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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 22, 2008 12:22 PM

Olympics: Open wide and say awesome

Posted by Rod Mar

Went to the USA men's indoor (not to be confused with "beach") volleyball semifinal match against Russia today. Our columnist Steve Kelley was revisiting the team after head coach Hugh McCutcheon returned from a leave after his father-in-law was brutally murdered here in Beijing at the beginning of the Games.

I'm not expert on volleyball photography, but I'm a pretty quick learner. Okay, I might not be that quick, as it took me three sets of shooting to figure out where the heck I should be shooting from (*hint* -- if you're shooting the head coach, don't shoot from above, especially if he is bald).

Once I decided to join all the cool kids shooting from courtside, things came into focus, so to speak (ah, that photographer humor, huh? I'll be here through Thursday -- try the veal).

Made a nice simple frame of the coach, and the player and the Olympic logos on the wall put in in a time and place.

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 340mm, ISO 2000, 1/640th sec.,f4.0)

From there, it was a challenge to capture volleyball action at its peak -- any experienced volleyball players will look at these and likely giggle, but that's okay -- I'm a lifelong learner, right?

USA's big Clayton Stanley spikes a ball during the fourth set. He hammers his serves as well, but struggled to keep them in play:

(Nikon D3, VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 98mm, ISO 2000, 1/1000th sec.,f2.8)

After making a basically average spiking photo (those must be better from head-on, right?), I moved on to trying to shoot digs and saves. I know that returns of serve don't really count, but beggars can't be choosers, right?

USA'S Richard Lambourne, left and Riley Salmon both attempt to return a hard serve during the fifth set:

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4 lens @ 200mm, ISO 2500, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

Riley Salmon (10) and Richard Lambourne (5) can't reach this spike by a Russian player that was partially blocked at the net in the fourth set of USA's five set victory:

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4 lens @ 200mm, ISO 2500, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

Russia came back from an 0-2 deficit to win the next two sets and force the deciding fifth set. It was loud and frantic and exciting, and I felt so fortunate to be witnessing my third thrilling event in a row (preceded by the USA softball loss and the USA women's soccer victory).

As the USA rallied in that decisive fifth set, the emotion ramped way up on the court, and there were pictures all over the place.

It was only later, while editing on the shuttle bus that I saw something unusual and funny and cool, all at the same time.

USA player Ryan Millar is not only really excitable and photograph-able, he also apparently has one way to express his excitement. Check out these frames and tell me what's the same in each of them (and there are all taken at different points in the match):

(Nikon D3, VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 110mm, ISO 2000, 1/1000th sec.,f2.8)

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4 lens @ 210mm, ISO 2500, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4 lens @ 210mm, ISO 2500, 1/1000th sec.,f4.0)

(Nikon D3, VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 86mm, ISO 2000, 1/1000th sec.,f2.8)

After the match, I was able to make another, better, more emotional photo of the coach, as he hugged one of his players:

(Nikon D3, VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 110mm, ISO 2000, 1/1000th sec.,f2.8)

And similarly to Brazil's women after their loss to the USA in gold medal soccer, the Russian men were inconsolable, as well.

(Nikon D3, VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 2000, 1/1000th sec.,f2.8)

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4 lens @ 280mm, ISO 2500, 1/500th sec.,f4.0)

We're almost to the end of the Olympics -- some basketball finals, some closing ceremony and a whole heckofalotta packing loom ahead.

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