear view of the Poás Volcano. This volcano is still active. so prior to walking up to the viewing area, everyone had to watch a safety briefing letting us know where the safety bunkers were located, and grab a hard hat which had to be worn at all times.


The Poás Volcano is located up in the cloud forest, so there was no guarantee that we would see the crater. But as we climbed to the viewing area, we were happy to see at least some of the crater amongst the clouds.

They limit the viewing time to only 20 minutes per group, and luckily just 3 minutes after I took the first photo, the clouds cleared away from the top of the volcano giving us this magnificent view.


We were both shooting away getting our photos during this clear view, and then decided that it would make for a nice panorama shot. I combined 4 images to make this panorama in Photoshop. For all these photos, I was using the Canon R6 camera with the RF 24-105mm lens.


After we left the volcano, we drove further into the cloud forest and stopped at a couple of water falls. 


We then drove to the Blue Falls for a hike and more photos. 


The hike down was not easy and the hike up was even harder, but it was well worth it!


After climbing back up to the top of the waterfall, we rehydrated and then spent time photographing some of the local hummingbirds. For these shots, I decided to use the Canon R3 and the Canon RF 100-500mm lens. Look at the amazing color in these birds!


This hummingbird was flying right in front of a large leaf, and the sunlight was reflecting off the leaf and right onto the neck and throat of the bird. I took hundreds of photos of these fast flying birds to come away with 5 or 10 that I really liked.

And then it was time to fly down with the group to the Osa Peninsula to capture photos in the rain forest.


We arrived at the resort around 10:30am and I gave everyone time to get settled into their rooms. We had a nice lunch and then walked the property so that the guests could get the lay of the land. And, once again, the grounds of the resort did not disappoint. We saw Howler monkeys within minutes of the start of our walk. I saw this mother and baby and encouraged everyone to capture this great interaction.   


In all my trips to Costa Rica, I have never gotten a really tight shot of a toucan with a good background. On this first day, we were treated to this toucan low in a tree and right by the swimming pool. 


We were all taking really nice photos of the bird, when it decided to flip this nut in it's beak. I was shooting with the Canon R3 at a pretty fast frame rate (using the Canon RF 100-500mm lens), which allowed me to capture this split second of action. 


The next day we took our first drive out into the rain forest to see what we could find. We found more howler monkeys in the trees.



It is a lot of fun to capture these animals as they meander around the tree branches. It is also a great time for me to teach about exposure compensation and capturing images when there is catch light in the animal's eyes.


Right outside the restaurant where we ate most days, there are some bird feeders. The resort staff are nice enough to put out papaya for the birds. This allows us to capture really nice images just feet from our table. And yes, it was a big distraction when you have a bunch of photographers trying to eat, while having great subjects flying in and out at all times.


On every photo tour to Costa Rica, I make sure that we have at least one day of macro photography. If you have read my blog before, you know that I absolutely love the red eyed tree frogs.


This time around, I decided to try something different, so I used the Canon R6 with the Canon RF 100-500mm lens instead of a Canon 100mm macro lens. This allowed me to get nice tight shots, but also stand back so that my guests could get in close with their macro lenses.



The long zoom lens still let me get up close and personal with the frogs. I love the way this tree frog was at the end of this leaf and looking right at me.


We are photographing these frogs and snakes at a reptile area. The handler is taking care of the snakes while we have fun photographing them from afar. I love capturing images of this Eye-lash viper with it's tongue out. 


On our fifth day, we took boats over to the animal rehab sanctuary. 


This is always a favorite for my guests, since they can get really close to the Macaw and other animals.



This young Squirrel monkey was hanging out in a nearby tree and watching our every move.


This 3-month old howler monkey is a new addition to the sanctuary, and the first time I have ever been so close to this species.


Towards the end of our time in the rain forest, we drove to the Sierpe River for a river boat tour. This was a good spot for a group photo.


This is a great place to see animals in the water, on the shoreline and in the surrounding trees. We saw this large iguana sunning itself along the river.


There were lots of birds flying around us.


And speaking of animals flying...check out this video of these squirrel monkeys who were making the long jump from tree to tree. It was awesome to watch their strength and accuracy.


On our last day, we went to an area where they have numerous sloths on the property. The first sloth we saw was pretty high in a tree.


We did get to see this three-toed sloth which came down pretty low.


The sloths happen to be on the property owned by the grandfather of our guide, Dennis. And they have a parrot on the property as well. I was photographing the parrot when it fanned out its wings for a split second. The colors are amazing.


We took a break from shooting and had some amazing homemade lemonade and snacks, hoping that some of the sloths would come down low while we were away from them. And that plan worked out just great!


This three-toed sloth was almost down at eye level when we returned to check its location. 

This was one of the last photos I took on this trip, and it is one of my favorites. I love the position of the sloth's hands and feet, the look on it's face. Everyone had a blast photographing these docile animals up close and personal. It was an awesome way to wrap up the tour.

I do have two more photo tours to Costa Rica in 2022 (only 3 spots left) and I just added two more for 2023. If you are interested in joining me on one of these trips, let me know. You can see all these (and contact me) HERE.


__________________________________________________________________________

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
__________________________________________________________________________
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
__________________________________________________________________________
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 

__________________________________________________________________________