It’s Olympic Year – 2012

We finally have to stop calling it next year’s Olympic Games, it’s now this year’s Games and we are getting closer to delivering one of the best Olympics ever.

The test events have started up again the same day I arrived back from spending Christmas and new year at home in Canada with the artistic gymnastics running last week at the North Greenwich Arena, perhaps better known as The Dome. Gymnastics has always been one of my favourite sports to photograph with it’s huge range of photographic opportunities, offering strength, grace, acrobatic skill, speed, and daring and featuring both men and women competitors and all taking place in a single arena. A photographers dream.

Isaac BOTELLA PEREZ (ESP), competes in the floor exercise, The London Prepares Visa International Gymnastics
Isaac BOTELLA PEREZ (ESP), competes in the floor exercise, The London Prepares Visa International Gymnastics

Nikon D3s, AF-S VR 500mm f4/G lens, 1/800th @ f4, ISO 2500, set manually

Gymnastics requires a bit of thougt in your photography. Different disciplines require different minimum shutter speeds to freeze the action. For the floor excercises you can get away with a speed of 500th or so, although I prefer to go a little faster when the light allows.

Erica FASANA (ITA), competes in the vault, The London Prepares Visa International Gymnastics, Olympic Test Event, North Greenwich Arena, London, England January 12, 2012.
Erica FASANA (ITA), competes in the vault, The London Prepares Visa International Gymnastics, Olympic Test Event, North Greenwich Arena, London, England January 12, 2012.

 Nikon D3s, AF-S VR 300mm f2.8/G lens, 1/1000th @ f2.8, ISO 3200, set manually
Image processed with Noise Ninja noise reduction software

Although the Nikon D3’s are excellent at high ISO settings I felt that some of the images taken on apparatus at the edge of the arena where the light falloff was a little more than I would like could benefit from a quick run through Noise Ninja. see www.picturecode.com for full details of this program www.picturecode.com

Matteo ANGIOLETTI (ITA), competes in the rings, The London Prepares Visa International Gymnastics, Olympic Test Event, North Greenwich Arena, London, England January 12, 2012.
Matteo ANGIOLETTI (ITA), competes in the rings, The London Prepares Visa International Gymnastics, Olympic Test Event, North Greenwich Arena, London, England January 12, 2012.

Nikon D3s, AF-S VR 300mm f2.8/G lens, 1/640th @ f2.8, ISO 2000, set manually

The rings is a lot slower in it’s movements, apart from the dismount which usually makes horrible photos anyway, so you can get away with a slower shutter speed. Note how I have consistently tried to use the lowest ISO possible that enables me to achieve the shutter speed I need. Although the latest cameras are great at  the higher ISO settings you will still achieve the highest quality of file with the lowest you can get away with.

Francesca DEAGOSTINI (ITA), competes in the beam, The London Prepares Visa International Gymnastics, Olympic Test Event, North Greenwich Arena, London, England January 13, 2012.
Francesca DEAGOSTINI (ITA), competes in the beam, The London Prepares Visa International Gymnastics, Olympic Test Event, North Greenwich Arena, London, England January 13, 2012.

Nikon D3s, AF-S VR 400mm f2.8/G ED lens, 1/1000th @ f2.8, ISO 2500, set manually

I love photographing the beam. There is a host of opportunities within this one piece of apparatus to shoot detailed close-ups, full frame shots, and various actions. Although much of the action is slow and graceful you need to keep a high shutter speed for the flips and somersaults, not to mention the odd fall!

Carlotta FERLITO (ITA), competes in the beam, The London Prepares Visa International Gymnastics, Olympic Test Event, North Greenwich Arena, London, England January 13, 2012.
Carlotta FERLITO (ITA), competes in the beam, The London Prepares Visa International Gymnastics, Olympic Test Event, North Greenwich Arena, London, England January 13, 2012.

Nikon D3s, AF-S Zoom 80 – 200mm f2.8 ED lens, 1/640th @ f2.8, ISO 2000, set manually

Masahiro YOSHIDA (JPN), competes in the parallel bars, The London Prepares Visa International Gymnastics, Olympic Test Event, North Greenwich Arena, London, England January 13, 2012.
Masahiro YOSHIDA (JPN), competes in the parallel bars, The London Prepares Visa International Gymnastics, Olympic Test Event, North Greenwich Arena, London, England January 13, 2012.

Nikon D3s, AF-S VR 400mm f2.8/G ED lens, 1/1000th @ f2.8, ISO 2500, set manually

Masahiro YOSHIDA (JPN), competes in the parallel bars, The London Prepares Visa International Gymnastics, Olympic Test Event, North Greenwich Arena, London, England January 13, 2012.
Masahiro YOSHIDA (JPN), competes in the parallel bars, The London Prepares Visa International Gymnastics, Olympic Test Event, North Greenwich Arena, London, England January 13, 2012.

