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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 12, 2008 10:30 AM

Olympics: Don't get mad, get better

Posted by Rod Mar

Thanks so much for the votes of support after I showed you that "woulda been, coulda been, shoulda been" photo from Michael Phelps' swim earlier.

(I just got spanked and the previous post edited for my course language, btw -- don't tell anyone I faux-swore on the blog. Serious. Promise?)

A few of you mentioned shooting RAW (uncompressed) files, but when you're on a tight deadline like I am (downloading up to 500 images, editing selects, captioning and sending five to six photos with in 15 minutes), RAW gets to be too much.

Yes, I can edit and caption RAW files that quickly. Downloading them and getting a contact sheet to draw would take too long.

Bottom line, if I get the danged exposure right in the first place, it's not a problem.

So, after the morning's swimming and self-flagellation, I set out to redeem myself.

What better way to forget a "miss" than by making some hits?

I decided to spend the rest of my day trying to make killer images. I wanted to go out, explore, take chances, and see what would come of it.

First, I went across the street from the Water Cube to the National Indoor Stadium, where gymnastics are being held. The men's team competition was nearly over when I got there (5 1/2 of 6 rotations completed), but I grabbed the longest lens I had (600mm, sometimes with a 1.4 extender) and went to work.

Chinese gymnast Xiaopeng Li performs his turn on the horizontal bar and scored 15.75 and China went on to take the gold medal. This is shot so tight (600mm + 1.4 extender = 850mm) that I couldn't keep his face sharp as he spun around the bar. I liked the texture of his hands, the tape and the bar, so I focused on that and let his face go softer in the background:



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4 lens + 1.4x extender = 850mm, ISO 1600, 1/800th sec, f5.6)

I used the same lens to shoot one of the Chinese team clapping his hands as chalk flew:



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4 lens + 1.4x extender = 850mm, ISO 3200, 1/800th sec, f5.6)

The Chinese were winning the meet going away, and all the photographers covering the story were a ravenous pack trying to get shots of them celebrating. This gave me plenty of room to find a good angle with which to show France's Danny Pinheiro Rodrigues on the rings:



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4 lens, ISO 3200, 1/500th sec, f4.0)

Chinese gymnasts hold their hands aloft in unity as they are announced as winners of the gold medal in the men's team competition. Their arms remind me of my own. Except theirs have muscles:



(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4 lens, ISO 3200, 1/640th sec, f4.0)

Not satisfied, I walked back to the Water Cube in time for the women's 10-meter synchronized diving. Like many indoor pools, the backgrounds in the Water Cube are terrible, so I tried some pans.

This one of Great Britain's team is only okay:



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm /f4 zoom lens @ 200mm, ISO 100, 1/15th sec, f10)

This one I really like as China's gold medal-winning team hits the water as one:



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm /f4 zoom lens @ 400mm, ISO 1000, 1/40th sec, f11)

I'm feeling a bit better about my day. After a quick meal (I think it was lunch -- that is, if a double shot of espresso and some almond cookies qualifies as breakfast), I decided to go to the medal matches at the judo venue. Ran into my friends Robert Beck and Kohjiro Kinno from Sports Illustrated, and we hit the shuttle bus together.

I know as much about judo as I do about fencing, and I could hear the snickering as I shot with a 600mm lens, trying to find something cool and tight. The "real" judo photographers are looking for throws and such. I was just looking for clean backgrounds until I felt I should look for reaction photos in the bronze and gold medal matches.

From up high, Brazil's Mario Valles (blue) and Great Britain's Euan Burton look like their performing a pas-de-deux, except in judo gi's.



Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4 zoom lens @ 380mm, ISO 1600, 1/640th sec, f4.0)

On the women's side, Austria's Claudia Heill lies prone as Korea's Ok Im Won celebrates her victory in one of two bronze-medal matches.



(Nikon D3, VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 1600, 1/1000th sec.,f2.8)

And in the men's, Brazil's Tiago Camilo, while not literally on top of the world, is at least on top of his opponent Guillame Elmont of the Netherlands.



(Nikon D3, VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 1600, 1/1000th sec.,f2.8)

Off to bed. Need to charge batteries -- both the camera's and my own.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for all your comments and emails.

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