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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 8:49 PM

Olympics: Michael Phelps wins gold, is overexposed

Posted by Rod Mar

Thanks for all the comments about Michael Phelps needing to either a) hike up his speed suit or b) lower it slightly more when he's standing on the deck with half of it around his waist. Make that hips. He's got the body to show off, and darn if he won't do it in front of the world.

But that's not the overexposed I'm talking about.

The 200 freestyle figured to be Phelps' easiest race. I knew that. And still, I wasn't prepared enough.

I shot him tight off at the start, did some slow shutter-speed stuff for the first 100, then figured I'd bounce the shutter speed and ISO back up for the second half of the race.

(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4 lens, ISO 200, 1/60th sec., f5.6)

Entering the final 50, he had an open water lead. I looked up and saw my picture. Reached down between the shooters squished in with me and grabbed the 70-200 lens and shot away, trying to show his lead.

After the race, I looked at the images. Overexposed.

(Nikon D3, VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 130mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec.,f2.8)

When you mess up in the business, you quickly try to make some safe pictures to cover yourself.

I worked the medal ceremony, but this was a pretty routine race for Phelps, and lacked the emotion of yesterday's "instant classic" relay.

(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4 lens, ISO 1600, 1/640th sec.,f4.0)

(Nikon D3, VR 600mm/f4 lens, ISO 1600, 1/640th sec.,f4.0)

The overexposed frame is distressing. Need to move ahead.

Time to pack up and get some breakfast before the afternoon's assignment.

Should I choose boxing, white water kayak (good pix, long ways away), or something else? Men's gymnastics would have been good, but the finals were this morning during the swimming.

How do you say, "Double-shot of espresso, please", in Mandarin?

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Posted by Albert

9:55 PM, Aug 11, 2008

Hi Rod,

For your 1st photo, would you consider using ISO1600 and 1/500th of a sec.? As you know, a higher shutter speed than 1/60th of a sec could increase the frame rate of the D3.

All the best,


Posted by Bryan Mitchell

3:49 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Hey Rod,
Great Blog. "I suck", Man do I know the feeling sometimes. And thanks for admitting your Fu, oops I mean mess up. It took guts. Keep up the great work and if ever in Detroit I'll buy you a Starbucks!
-Bryan Mitchell

Posted by Jeffrey Friedl

7:00 AM, Aug 12, 2008

The wide shot may be overexposed, and the photographer in me feels your pain, but the composition -- showing empty, dead water in all the lanes around him, and the hint of those behind him -- make it a winner nevertheless. The first one does nothing for me, but that wide one captures the moment.

Posted by Steve

7:06 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Shot RAW! The D3 when coupled with Adobe Camera RAW has the ability to pull back detail from exposure errors like you wouldn't believe. Everyone tries to get images out as fast as possible but the workflow doesn't take that much longer than working with JPGs. Granted, you’ll be working with larger files but the flexibility for down the road outweighs these problems by a ton. I don't know why more photogs don't shoot RAW.

RAW truly brings the darkroom back to the computer, if you're concerned about image manipulation and compositing, don't give the photogs PhotoShop, give them LightRoom. It is a very powerful "digital enlarger" that allows for the removal of spots "cough" dirty sensors however, it won't allow you to create award winning "National Enquirer" photos.

Posted by chump

7:27 AM, Aug 12, 2008

all I hear is Michael Phelps

isn't there another swimmer there somewhere?

I mean, sure the guy is good, but man am I sick of him already.

He's like Sydney Crosby is to hockey

Posted by Dale

7:41 AM, Aug 12, 2008

I think the real question is why doesn't a $5000 camera give you a better exposure.

Give yourself credit that you realized the correct image. The distance that Michael is ahead is all that NBC is talking about

Posted by Will

9:17 AM, Aug 12, 2008

Hi Rod,

These shots look great to me! I see white in the water and the sign in the background and black in the thing in the upper right corner. Steve was right about the RAW files, but I'd suggest the Capture NX software for conversion, so much better than the Adobe raw converter in term of file quality! But I'm sure you know this already. Really great shots, no worries I say!

Posted by good ol' george

12:35 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Excuse me, why aren't there any photos of Natalie Coughlin?

Posted by Phil

1:29 PM, Aug 14, 2008

Hey Rod, we've all done it, bud. Look at it this way: You're there and I'm not. ;)

Dale, $50 or $5000, if the settings aren't there it won't expose properly. I suspect that if cameras could shoot by themselves then we'd all be out of jobs. Ha!

Posted by Bfukai

8:56 AM, Aug 16, 2008

You've come a long way...especially from our early days of photography while at the UW. These are certainly a significant improvement over the pictures we put in the Husky Band slideshow.

Really enjoy your postings.

Hope you get to eat more than espresso and cookies.

Recent entries

Aug 16, 08 - 06:49 AM
Olympics: No Joy for Gay.

Aug 16, 08 - 01:11 AM
Olympics: Phelps' Seventh Heaven.

Aug 15, 08 - 08:52 AM
Olympics: In the Pink of Things.

Aug 14, 08 - 07:44 PM
Olympics: Groundhog Day.

Aug 14, 08 - 08:09 AM
Olympics: It's all Greco to me







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