Sunday, July 29, 2012

2012 London Olympics: Opening Ceremony - Day One

Two days are now in the books, and I must say, my experiences from these games has been drastically different from my previous two Olympics, simply because of my change in role.  While I am on a EP (photographer) pass, I am really playing more of an editing and management role.  Basically it means I'm spending a lot of time in the USA Today Sports office editing pictures transmitted directly from the photographers in the field, toning them, and captioning them.

Now the fact that we have an office in itself is a big change from the past.  We used to have to work out in the main media area with all the masses of people...

...but now we have private office space set up pretty much like any newsroom back home.

Yeah, yeah... I guess it kind of looks the same in my half-assed scene setter photos but trust me the private office space is waaaay nicer.

Anyways... the opening ceremony.  After seeing it on TV.... yes I watched it on TV like the rest of you all... I don't feel too bad for missing it as in my opinion compared to Beijing, it was a real snoozer.  I mean, I guess it was well done, but I don't feel it was very inspired or particularly creative.  Then again, that fits the whole theme of the games so far: no customized medal ceremony music (or any music for that matter, that I'm aware of), and very original names for the venues such as Basketball Arena, BMX Track and Water Polo Arena (among many others).  I did get a view of the cool fireworks display, however, from our office window...

I was finally able to escape the office on the first day of competition.  Now part of our role while working with the USA Today / US Presswire team, is fulfilling a lot of special requests.   As a result, we are stretched pretty thin covering lots of events that we might otherwise not cover.  One of them is weightlifting.... and not just weightlifting, but women's weightlifting.  So I was the one who drew that assignment.

Now I have never shot weightlifting before, but obviously it would be pretty simple.  Get their early, find a head on spot (with a clean background), and fire away.  But nope!  The client that we shot for purchased an internet line and netbooks for us to directly transmit images to them.  This is the fastest way to deliver images to a client but unfortunately comes with a huge limitation of that you are essentially "tethered" to an internet line and unable to move or really pick your spot.  And unfortunately, the line was installed in a position with a profile view to the athletes.  Fortunately, I was able to move very slightly so that I had a clean, blacked out background, so the images looked pretty nice.

After the first few lifts, I was really getting sick of shooting the same thing over and over again so I unplugged the camera from the computer and got some head on shots that I wanted.  I was really hoping someone would drop the weights on themselves or fall down, but it never happened.... still some nice clean shots with some decent reactions.

To finish off the event and shoot the medal ceremony, I had to go back to my tethered location because I knew the client wanted those images beamed over directly.

Now where are the pictures from the medals ceremony?  Didn't have any because the software crashed right when the medals ceremony began!  DOH!  The weird thing is normally when you take pictures it writes right to the memory card.... but when the cameras are connected to the computer, it bypasses the card and attempts to the computer.  So I essentially was firing blank frames for the entire medals ceremony.  Oh well...... here's to smoother operation next time!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

USA Basketball Exhibitions and Training

Twenty years ago, the USA men's basketball team, aka "The Dream Team" took Barcelona by storm and easily coasted to an Olympic gold medal.  As far as I know, this is the first time that USA basketball has returned to Barcelona and the reason for doing so this time was to play a few final tune up games against Argentina and Spain who are arguably their toughest opponents in the upcoming Olympics in London.

Now game photography wise, it was pretty straight forward.  In my opinion, basketball is one of the easiest sports to shoot.  You don't have a lot of backgrounds to worry about (as it's largely out of your control), so you basically see action, shoot action.  So here's some stuff from that first game against Argentina.  I thought it was pretty cool that the team busted out the retro jerseys from their 1992 Olympic appearance.

Now I'll admit, while shooting the action is pretty straight forward, I ran into two challenges.  The first, as I mentioned a few posts back, is that I'm operating with new gear.  Nikon gave me their latest and greatest to try for the next few months.  I've historically been a Canon user, and the problem with Nikon, is that all their dials and zoom rings are reversed from what I'm used to.  So I had a bad habit of zooming out when I meant to zoom in, and vice versa.  I've also blew out (overexposed) a number of photos I had meant to darken, and underexposed photos that I meant to overexpose.  Ugh.

