Vancouver Olympics, day 17: Toys and Tips

Day 17. I guess officially it is day 13,  but I have been here seventeen days – and five more to go. Time to look at some of the images and answer some questions I have had on equipment – mainly on Canon EOS 1Dmk4. But let’s start with the images: took a nice series of Lindsey Vonn crashing. My sympathies to her, what a great athelete and a charming girl (I had an opportunity to chat with her briefly in Levi this fall – and I was totally sold). Thankfully she did not hurt herself badly on this one:

Lindsey Vonn crashing out during the first round of GS. (Click image to see all the images of her fall).

In GS there are c. 50 gates and normally you can shoot only one or two of them – i.e. you have to make a choice. Restrictions also apply as to where you can shoot from (like today I had no course access). So chances of you being in the peak action spot are pretty slim. But she crashed right at the gate I was watching and I managed to get the whole sequence. Pretty dramatic – and luckily she walked out of it.

And, as I said, I felt bad for her… I have a sore spot for sweet girls and great athletes – and she is both.

***

Riitta-Liisa Roponen over the Olympic rings.

I’ve been testing some new toys during the last couple of days. One of them was Canon 800/5.6L – which I had tried out before in the Alpine WC in Val d’Isére last year – and tried it again here. Word of advise: however you trust yourself, do not try to shoot handheld ski jumping with it.  Been there, done that… The field of vision is just too narrow: you lose it for a moment and it is gone, no possibility of getting the focus back – or the subject into the frame in the first place. With a monopod yes, no problem, but not handheld.

But I tested it also with X-country and managed to make one shot which I thought was a bit different from mass of images I have produced here. It is of Riitta-Liisa Roponen, shot from the finishing area  (c. 200m away?) during women’s dual sprint.

I just love that lens. It is light-weight, razor-sharp, a pure pleasure to use. The only down-side of it is that it comes with a price tag of c. 14 000 Euros. And truth to be said, it is a bit long for the majority of the things one shoots. So I guess not…

Another new baby I have tried out is the Canon’s new 70-200/2.8L II – with nano-coating, newly designed lens arrangement and all that jazz. Lots of buzzing going about that lens and it’s all true. Used it during men’s 4x5km relay during a pretty hefty snowfall, and it just is crystal-clear with nice color and beautiful edges:

Anssi Koivuranta leaving for the third leg of the 4x5km relay in Nordic Combined.

I have had several emails about the performance of the Canon EOS 1mk4 – but I have nothing to add which I have not said before (see my earlier entries). Bottomline: the best camera I have ever held in my hands. Autofocus: look at the Lindsey series referred to above. Shot with a 400mm 2.8 and 1.4EX  and the focus is maintained thruout the sequence. Stopped down one stop. Yes, the image where she crashed thru the gate is blurry (frontfocus (?) – but hard to tell ), and I don’t know why this happened (snowflakes?) – but it is the only one off from the series of over 40 images total (not all the images are included in the sequence). Shot in a extremely flat light thru falling snow. One image off? I think that is acceptable.

I overheard the following conversation before I left for the olympics in Finland: “oh, it’s a piece of crap, you know, I had several images off focus when I was shooting that coctail-party last night…” Ok, I stop, won’t get into details – but I rest my case.  I just don’t want to be dragged into that conversation. Individual features for certain specific professional needs is one thing – but general discussion “which-one-is-better”  and bold, extreme statements – usually by people whose default mode is “program” – is totally fruitless. After some 12 000 images so far over here, I don’t think there is one single “off-image” which could be pointed to the camera not performing well. When it is off focus, off exposure, wrong composition: it is always the ugly, bold guy behind the viewfinder with too slow a reaction times or who made a miscalculation who is to blame… ;-)

For me, my choice of camera(s) is based on mainly on ergonomics and a long personal history  (i.e. I know how to use it) – combined to fine – or should I say  superb – technical performance. Which – truth to be said – is available elsewhere as well. And overall, I think we spend way too much time talking about the technical properties of these things instead of concentrating on the more essential questions: content of our images and the future of the printed media. How should we cover the next games to keep the people interested?  But, that calls for another blog entry…

One important thing when working with these fine, precision tools – called cameras – is to read the manual. Have you read it? I’m sure there are both “Yes”s and  “No”s to this question among us… But, these manuals should be read – lots of mistakes and moments of frustration could be avoided.

I have learned a couple of new tricks here – and these might be in the manual, but I don’t think so. You may know these, but then again, some of you might not. I at least didn’t.

First, 5Dmk2: be carefull how you set the focusing point selector. If you set it for the wheel on the back, you have no control over the aperture in the manual mode. So set it for the joystick – or whatever  that thing is called. This might be mentioned in the manual, but I was not aware of this and almost had a heart attack trying to set the manual exposure for a remote 5Dmk2 – in a awful hurry, of course.

If shooting sports with 1Dmk4 using ai servo, do not use all the points for focusing. Doesnt’ work. Simple as that. With 1Dmk3 I used them  all the time – but with 1Dmk4 no way. I have also changed my habit of using 19 focus points to full 45 points – all set to be directly controlled with the joystick. They are all cross-hair sensors and all perform really nicely. I realize that one of my favorite selection is the two points just below the center for horizontal shots. Used it with alpine today, trying to get the “Vancouver 2010” and the rings also into the images.

When setting iso with 1Dmk4 – and this could also apply to 5Dmk2, althought I have not tested it – please note that the use of highlight priority mode limits your available iso to 200. I was trying to do panning (below) with  a wideangle: I set up the aperture to 22 and could not get below speeds of 1/60 and 1/80. I was furious, nice formation of x-country skiers coming to the perfect spot in perfect light below me and the guy next to me with the same camera and lens combination  was shooting 1/15 sec.  It was only back in the press center when I managed to figure this out.

But I guess that is one of the joys of this profession: live and learn. Every day.

2 Comments

  1. Valentin Jacobs
    February 25, 2010

    Hey Kari, you were on the right time, right place with Lindsey Vonn…? The Mark IV does well in the snow, seems to me, and 1 pic “off”…thatz very(!) acceptable :))) and to me the Mark IV is a piece of art (like the Nikon D3s) it’s build for the real pros and not for pussies…:))
    Keep up the motivation !!

    Reply
  2. Niko
    February 26, 2010

    My guess is that snow in the air is making AF easier, the background has lower contrast and colors than main object Lindsey…

    Reply

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