Beach Volleyball and BMX

Although some might describe both of these sports as ‘extreme’ it would be for vastly different reasons! I guess that for some the mode of dress of the competitors in the Beach Volleyball might well be considered extreme. That’s not the only thing these sports have in common, they are both events that have all the young hype of loud announcers, and even louder music that seems to accompany our most recent additions to the Olympic events schedule. Call me old, but I can’t quite understand the necessity for the pop culture that surrounds these sports.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am in awe of the athletic ability of both sets of competitors, and there is not a shadow of doubt that huge amounts of training, stamina and skill goes into both sports. So, after finishing up with last weekend’s cycling road race that finished in the mall I felt compelled to walk across the park to Horse Guards Parade to check out the beach volleyball. Purely of course to check out the photographers positions were all in the correct places for next years Games!

Horse Guards Parade, location for the beach volleyball event

Nikon D3s, Nikkor 24-70 f2.8 Zoom, set to 26mm, 1/2000th @ f5.6, ISO 200, aperture priority automatic, hand held.

The venue for the beach volleyball could not really be more removed from a beach so tons of sand was shipped in to make the arena. In fact the last time I photographed beach volleyball it was completely the opposite, Bondi Beach in Sydney being about as much a beach as one could imagine.

FIVB Beach Volleyball International, Olympic Test Event, Horse Guards Parade London, England
FIVB Beach Volleyball International, Olympic Test Event, Horse Guards Parade London, England

Nikon D3s, AFS Zoom Nikkor 200-400 f4 Zoom, set to 200mm, 1/1250th @ f4, ISO 200, aperture priority automatic, hand held.

So, to the action. Beach volleyball is incredibly difficult to photograph well. Only two players on each side of the net with a relatively large field of play, and lines people at all four corners means that there are really two points of action to concentrate on, either trying to get the spike at the net, which is not easy, especially trying to keep the ball in the frame as well, or you simply pick a single player on the far side of the net and concentrate your shooting on that person in the hope of getting a good diving shot, below the level of the net.

Following on from the beach volleyball came the BMX test event, the first event in the new Olympic Park at Stratford in East London. Now these athletes are really something else, hurling themselves at high speed down a ramp and then over a series of massive jumps where 30′ into the air is a regular occurrence and throw in a few hairpin bends just for good measure.

Renaud Blanc (SUI), BMX Supercross World Cup Olympic Test Event, Olympic Park, Stratford London, England, Photo by: Peter Llewellyn
Renaud Blanc (SUI), BMX Supercross World Cup Olympic Test Event, Olympic Park, Stratford London, England, Photo by: Peter Llewellyn

Nikon D3s, Nikkor 200-400 f4 VR Zoom, set to 200mm, 1/2000th @ f4, ISO 400, Gitzo carbon fibre monopod,
aperture priority automatic +2/3 stop from metered exposure to compensate for bright sky and retain detail in rider.

This is certainly a young event with loud music and a certain culture involving loud music,  and is more of a lifestyle than a sport for many of the competitors. As I have mentioned before however these are definitely brave athletes and accidents are not uncommon.

Caroline Buchanan (AUS), BMX Supercross World Cup Olympic Test Event, Olympic Park, Stratford London, England, Photo by: Peter Llewellyn
Joyce Seesing (NED), BMX Supercross World Cup Olympic Test Event, Olympic Park, Stratford London, England, Photo by: Peter Llewellyn

Nikon D3s, Nikkor 80-200 f2.8 Zoom, set to 80mm, 1/2000th @ f4.5, ISO 400, aperture priority automatic +1/3 stop from metered exposure.

Each race lasts for only around 40 seconds so during the course of an event you get many opportunities to move around the venue and get a variety of different shots. This particular test suffered badly from a series of rainstorms that swept through so we were subject to a number of rain delays asd it is impossible to compete in BMX on a wet track.

