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Best Seat in the House

Photography, sports and life as seen through the lens of Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar.

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August 11, 2008 8:49 PM

Olympics: Michael Phelps wins gold, is overexposed

Posted by Rod Mar

Thanks for all the comments about Michael Phelps needing to either a) hike up his speed suit or b) lower it slightly more when he's standing on the deck with half of it around his waist. Make that hips. He's got the body to show off, and darn if he won't do it in front of the world.

But that's not the overexposed I'm talking about.

The 200 freestyle figured to be Phelps' easiest race. I knew that. And still, I wasn't prepared enough.

I shot him tight off at the start, did some slow shutter-speed stuff for the first 100, then figured I'd bounce the shutter speed and ISO back up for the second half of the race.

(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4 lens, ISO 200, 1/60th sec., f5.6)

Entering the final 50, he had an open water lead. I looked up and saw my picture. Reached down between the shooters squished in with me and grabbed the 70-200 lens and shot away, trying to show his lead.

After the race, I looked at the images. Overexposed.

(Nikon D3, VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 130mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

When you mess up in the business, you quickly try to make some safe pictures to cover yourself.

I worked the medal ceremony, but this was a pretty routine race for Phelps, and lacked the emotion of yesterday's "instant classic" relay.

(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4 lens, ISO 1600, 1/640th sec.,f4.0)

(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4 lens, ISO 1600, 1/640th sec.,f4.0)

The overexposed frame is distressing. Need to move ahead.

Time to pack up and get some breakfast before the afternoon's assignment.

Should I choose boxing, white water kayak (good pix, long ways away), or something else? Men's gymnastics would have been good, but the finals were this morning during the swimming.

How do you say, "Double-shot of espresso, please", in Mandarin?

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August 11, 2008 9:25 AM

Olympics: Foiled Again.

Posted by Rod Mar

Some parents try to identify in their children what sports they might excel at (gawd that's some bad sentence junior high English teacher Ms. Mikolasy would be horrified) when at a young age (it just keeps getting worse, doesn't it?).

China and other countries select youngsters and put them on fast tracks in specialized sports at ages as young as five years old.

The Olympic are only in their third day of competition and I've found the sport for my kids:


I know this, because when I was packing before I left, I found them "swordfighting" with barbeque skewers. The metal kind with the sharp tip used for roasting marshmallows (please don't call CPS on me -- and you geeky photogs, that's a reference to "Child Protective Services", not "Canon Professional Services").

With a relatively "slow" day after the busy morning's swimming session, I took the opportunity to do some of the more arcane activities one has to accomplish when on a 21 day assignment.

Things such as, archiving, burning dvd's, going over and over the schedule for the next few days, figuring out what can make the paper (15 hours behind) and what can't.

Also, I'm trying to strike a balance between covering our locals for the paper, and also exploring and sampling some of the other sports here at the Olympics.

I shot a quick bit of fencing the other day, and vowed to come back when I had some time. The light is dramatic, the visuals enticing, the athletes aren't afraid of emotion, and if it's raining as hard as it was yesterday, it's only a quick block-long walk from the Main Press Center to the fencing venue.

Today's competition was women's foil. As there are no "locals" (athletes from around our readership area) involved in fencing, I was kind of free to experiment. The medal matches were tonight, so I got to shoot the battle for both the bronze, and then the gold.

First, I went high and did some shots featuring the logo, which gives it a sense of place.

Got wild and wacky (I'm kidding) and did some pans and blurs.

(Nikon VR 200-400mm/f4.0 zoom lens @ 240mm, ISO 200, 1/5th second, f11.0)

The bronze medal match featured two Italians, Margherita Granbassi (facing) and Giovanna Trillini. As I'd already found photos with a sense of place, I then chose to shooter tighter with a 400mm from next to the "strip" (the area where they compete).

(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/1600th sec., f2.8)

I wanted to shoot as tightly as possible, hoping for a photo with a lot of immediate impact, so I added a 1.4 extender, resulting in 550mm. Seeing the eyeball here really helps, doesn't it?

(Nikon VR 400mm/f2.8 lens + 1.4x extender = 550mm, ISO 3200, 1/1600th sec.,f4.0)

Fencers show a lot of emotion, as I found out.

Italy's Giovanna Trillini lost the bronze medal match in individual foil to countrywoman Margherita Granbassi.

(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/1000th sec., f2.8)

Margherita Granbassi (facing) celebrates after defeating countrywoman Giovanna Trillini to earn a bronze medal in individual foil.

(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/1000th sec., f2.8)

Here's the thing about my covering fencing. I don't know the rules. Heck, I don't even know how they keep score, and every instruction from the referee is in French. Doesn't matter if the judge is American, Egyptian, Ethiopian or Thai -- French is the language spoken. So I was pretty clueless about the sport. Only the scoreboard kept me informed. I knew that each match went to 15.

The gold medal match between Italy's Maria Valentina Vezzali and Korea's Nam Hyunhee was dramatic. As early as the fourth point, each athlete was pumping her fist and yelling. The next ten or so points would make for great photos.

When Vezzali earned her sixth point of the match, she ripped off her mask, turned, dropped to her knees screaming. The match was...over? Reminded me of the first time I shot volleyball after they changed from side-out scoring. Each set went to 25 points, I was told. Then in the deciding fifth game, the place exploded in celebration...because the fifth game only goes to 15 points. Is that what happened here?

Apparently. Hyunhee turned away in defeat. I was shooting, but bewildered. Later, I found two fellow American photographers who also were caught unaware. My fault for not learning the rules. Still, made for good pictures.


(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/1600th sec., f2.8)

(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/1600th sec., f2.8)

On the medal stand, Vezzali let out another yell.

(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/1000th sec., f2.8)

And when the Italian national anthem ended, both Vezalli and her bronze-medal winning countrywoman Granbassi leapt in the air.

(Nikon VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 140mm, ISO 1600, 1/400th sec.,f2.8)

I've already told my kids about fencing. Not sure if that was a good idea or not. When I tell them to stop trying to stab each other with barbeque skewers, I'm sure one of them will reply, "but we're training for the Olympics!"

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Recent entries

Aug 11, 08 - 08:49 PM
Olympics: Michael Phelps wins gold, is overexposed

Aug 11, 08 - 09:25 AM
Olympics: Foiled Again.







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