 

Nikon D3s, AF-S VR 400mm f2.8/G ED lens, 1/1000th @ f2.8, ISO 2500, set manually

Watch out for details around the field of play at sports event. They can often be as interesting as the sport itself as in this image of a gymnast preparing his hands

To see a selection of images from this event go to the main web site and do a search for “gymnastics”

Many thanks to Nikon for the loan of a 400mm f2.8 lens to cover this event while my 200-400 zoom is in for repair.

Watch for details of shooting with a D4 coming soon!

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

 

New Olympic Test Event Series

The next of the Olympic Test Event series is now well underway. The past week has seen the boxing, fencing and table-tennis events running in London’s Excel Centre, their home next year when the Games start.

The Table Tennis test was performed us part of the ITTF Table Tennis Tour and saw most of the world’s leading players, and of course the main contenders for next years medal. The Chinese continue to dominate the world table-tennis scene and an amazing men’s semi finals between the world’s # 1 and 2 proved to me that the table tennis I play is nothing like the game played at the highest level!

Unfortunately the lighting was not the same as that to be used during the Olympics and left a little to be desired. I found myself shooting at between 3200 and 6400 ISO to get anything close to the shutter speed required to freeze the action.

 

Long MA (CHN) the world #1, competes against Hao WANG (CHN) the world #2, during the ITTF Table Tennis Tour Grand Finals, ExCel Centre, London, England November 27, 2011. Long Ma went on to win the tournament beating Zhang Jike in the final.
Long MA (CHN) the world #1, competes against Hao WANG (CHN) the world #2, during the ITTF Table Tennis Tour Grand Finals, ExCel Centre, London, England November 27, 2011. Long Ma went on to win the tournament beating Zhang Jike in the final.

Nikon D3s, 80-200 f2.8 AF-S Zoom Nikkor at 145mm, 1/1000th @ f2.8, ISO 5000, exposure set manually after shooting test images and checking histogram.
The high resolution output files all ran through Nose Ninja to help reduce the digital noise

The fencing provided some wonderful creative opportunities, especially during the finals on the main piste. The whole arena has ‘theatre style’ lighting meaning that the playing area is brightly lit while the surroundings are in almost complete darkness. I started by shoting some regular sports photos of the fencers in action.

Erwan Le Pechoux (FRA) [left] v Keith COOK (GBR)

Nikon D3, 80-200 f2.8 AF-S Zoom Nikkor at 165mm, 1/1000th @ f3.5, ISO 2000, exposure set manually after shooting test images and checking histogram.

Looking for something different I set my D3 to multiple exposure mode capturing 4 consecutive images  on the same frame. Having the theatrical lighting really adds to this affect. The main trick is to ensure you keep the camera as still as possible during the exposure and resist the temptation to move the lens to try and keep the subject centred. Just hold the button down and let the action do the moving. Ideally one would use a tripod but that’s nearly impossible when shooting sport from crowded photo ares. As the shot below demonstrates it is possible to handhold this type of photo but you do need a fast shutter speed.

Marcel MARCILLOUX (FRA) [left] v Husayn ROSOWSKY (GBR) [right] during the men's foil competition at the London Prepares Olympic Test Event, ExCel Centre, London, England November 27, 2011.
Marcel MARCILLOUX (FRA) [left] v Husayn ROSOWSKY (GBR) [right] during the men’s foil competition at the London Prepares Olympic Test Event, ExCel Centre, London, England November 27, 2011.

Nikon D3, 80-200 f2.8 AF-S Zoom Nikkor at 86mm, 1/1000th @ f3.5, ISO 2000, multiple exposure turned on and set to 4 frames. Exposure set manually after shooting test images and checking histogram.

Finally I headed down to the Boxing Hall. This was not taking place in the hall that will be used at Games time so was really more of a test for the technical and sports people than for our photo positions.

Boxing is not one of my favourite sports to photograph, in fact it’s not one of my favourite sports period. In fact I find it’s actually a difficult sport to create great images especially amateur boxing.

Con SHEAHAN (IRL) [red] v Lazaridis EUGENIOS (GRE) [blue] during the men's super heavyweight final at the London Prepares Olympic Test Event, ExCel Centre,  London, England November 27, 2011. Sheahan went on to win the title.
Con SHEAHAN (IRL) [red] v Lazaridis EUGENIOS (GRE) [blue] during the men’s super heavyweight final at the London Prepares Olympic Test Event, ExCel Centre, London, England November 27, 2011. Sheahan went on to win the title.

Nikon D3s, 200-400 f4 AF-S Zoom Nikkor at 380mm, 1/800th @ f4, ISO 2500. Exposure set manually after shooting test images and checking histogram.

You may have noticed that in all the above images I chose to use manual exposure. This is because the lighting in each of these sports presented particular challenges, especially as the backgrounds were lit considerably differently to the field of play. This can easily cause erroneous exposures, (especially at the fencing with that black background). However the lighting on the filed of play was completely consistent so, after shooting a few test exposures and checking the histogram, I was able to hit the exposure dead on.

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.