L to R - Romain Riccardi (ITA), Oliver Hoarau (FRA), Luke Madill (AUS) and Manuel de Vecchi (ITA), BMX Supercross World Cup Olympic Test Event, Olympic Park, Stratford London, England, Photo by: Peter Llewellyn
L to R – Romain Riccardi (ITA), Oliver Hoarau (FRA), Luke Madill (AUS) and Manuel de Vecchi (ITA), BMX Supercross World Cup Olympic Test Event, Olympic Park, Stratford London, England, Photo by: Peter Llewellyn

 Nikon D3s, Nikkor 80-200 f2.8 Zoom, set to 90mm, 1/1600th @ f4.5, ISO 400, aperture priority automatic +1 stop from metered exposure.

The down side is that after a while you get a bit bored with shooting riders sailing through the air. So finally, looking for something different I selected my fisheye lens and looked for a creative opportunity on one of the bends.

Moana Moo Caille (BRA), BMX Supercross World Cup Olympic Test Event, Olympic Park, Stratford London, England, Photo by: Peter Llewellyn
Moana Moo Caille (BRA), BMX Supercross World Cup Olympic Test Event, Olympic Park, Stratford London, England, Photo by: Peter Llewellyn

Nikon D3, Nikkor 16mm f2.8 fisheye, 1/2500th @ f4.5, ISO 400, aperture priority automatic +1/3 stop from metered exposure.

The building in the background is the velodrome, more from that venue early next year.

In the next few days I will be posting from the canoe sprints at Eton Dorney. This is a completely new event for me having never photographed it before so will be something of a challenge.

Peter L.

Badminton World Championships

This week the shuttlecocks are flying in Wembley Arena at the World Badminton Championships which is serving as an unofficial test event for next years Olympic event. This is not an easy event to photograph as the lighting is somewhat patchy and with black backgrounds almost impossible to get a good shot of any player in dark clothing.

Pui Yin Yip (HNK), World Badminton Championships, Wembley Arena London, England, Photo by: Peter Llewellyn
Pui Yin Yip (HNK), World Badminton Championships, Wembley Arena London, England, Photo by: Peter Llewellyn

Nikon D3s, AFS Zoom Nikkor 80 – 200 f2.8, at 80mm
1/1250th @ f2.8, ISO 3200

Lot’s of additional tweaking in Aperture for this one.

You need to keep the shutter speed at least 1/1000th or better to freeze the action in this sport as the racket head moves with enormous speed. Once again the high ISO capabilities of the Nikon D3 cameras score heavily. I can remember way back photographing Badminton at the All England Championships in this same venue when we were using tungsten balanced film at 160 ASA and pushing it two stops to achieve 640. You had to be sure to fire the shutter at the exact end of the backswing to ensure that the racket head was almost completely stationary to be able to freeze it – those were the days! And people ask me if I would ever want to return to the days of film – definitely not, we have many more opportunities available to us today.

Kevin Cordon (GUA), World Badminton Championships, Wembley Arena London, England, Photo by: Peter Llewellyn
Kevin Cordon (GUA), World Badminton Championships, Wembley Arena London, England, Photo by: Peter Llewellyn

Nikon D3s, AFS Zoom Nikkor 200 – 400 f4, at 360mm
1/1000th @ f4, ISO 3200
This is an image was shot from the top row of the stands, one of the positions that will be available to photographers at Games time next year.

This is a sport dominated by the Asian countries with a small scattering of Europeans. Many finals are all Chinese affairs and I am sure it will be the same way next year.

Dan Lin (CHN) , World Badminton Championships, Wembley Arena London, England, Photo by: Peter Llewellyn
Dan Lin (CHN)
, World Badminton Championships, Wembley Arena London, England, Photo by: Peter Llewellyn

Nikon D3s, AFS Zoom Nikkor 80 – 200 f2.8, at 80mm
1/1250th @ f2.8, ISO 2000

And now for something different. As I was somewhat disappointed with the quality of ‘straight’ sports images I was getting I decided to experiment a little. In the image above I set the D3 to shoot 4 images on the same frame.

Are you interested in learning how to take images such as those seen on the blog in recent weeks? Watch out for announcements coming soon on formal sports photography workshops where you will get the opportunity to learn all these techniques and more on three-day workshops to be led my myself and a couple of the world’s best known sports shooters.

Peter

 

The finals are being dominated by the Chinese

Sailing at Weymouth

This week it’s the turn of the sailors to run their Olympic Test Event at Weymouth in Dorset, on England’s South Coast. Discounting the odd football game taking place in Scotland and the North of England this is the most remote of all the Olympic Venues being some two and a half hours South of London.