But the other problem I ran into were the other photographers poaching photo positions.  When I got up to transmit at halftime, I lost my spot near the floor.  That really annoyed me because I had USA driving away from me in the first half so I was looking forward to having LeBron, Kobe and the crew come to me in the second half.  Well I only have myself to blame for that one.  I should have known from previous Olympic level and international events.... NEVER LEAVE YOUR SPOT OR IT WILL BE GONE!

So that said, for the game against Spain, I just showed up super early and staked out a spot and set up all my gear and computer.  It was cramped and uncomfortable, but I had to pretty much just squat there the whole time to guarantee nobody could take it.

After that, it was just another game....

I wish there were more dunks throughout the two games, but it's clear that USA can't win playing "circus basketball" like they did twenty years ago.  The competition has certainly closed the gap and are no longer in awe of the American celebrity athletes.

So that ends my time here in Barcelona...  Next stop, London and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games!

Friday, July 20, 2012

1992 Barcelona Olympic Park

Today was my first full day on the ground here in Barcelona.  There wasn't much for me to do on the schedule today other than to get over jet lag, get used to the city (aka spend the day playing tourist), and finally, attend the first USA men's basketball team practice at 8pm.

However, upon arrival to Palau Sant Jordi, the site where the original Dream Team annihilated their opponents in the1992 Barcelona Olympic basketball games, we found out that the practice was either closed or optional (not sure which).  So basically today ended up being a nothing day.  Instead of wasting it wandering around, I shot some of the nearby former Olympic venues.  I thought it was kind of strange that if you didn't know Barcelona hosted the games 20 years ago, there wasn't really any signage to let you know that there had been world class competition in these venues.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

2012 NBA Draft

Well with the 2012 Olympics coming up, I thought that this would be no better time than ever to revive this blog.  After all, I had started this several years ago with the intention of documenting my first Olympics... the 2008 games in Beijing and had continued it a bit as I went about my day-to-day shoots.

So I have always been a Canon user.  At the time I started learning to shoot, it seemed to be the superior system, so I invested my money and my gear in them.  Of course if you look over the course of Canon vs Nikon history, one never really stays ahead of the other for very long.  In recent years, Nikon overtook Canon with the introduction of their D3 series, and now with their D4 camera.  Although the D4 is a really scarce item in the open market right now, in an effort to convert us non-believers in my company, Nikon offered to me and a handful of others going to the Olympics pretty much whatever we wanted.  So I only asked for "a little bit" of stuff.... 2x D4's, a 70-200 f/2.8, 400 f/2.8, 14-24 f/2.8, and a 1.4x converter.  Not much :-)

So my first official event where I got to use this new gear was the 2012 NBA Draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.  Now since my last post, I've sort of become our company's go-to draft person.  It's really quite silly, because you think any ol' photographer/photo editor can handle a draft.  On the surface, it looks like a glorified press conference.  Which it is..... the key shots is to get people standing on stage posing with the commissioner, like Anthony Davis after being selected as the overall number one pick to the New Orleans Hornets.

Now unlike the NFL draft where our only photo opportunities are these posed stage photos, the "green room" for NBA is right next to the main photographer positions.  So we were able to get some neat stuff of the athletes interacting with their families after hearing their names picked.

Also unlike the NBA draft, they only invite 14 people (+/- a few every year) and with only 5 minutes between rounds, I expected it to go quick.  WRONG.  Apparently some draft picks fly in on their own dime and sit in the crowd.  Then when their name is called, they head to the stage, like French basketball player Evan Fournier did after being selected number twenty to the Denver Nuggetes.  Leave it to the French....

Oh yeah, so why am I always on the drafts?  Simple: speed.  Today's digital age of photography means our clients and their websites want stuff FAST.  With five minutes between picks, it is a lot for photographers to expect to shoot the photos, and then quickly transmit a few frames before the next pick.  I hate to sound like a cocky asshole, but very few people can pull that off reliably but there you go.... I guess I'm not most people.  I will admit, the NFL was a bit easier since it was 10 minutes between picks, but I was able to get off a posed photo and a candid photo between each pick.  And so, that was my experience at the 2012 NBA Draft!