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.
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 Â 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!
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!”
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.
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.
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.
Nikon D3, AFs zoom Nikor 200-400mm VR set at 2800mm with VR off,Â 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.