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

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August 23, 2008 12:22 PM

Olympics: Some enchanted evening

Posted by Rod Mar

As the Beijing Olympics draw to a close, most media outlets are doing stories reviewing the past 17 days, trying to make sense of it all.

I decided to go out to the Olympic Green (the area around the Bird's Nest, the Water Cube and National Indoor Stadium) to try and visually capture the mood of the people. The weather was beautiful, there were events all around, and everyone, Chinese citizens and visiting tourists seemed entranced by the Games.

The issues surrounding the relative successes and failures of these Games are large and complicated; it's my guess that there can be no definitive awarding of a gold medal to China until we see how the country and its citizens fare now that they are the center of the world's attention.

Certainly, an evening of shooting photos cannot tell the complete story. But, these photos do capture the mood of a Beijing as it celebrates its coming-out party to the rest of the world.

People were happily milling around the area around the stadiums as the sun began setting through the ambient haze that seems to always fill the air. This made for some nice glowy light that I could play with.

It seemed like everyone wanted to take photos in front of the stadiums. You couldn't walk four feet without being in the way of someone's photos. By having these photos, it was proof that one was indeed, part of the Olympics.

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 350mm, ISO 200, 1/250th sec.,f4.0)

(Nikon D3, VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 200, 1/250th sec.,f2.8)

(Nikon D3, 14-24mm/f2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 400, 1/320th sec.,f4.5)

As the sun set, the glow got even stronger, allowing me to shoot backlit through flags people were posing with. The Olympic flag made a nice addition to this image:

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 290mm, ISO 200, 1/000th sec.,f4.0)

Patriotism is not only high in China, it's also very visible, as it seems like every fan entering a venue to watch the games has a flag on their person somewhere, be it a handheld flag or atemporary tattoo.

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 400mm, ISO 200, 1/100th sec.,f4.0)

The military is a constant presence in China, and one that has to be acknowledged all the time:

(Nikon D3, VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 90mm, ISO 800, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

China quickly became a nation of boisterous sports fans, particularly when cheering for their countrymen and women. Chants of "CHI-NA!" echoed throughout every venue, no matter what the result of the action on the field. Discuses accidently thrown into the net were applauded, as were foul balls in baseball and softball when hit by Chinese players. Toward the end of the Games, fans had become more knowledgeable and not only recognized, but applauded great efforts by athletes of all countries.

(Nikon D3, VR 200-400mm/f4.0 lens @ 400mm, ISO 2000, 1/800th sec.,f4.0)

(Nikon D3, 14-24mm/f2.8 lens @ 18mm, ISO 1600, 1/100th sec.,f2.8)

Outside of the Bird's Nest, I was quickly reminded about the tens of thousands of Chinese people who made these Games go. They not only performed in the opening ceremony, they also drove buses and helped out the venues, they also squeegeed the counters of the bathrooms every five minutes and picked up every last speck of garbage.

(Nikon D3, 14-24mm/f2.8 lens @ 17mm, ISO 1600, 1/50th sec.,f3.5)

Walking back to the Main Press Center, I was again struck by the beauty of the Water Cube at night, and waited until someone walked by so that a human figure could provide scale.

(Nikon D3, 14-24mm/f2.8 lens @ 14mm, ISO 1600, 1/125th sec.,f5.0)


*I would like to thank all of you who have read my ramblings over the past few weeks (some of you, for longer than that). Many have emailed and commented, and I appreciate your feedback. As the Games come to a close, I'll be answering your questions in a post, so feel free to place them in the comments field. What would you like to know about the Beijing Olympics? Ask away.

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