Thursday, August 09, 2012

2012 London Olympic Games: Day 11

On day 11, I was able to get out of the office again and cover gymnastics again.  However this time around, it would be much more difficult as I would be solo and thus the primary photographer.  There were many Americans competing in this round, and I knew that the start time of the event was very close to the USA Today's international edition "closing" time so that speed of transmitting images of Americans would be critical.

The first apparatus of the day was the men's parallel beam.  There were actually no Americans in there, so while there was no real obligation to get photos of it for our direct clients, I did see a couple of my co-workers get chewed out for skipping events we didn't have competitors in so I didn't want to suffer the same fate.  I made sure I photographed the top scoring athletes...

... then hurried up and run over to the balance beam and secure a good photo positions.  I decided I wanted to get the more head on position while shooting solo because I feel like it yields not only better results, but more photos.  It quickly paid off as all-around individual winner Gabby Douglas felled off the beam and held on like a koala bear, while ruining her day, made mine with a nice frame.

The other American competitor Aly Raisman was next, so I shot her performing and waited for her score.  If she placed in the top three, I knew I would have to hurry and get photos in before photographing the victory ceremony.  But if she wasn't in the top three, I could sort of take my time and work through the victory ceremony.  She placed fourth initially so I went back to the photo room and got to work.  However, as I was downloading and working up images, I heard lots of cheering from the crowd and curious to see what was going on, I stuck my head out and saw a picture of Raisman celebrating on the jumbotron because her fourth place score jumped into a third place score.  I missed that reaction because pushing photos out was a higher priority, but had some decent action of her on the beam.

The apparatus after the beam was the men's horizontal bar but the Americans were a bit of a flop on it so I'll skip on over the final event of the day... the women's floor exercise.  Let me just say, shooting the floor exercise at the North Greenwich Arena is the biggest piece of garbage ever.  For those of you who have been reading this blog, and also followed my Beijing blog.... you know that clean backgrounds are a huge deal for me.  Well, that would be impossible on the floor exercise because the designated photo position is directly opposite the judging table and media tribune.  So this is what you end up with as your lovely backdrop:

On top of this problem, because I had editors on me about trying to get as many Aly Raisman pics on the beam in as possible, I was late arriving to the photographer position so I had a far from ideal photo position.  The spot I ended up with was angled such that I had a scoreboard right in the middle of the floor in my line of sight.  So this pretty much screwed any opportunity for me to get any unobstructed tumbling passes.

So the only trick I have left in my arsenal to combat all this is to shoot super tight.  I put my 70-200 away and shot the floor with just the 400.  By shooting with longer glass, you compress your backgrounds so that it isolates clean sections of wall behind the athletes, and when it's not clean, they might get blurred out due to depth of field.

It doesn't make for the most exciting photos, but it gets the job done. Now Raisman had an excellent routine and had a first place score.  She was only the third athlete to go, so I didn't think it would hold up, but it did and so I was able to get some nice reaction of her hugging her coach and teammates afterwards.  The top photo ended up being the lead art in the sports section of the paper the next day.

So while there were certainly challenges in shooting this event solo: super tight deadlines, score flopping, and less than ideal photography set up, I think it went out all right.  Just a few more days of the Olympic games remaining.  Even though we have a large staff here, with it getting down to the very end and with us having many American medal hopefuls, I think there will be plenty more opportunity for me to get out of the office and make some more pretty pictures.  Stay tuned!


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