Franziska Goltz (GER), Laser Radial, women’s one person dinghy, Sailing Olympic Test Event, Weymouth, England,

Nikon D3, AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor 200-400 f4 lens at 400mm,
1/1600th @ f5.6, ISO 250, Aperture Priority Automatic, Handheld

The first few days of the test event saw a variety of  weather conditions and on Friday I managed to get out on the water to see how our RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) drivers were performing. Although not as windy as I might have liked we did get some sunny conditions which aids immensely as this is a very difficult sport to photograph. You are faced with trying to work from a small boat that is bouncing around in the waves, with difficult lighting, trying to focus on a subject that is also bouncing around while moving at quite high speeds while hand holding a long telephoto lens!

Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark (GBR), 470, women’s two person dinghy, Sailing Olympic Test Event, Weymouth, England,

Nikon D3, AF-S VR Nikkor 500mm  f4 lens,
1/1000th @ f6.3, ISO 320, Aperture Priority Automatic, Handheld
(yes, you can handhold a 500mm in these circumstances, just ensure your shutter speed is high enough and the VR is turned on)

This is a sport where you shoot large numbers of photos and keep a much lower percentage than you would normally expect. Often you think you have everything framed up nicely only to find that at the instant you pressed the shutter all you captured was the top of the masts. Additionally you are gong to spend a great deal of time straightening up your horizons. As a colleague of mine remarked as we were reviewing photos in the media centre when we got off the water, “no wonder they can all go so fast, the sea slopes downhill in all my pictures!”

Boarders pull away from the start, RS:X women’s windsurfer, Sailing Olympic Test Event, Weymouth

Nikon D3, AF-S VR Nikkor 500mm,  f4 lens,
1/1000th @ f6.3, ISO 320, Aperture Priority Automatic, Handheld

Tomorrow I am off to the World Badminton Championships at Wembley Arena, which is our test event for this sport – more shooting advice to come.

Peter L.

Two more test events

Last week saw two more test events running, the White Water canoeing from Lee Valley White Water Centre and the Mountain Biking from Hadleigh Farm in Essex. Once again both events were a roaring success with things shaping up nicely for next year’s Summer Games.

Both events took place under blue sky and skyrocketing temperatures, and I must say I would gladly have thrown myself into the artificial river at Lee Valley, although had I done so I would probably have been writing this from my hospital bed! When they say wild water they really do mean wild water.

Jan Benzien (GER), Mens C1 Class, Lee Valley White Water Centre, Waltham Abbey, England, Photo by: Peter Llewellyn
Jan Benzien (GER), Mens C1 Class, Lee Valley White Water Centre, Waltham Abbey, England, Photo by: Peter Llewellyn

Nikon D3, AFs zoom Nikor 200-400mm VR set at 400mm with VR off,
mounted on Gitzo carbon fibre monopod, $ 1/1600th @ f5.6 (set manually), ISO 320

Having shot almost exclusively wildlife photos for the past 18 months I am now beginning to get back into the swing of sports shooting, and my timing is beginning to hit the mark again. The canoeing was a particular problem with so much spray making both focussing and exposure very difficult. Finally I decided to meter manually and focus with autofocus, trying as far as possible to keep the focus spot on the face. To get my metering spot on I tried several exposures and checked the histogram after each until I had it right – only took around three tries before I had it nailed. If you try to leave your metering on any auto mode you are going to have the a huge number of over or under exposed images as the amount of bright white spray varies so much for each shot. Don’t forget to check the sun doesn’t go in from when you made your first exposure!

To freeze the water in a shot like above it’s necessary to get a shutter speed close to 1/2000 sec.

As a photographer this is a high concentration sport as even though you may remain in one place every competitor’s route will be slightly different and the reaction of the water also varies. You need to watch closely for the height of the action an react very quickly.

Denis Gargaud Chanut (FRA), Mens C1 Class, Lee Valley White Water Centre, Waltham Abbey, England

Nikon D3, AFs zoom Nikor 200-400mm VR set at 2200mm with VR, 
mounted on Gitzo carbon fibre monopod, @ 1/2000th @ f5.6 (set manually), ISO 200

Not all images have to be shot as action stoppers – take a look at the photo below shot with a much slower shutter speed.

