Sochi Olympics, Day 15: Your Typical Day

Posted on Feb 20, 2014 in 400mm, Equipment, Olympics, Photography, Skiing, Sochi | One Comment

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Feb. 20th, 2014

I had planned to write something yesterday, but understandably, I was kinda busy as Finland won first silver in women’s pair sprint and and half an hour later our men won the gold medal.

To me however, it was like the majority of my working days over here.  And I thought it might be interesting to walk you through a typical day… well , typical, until we won the first gold medal in twelve years. And also show some images, which did not end up in the papers.

(click images to enlarge them)

Sotchixkk_6337231 copyI normally walk to work – first taking a gondola down from the north face of the valley, then walk about one kilometer, then through a security check,  another gondola up the south side of the valley, then a shuttle to the press center. Takes about an hour.

Then I leave the computer, the big camera bag, rain covers and all excess of gear into a locker in the press center (which is a combined for the Xcountry and biathlon) and head to work. An average working day is c. 13-14 hours, depending on what you cover.

I typically try to eat lunch early, before the competition (they have killer borsch and selyanka -soups over in the Xcountry press center), because you never know when you have a chance to eat again.

Preliminary Rounds

Yesterday, I decided to shoot the preliminary rounds on the track. There had been some fresh snow during the night, so the scenery looked real  nice and it was a sunny day.

I thought would be nice to get one decent scenic shot of each of our athletes.

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For the women I chose a position on  top of the hill so I could get a head-on shot of them climbing up (with a 400mm, see Kerttu Niskanen above)  and then another one  panning as they’d pass me so that I could get the rings on the background with the mountains

 

 

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After two loops I decided to change place. I saw some photographers in a spot I had not used before, nor had I noticed that they would have allowed us there earlier.

So I quickly changed positions and started looking for the best angle and  lens combination. I settled for a 70-200mm/2.8L and lied down as I wanted to get as low an angle as possible.

I also crawled closer to the rings, carefully that I would not block other photographers working there. You can actually see my 1Dx and 70-200/2.8 lying on the snow by the violet marker.

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The rule to keep in mind is “first come, first priority”, i.e. you have to respect the FOV’s of photographers, who were there before you.

Sotchix1kk6327294 copyI shot the women from this position, then moved to the side a little bit for a different angle (on the right).

Screwed in an 1.4x converter and shot couple of loops from there. But I kind of liked my original position so eventually I returned to it, trying to get as  close as  I could. My aim was to get as good “olympic” skiing shots as possible of all the Finnish athletes.

I did OK I think with Aikku, Kepa and Musti, as there were moments when they were like several meters distance of the others. Iivo was a bit more hard as he was skiing all the time in a group.

But I managed to get a tighter crop of him passing me from only couple of meters.

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Sotchixkk_6544239 copyAlso, from this position I had another angle before they turned to the long decent, so just in case one of the athletes would be alone, I could get a second shot. Which I did manage to do with Musti.

 

 

The Final

For the final in an event like this there is no choice: you have a chance to get a medal => you have to be by the finishing line.

Which is kind of boring as everyone gets the same images and it becomes a question of luck: what is the angle they will be facing, who will jump in front of you, how will the other teams be when yours come over the line… In addition, in the Xcountry stadium, the head on platform for photographers is way too small.

So as you can read between the lines, it is definitely not my favorite spot to work.

Sotchix1kk6445230 copyFor the women I got an OK shot – a posed one but half decent. For the men… I have to admit: I behaved like a bloody amateur. I typically do not get emotionally involved into the sport I am covering: I just look at it through the camera, trying to make the best possible images.

But when Musti got to the lead c. 500m before the finish and turned to the final straight… my heart started pounding. The stupefied look on his face when he realized that they were actually winning… made me laugh out loud.

But my amateurish behavior came with a price: I cropped the image wrong. Yes, it was in focus and you could still use it, but in skiing images you should always see the skies. And I partly cropped them out. God was I mad at myself.

But: I know Musti – consider him if not a friend, then at least a buddy… and I was just so happy for him. He really had earned this if anybody ever had. The amount of shit he has had poured over him over the years.

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I tried to do some finishing area images, but got totally blocked by other photographers. So I quickly left and tried to circle to the other side of the finish area. Also to be in good position and ready for the flower ceremony.

Sotchix1kk6595207 copyThe Image to Remember

And I bump onto Musti. Crying his eyes out, totally in emotional state. And if you didn’t know, Finnish men are not good in showing their emotions… And it was to become one of the most memorable moments of these games to me.

I’d like to think: had it been any other photographer, he would have turned away or quickly wiped his face. But he just looked at me. Sort of… I don’t know… “a moment of mutual trust” is the best choice of words I can find to describe it. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d like to think that way.

Couple of minutes later, after he had had time to recompose himself, I quickly congratulated him (and believe me, there were quite a many of people in queue for that…).

Flowers, waving to the audience, posed images… the usual caboom followed after that… but to me the image of the day was that one on the corner of the finishing area, him totally vulnerable but not hiding it, not brushing me away.

I met him today and shot couple of – I think real nice images – but maybe more about that tomorrow. I have to respect my client (as they do pay me for my images) that I do not blurb them out in my blog before they have had the possibility of publishing them first (which also explains why I did not write this last night or this morning).

Oh, almost forgot. As the title said, this was  my average working day over here. So it was: 13 hours. Very much an average day over here.

Except that it was the first gold medal in the olympics for twelve years. And come to think of it, I was there (Salt Lake City) to see the previous  one as well (the image below from my archives).

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Kind of  privileged profession, some could say…

And I don’t disagree.

 

1 Comment

  1. Ville
    February 20, 2014

    Good to see even the top professionals sometimes get caught up in the action, although if these things (winning gold at Winter Olympics) are the only times it happens. You’ll be safe for another 12 years.
    What are your thoughts on whether in the Winter Olympics photographers have more ‘freedom’ to move around than during Summer Olympics?? Just been watching some of the skiing, etc on TV and see photographers walk across the tracks with the competitors coming at the background (not sure that happened during road races in London2012?).
    Good pictures, and as always.. great writing to go with it !
    Keep up the great work for few more days !!

    Reply

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