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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 11, 2008 9:25 AM

Olympics: Foiled Again.

Posted by Rod Mar

Some parents try to identify in their children what sports they might excel at (gawd that's some bad sentence junior high English teacher Ms. Mikolasy would be horrified) when at a young age (it just keeps getting worse, doesn't it?).

China and other countries select youngsters and put them on fast tracks in specialized sports at ages as young as five years old.

The Olympic are only in their third day of competition and I've found the sport for my kids:


I know this, because when I was packing before I left, I found them "swordfighting" with barbeque skewers. The metal kind with the sharp tip used for roasting marshmallows (please don't call CPS on me -- and you geeky photogs, that's a reference to "Child Protective Services", not "Canon Professional Services").

With a relatively "slow" day after the busy morning's swimming session, I took the opportunity to do some of the more arcane activities one has to accomplish when on a 21 day assignment.

Things such as, archiving, burning dvd's, going over and over the schedule for the next few days, figuring out what can make the paper (15 hours behind) and what can't.

Also, I'm trying to strike a balance between covering our locals for the paper, and also exploring and sampling some of the other sports here at the Olympics.

I shot a quick bit of fencing the other day, and vowed to come back when I had some time. The light is dramatic, the visuals enticing, the athletes aren't afraid of emotion, and if it's raining as hard as it was yesterday, it's only a quick block-long walk from the Main Press Center to the fencing venue.

Today's competition was women's foil. As there are no "locals" (athletes from around our readership area) involved in fencing, I was kind of free to experiment. The medal matches were tonight, so I got to shoot the battle for both the bronze, and then the gold.

First, I went high and did some shots featuring the logo, which gives it a sense of place.

Got wild and wacky (I'm kidding) and did some pans and blurs.

(Nikon VR 200-400mm/f4.0 zoom lens @ 240mm, ISO 200, 1/5th second, f11.0)

The bronze medal match featured two Italians, Margherita Granbassi (facing) and Giovanna Trillini. As I'd already found photos with a sense of place, I then chose to shooter tighter with a 400mm from next to the "strip" (the area where they compete).

(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/1600th sec., f2.8)

I wanted to shoot as tightly as possible, hoping for a photo with a lot of immediate impact, so I added a 1.4 extender, resulting in 550mm. Seeing the eyeball here really helps, doesn't it?

(Nikon VR 400mm/f2.8 lens + 1.4x extender = 550mm, ISO 3200, 1/1600th sec.,f4.0)

Fencers show a lot of emotion, as I found out.

Italy's Giovanna Trillini lost the bronze medal match in individual foil to countrywoman Margherita Granbassi.

(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/1000th sec., f2.8)

Margherita Granbassi (facing) celebrates after defeating countrywoman Giovanna Trillini to earn a bronze medal in individual foil.

(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/1000th sec., f2.8)

Here's the thing about my covering fencing. I don't know the rules. Heck, I don't even know how they keep score, and every instruction from the referee is in French. Doesn't matter if the judge is American, Egyptian, Ethiopian or Thai -- French is the language spoken. So I was pretty clueless about the sport. Only the scoreboard kept me informed. I knew that each match went to 15.

The gold medal match between Italy's Maria Valentina Vezzali and Korea's Nam Hyunhee was dramatic. As early as the fourth point, each athlete was pumping her fist and yelling. The next ten or so points would make for great photos.

When Vezzali earned her sixth point of the match, she ripped off her mask, turned, dropped to her knees screaming. The match was...over? Reminded me of the first time I shot volleyball after they changed from side-out scoring. Each set went to 25 points, I was told. Then in the deciding fifth game, the place exploded in celebration...because the fifth game only goes to 15 points. Is that what happened here?

Apparently. Hyunhee turned away in defeat. I was shooting, but bewildered. Later, I found two fellow American photographers who also were caught unaware. My fault for not learning the rules. Still, made for good pictures.


(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/1600th sec., f2.8)

(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/1600th sec., f2.8)

On the medal stand, Vezzali let out another yell.

(Nikon D3, VR 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/1000th sec., f2.8)

And when the Italian national anthem ended, both Vezalli and her bronze-medal winning countrywoman Granbassi leapt in the air.

(Nikon VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 140mm, ISO 1600, 1/400th sec.,f2.8)

I've already told my kids about fencing. Not sure if that was a good idea or not. When I tell them to stop trying to stab each other with barbeque skewers, I'm sure one of them will reply, "but we're training for the Olympics!"

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Posted by JadeCat

2:49 PM, Aug 11, 2008

Great shots for someone who hasn't seen fencing before.

Pool bouts (round of 6-8) go to 5 touches.
Direct Elimination always goes to 15 touches or to the 3rd period (each period = 3 minutes with 1 minute breaks)

And, it's not unusual for a fencer to rip their mask off and/or yell in the middle of the match, especially if the bout is pretty intense (i.e. gold medal match). Plus, if the other fencer knows they got hit (resoundingly), there's not much they can do, except walk away back to the starting line.

And, this is Valentina's 6?7? Olympic Gold Medal. She's also won the World Championships several times over. I believe she just recently had a baby too, after the last Games.

But, I do love the photos :-)

And, I think you should let your kids fence. But that's just my biased opinion. :-)

Posted by matabala

5:33 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Fantastic fencing fotos - the dark background is ready made for some dramatic shots!

Look forward to more. Stay away from the "prime-time" sports.

Posted by Dancing Shiva

1:02 PM, Aug 13, 2008

Considering that fencing is largely ignored by American sports journalism, your coverage here is a real treat. Thanks for keeping an open mind and lens!

Posted by Christian Peper

7:15 AM, Aug 14, 2008

I used to play Ultimate Frisbee and my wife would come to games with me. She'd shoot some pics of me and my friends. During my off-time, I'd shoot the other teams and although her pics were always sharper, better composition and technically better, mind (almost) always had a better moment... simply because I knew the game and could anticipate better in crucial moments...

Perhaps next time, you could read up on sport using wikipedia or befriend someone in the stands and ask for help :) Oh well, I still love your pictures. Good work!

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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