Nikon D3, AFs zoom Nikor 200-400mm VR set at 400 mm with VR  
mounted on Gitzo carbon fibre monopod, @ 1/20th @ f32 (set manually), ISO 200

The K2 event makes it’s own challenges as there is some distance between the front and rear paddler. Careful attention to focussing is therefore necessary.

Marcus Becker and Stefan Henze (GER), Mens C2 Class, Olympic Test Event, Lee Valley, White Water Centre

Nikon D3, AFs zoom Nikor 200-400mm VR set at 2800mm with VR off, 
mounted on Gitzo carbon fibre monopod, @ 1/2000th @ f5.6 (set manually), ISO 320

The mountain biking venue is set in the heart of Essex (name any mountain in Essex??) This si of course an artificially made course but is nonetheless one of the world’s most challenging. Not so for Olympic Gold Medallist from athens and Beijing, Frenchman Julian Absalon who led the men’s event from start to finish, demolishing a world class field and finally coming home almost 90 seconds before his nearest rival.

Julien Absalon (FRA), Olympic Test Event, Hadleigh Farm Mountain Bike Centre, England

 

Nikon D3, AFs zoom Nikor 24 – 70mm, 2.8 VR set at 62mm hand held, @ 1/1000th @ f6.3 (aperture priority automatic), ISO 250

Below is another slow shutter speed shot. It’s very difficult to impart the speed with which these riders negotiate the course when using action stopping shutter speeds. everything, including the wheels get’s frozen in time and it can almost look like the biker is completely still if you are not careful.

Mountain bike Olympic Test Event, Hadleigh Farm Mountain Bike Centre, England

Nikon D3, AFs zoom Nikor 80-200 mm, 2.8  set at 80 mm hand held, @ 1/20th @ f16 (aperture priority automatic), ISO 200

Today I arrive in Weymouth to oversee the photography for the sailing test event that runs for the next 10 days, although I will only be here for the first four, then it;’s off to the Badminton world Championships in Wembley Arena. Hoping to get e little more shooting done along the way so watch for further posts.

It all begins again!

The first two events in the lead up to the 2012 Olympics have already taken place. The equestrian event in historic Greenwich Park, was a great success, with really positive feedback from all the press. A couple of fences on the cross country course offer stunning views if the City, in the background and the water jump will, as always be a popular point for photographers, both from the jump itself and the hill in front of the Greenwich Observatory.

Olympic Test Event – Equestrian – Water jump, London, Greenwich Park, Greater London, England

The main arena, which will be considerably enlarged for the Games itself, sits on a raised platform above the surface of the park. One of the criteria for the use of Greenwich is that no damage is done to the park itself so pretty much all the infrastructure ‘floats’ above the park itself. Now the whole arena will be dismantled to return the park to it’s normal use prior to the Olympic reconstruction beginning early next year.

Olympic Test Event – Equestrian – Showjumping stadium, London, Greenwich Park, Greater London, England

A few days after the equestrian event it was the turn of the modern pentathlon to try out the facilities. As the venues for the fencing and swimming are not yet complete this part of the event took place at The National Sports Centre, Crystal Palace. This brought back some interesting memories for me as the same arena as the fencing was where I took my first photo ever published – Neil Adams then the World Heavyweight Judo Champion competing in the British Championships that was used in The Daily Telegraph way back in 1981!

After the fencing and swimming the athletes made their way back to Greenwich for the riding, and running/shooting phases. (Running and shooting is now combined together, the athletes running a section of cross country in between pistol shooting to score 5 targets – now using laser pistols).

Modern Pentathlon World Cup Final – 10 July 2010, National Sports Centre, Crystal Palace, London, England, Elena Rublevska (LAT) and Mhairi Spence (GBR) compete in he running/shooting

Now, after completing my reports on the first two event I need to start turning my attention to the forthcoming events. In the next few weeks there are quite a few tests running including sailing, mountain biking, badminton, and white water kayaking. Watch this space for photos and reports from these events.

Peter L.