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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 15, 2008 8:52 AM

Olympics: In the pink of things

Posted by Rod Mar

The women's individual all-around was this morning, and I bounced back and forth between National Indoor Stadium and the Water Cube to catch both Michael Phelps and the two American hopefuls in the gymnastics.

USA's Shawn Johnson and Nastia Luikin duked it out for the gold, with Luikin winning to become America's new Golden Girl.

It's late, and I have swimming early in the morning, so I don't have time for a super-detailed post, but wanted to share some images with you. All the top gymnasts were in the same rotation group, which made it good for them, but hard for photographers. Everyone was crowded around the leaders, much like it is at a golf tournament. No one cares who's coming in seventh (well, except their families).

I didn't get to the venue until the third of four rotations, so I had to shoot quickly.

I first reached them on the balance beam, and moved a quick photo. I was hustling because the way things were set up, I was going to have to protect a spot from which to shoot the final event, the floor exercise.

By the time I got back, the area around the mat for the floor exercise was packed. I didn't have an unobstructed view (with television, no still shooters really do), but I decided to shoot very tight and to see what happened. If I didn't get anything I liked, I still had the chance to shoot them when the final scores were posted, as well as during medals.

Luikin's routine had her first tumbling run going away from me, but she shot her head back far enough that it made a nice frame, with a fairly clean background:



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400/f4 lens @ 360mm, ISO 1000, 1/640th sec.,f4)

Next, she flew back the other way:



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400/f4 lens @ 360mm, ISO 2000, 1/100th sec.,f4)

After all the routines were completed (Shawn Johnson went last), the wait for the judges scores began.

Because I'm not a "pool" photographer -- special access for wire services -- I didn't get to be close to the gymnasts, so I was elbowing for a spot with everyone else.

When it was announced that Luikin was the winner, Johnson was very classy and came up to give her a hug:



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400/f4 lens @ 360mm, ISO 2000, 1/640th sec.,f4)

Nastia is coached by her father, Valeri Luikin, himself a two-time gold medal winner in the 1988 Games. When she came to hug him, the camera shutters sounded like a swarm of locusts (photographers are often referred to as locusts -- why?).

Even though the colors and background isn't as strong as the photo with Johnson, the photo of daughter and father, her hands gripping his shirt tight, is one of the images of these games.



(Nikon D3, VR 200-400/f4 lens @ 360mm, ISO 2000, 1/640th sec.,f4)

I have many more images from the event, including other gymnasts, and the medal ceremonies.

I'm posting these for now because they're the photos I edited and transmitted earlier, and I have yet to go back and make a complete edit.

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