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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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Posted by harold

12:44 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Great images, as ever. Love the first Judo 'dancing' shot. And the final celebration image is a killer.

Must be wonderful to (i) be around all that heightened emotion and (ii) capture it so very well.

Posted by seine

1:04 PM, Aug 12, 2008

on the xiaopeng li high bar shot, you also managed to capture the bruise near his left elbow (looks kinda bloody!). that came from his earlier parallel bars routine, i think ...

GREAT shots! i really like the one of the girls entering the water together. it looks like she was diving next to a mirror :)

Posted by jaysus

2:05 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Love the tight shot on the high bar. China totally dominated. I'm glad that you put up a frame of that guy clapping with the dust...I saw that last night and was hoping to see a frame or two of it for some reason. I just liked the context that the dusty hands gives.

Jay Grabiec

Posted by elmer

3:57 PM, Aug 12, 2008

liked the arms and muscles shot.

there is a difference !


Posted by bobpet

4:02 PM, Aug 12, 2008

nice stuff - you're working hard
you can also open jpg's in adobe raw and have some exposure control - easy for me to say from here in Seattle.
last olympics I covered was 40 years ago in Mex City
we just shipped our film to NYC at night
good work
Bob Peterson

Posted by Scott Fillmer

6:45 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Wow you got some great images... I have tried diving here in Auburn Alabama where we have many many Olympic athletes train in swimming, and it is tough to get without a terrible background, nice artistic shots of the diving.

Amazing to see images you have captured that I have watching here on my TV, looks like you are having a great time, and a lot of hard work.

Posted by michaelv

8:15 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Rod your blogs are by far the most ntertaining and detailed to read of all the ones i check every day, keep it up and chin up about yesterdays shot, we are all human remember

Posted by Allison

8:18 AM, Aug 13, 2008

Great images in this last post! I just caught up on your Olympics blogging and I think these are my favorite so far.

I really like the fuzzy, into the water diving shot and the Chinese gymnast taped hands photo takes a close second. Way to take some risks and make them work.

Posted by G

8:37 AM, Aug 13, 2008

You'll have to do a wrap up when you come home, "what I did on my summer vacation."

Can you rove anywhere you want to be?

Are you shooting any crew? Stanford gal and local Seattle connection is racing as I'm sure you know...

Posted by Crystal

9:15 AM, Aug 13, 2008

Love this blog, not just the photos, but the commentary on your own work. But yeah, the photos are awesome. Especially loved today's photo of the divers, almost abstract, just the long line of the legs and hips.

Your blog's the first thing I read in the Seattle Time right after the headlines.

Posted by Griffin

11:48 AM, Aug 13, 2008

Wow, these are great
My favorite is the first one
oh, and the second one, oh yeah, and the fourth one
and don't forget the sixth one either

Recent entries

Aug 13, 08 - 09:18 AM
Olympics: Phelps doubles, so do we

Aug 12, 08 - 10:30 AM
Olympics: Don't get mad, get better

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

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

Aug 10, 08 - 11:57 PM
Olympics: Phelps Wasn't the Only One in the Pool







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