The year comes to an end

Well, I am back in Canada after a somewhat protracted trip home due to an aircraft failure at Heathrow.This meant a night in a hotel in Chicago and not arriving back on Gabriola Island until 6.00 pm on Monday, having left for Heathrow Airport at 9.00am on Sunday. The joys of international travel!

2011 has been a big year for me, moving temporarily to London, and being involved with the biggest sporting event on earth, the 2012 Olympic Games. By the time I head back in January it will be Olympic year and the pressure will really start to ramp up. The test events have shown us that we are well on track to delivering an amazing games and I hope to see some of the best Olympic photos ever produced. As soon as I get back the test event will start again, with the next being the Gymnastics, one of the biggest and most popular Olympic sports, and I will continue to bring you information on how I shoot  these sports. Please don’t hesitate to pose any questions you might have on sports photography and I will do my best to answer you.

The final test events of the 2011 year were the wrestling and the weightlifting, which again took place at the ExCel Centre.

Wrestling is one of the oldest Olympic disciplines, having been contested at every modern Games since the first in 1896, and is as far removed from the modern TV version as chalk and cheese. In Greco-Roman style there is no holding below the waist, being the major difference with the other form of Olympic wrestling, freestyle.

Using the experience of having shot in the same halls last week I decided to take a lesson from the work I had to do on those images. I realized that the lighting in the ExCel Centre is exactly 5,000 degres K, and for some reason my D3s were having some trouble with the white balance set to Auto. There are few occasions when I take my white balance from the auto setting but this proved to be the exception and with manually setting my balance to 5,000K I had perfect white balance on every shot. Don’t forget the golden rule – if you set your camera to any type of manual setting such as this then set it back to the normal setting immediately you have finished the shoot.

Rami HIETANIEMI (FIN) in red v alo TOOM (EST) in blue, 96kg class, Greco Roman Wrestling

Nikon D3s, 80 – 200 f2.8 lens set to 145mm, 1/800th @ f2.8 1600 ISO, exposure set manually, white balance set to 5000k manually

You have probably noticed that almost all the sports I shoot indoors are with the camera set to fully manual exposure. This is because at indoor arenas there are so many conflicting areas of light and shade that, even with the most sophisticated cameras available today, they are still easily fooled into giving incorrect exposure. It is essential that you know how to read a histogram, probably the most important tool in the digital photographers arsenal. All of my indoor shots are set up by taking a few test images checking the histogram, and then tweaking the exposure manually.

At the same time as the wrestling was taking place in one hall, the weightlifting was going on in another. As the lighting in both halls was identical I only needed a quick histogram check on my first images and then continued to shoot away. There are two disciplines in Olympic weightlifting, the snatch and the clean and jerk, with the combined total deciding the winner

You need to shoot the two types of lift a little differently. For the snatch, where a single movement makes a good lift it is all about facial expressions and so a head on spot usually provides the best images. My problem in the weightlifting hall was that my 200 – 400 f4 lens, that would have been ideal for this, was in the Nikon repair facility with the manual focussing ring completely jammed. This meant that I had no lens between 200mm and 500mm. Well, these thing happen, so I decided to use the situation to my advantage and get in really tight on some faces during the snatch with the 500mm.

Dmityiy KAPLIN (KAZ) in the snatch

Nikon D3s, 500mm f4 lens , 1/500th @ f4 1600 ISO, exposure set manually, white balance set to 5000k manually

In fact you don’t need to see the whole of the barbell to indicate what the sport is all about, the faces say it all.

For the clean and jerk I moved to a side-on view, but decided I would still give the 500mm a go. I think the image below works just as well from this angle.

Mart SEIM (EST) in the clean and jerk,

Nikon D3s, 500mm f4 lens , 1/500th @ f4 1600 ISO, exposure set manually, white balance set to 5000k manually

The image below shows the more classic view of the clean and jerk.

Ferenc GYURKOVICS (HUN) in the clean and jerk

Nikon D3s, AFs zoom 80 – 200 f2.8 lens set to 135mm, 1/640th @ f4 1600 ISO, exposure set manually, white balance set to 5000k manually

A great Christmas to all and I look forward to bringing you a lot more sports images in 2012