Vera Bazarova is thrown by her partner Yuri Larionov of Russia during the Figure Skating Pairs Short Program at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics at Pacific Coliseum on February 14, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Donald Miralle)
That’s what the last 48 hours has been. Day’s just start to meld together in one giant Olympic sleep deprived overworked daze. After falling asleep at about 4am on Saturday night after wrapping up the mogul puddle experience, editing and blogging, I woke up a little later than usual on Sunday morning. Being that was Valentine’s Day, I sent my wife and mother-in-law flowers and called the kids in the morning to check in, then set off to the Figure Skating Pairs Short Program.
Not shooting much figure skating in my Olympic career, I found myself excited but it quickly changed when I got to the venue. I couldn’t make up my mind whether I wanted to be elevated which would probably be safer, or shoot the pairs from ice level which would be a challenge to get a nice frame. After speaking to Bob Deutch of USA Today, he was nice enough to talk me through all the positions and point me in the right direction. I finally chose to be in the section to the right of the judges, which was the direction most of the programs were facing and most of the men did the big throws with their partners. I also hoped to hang a remote, but unfortunately the venue manager said that most of the overhead remote space was taken a he would put me on a waiting list, which was kind of dissapointing.
After eating my favorite media center dining selection on chili and chatting with some photographers I hadn’t seen in awhile, including the always entertaining Heinz Kluetzmeier, we were escorted to our photo positions. Our photo well had judges on one side and NBC camera to the left, so we were trapped and couldn’t move out for nearly four hours. Unfortunately, I was ready to leave after about 20 minutes because I was finding it really hard to get pictures sharp and frame the photos without busy backgrounds. Luckily one of the photo assistants brought some water and I had a sandwich that helped boost my blood sugar and get through the wait. I decided to slow down my shutter speed to make some pan blurs at about 10th of a second F8 started making a couple photos.
At 8pm I was more than ready to get outta there, packed my bag, ran out of the building to catch the 8:30 bus to the Main Press Center, to connect to the 9pm bus to Whistler so I could catch the Men’s Downhill the next morning. I was happy to see Andrew Burton on my bus when I got to it just in time, and we rode up the hill together while we edited on our computers.
Annabelle Langlois and Cody Hay of Canada during the Figure Skating Pairs Short Program (Photo By Donald Miralle)
After landing in Whistler a little after 11pm, we did a quick pit stop at the Visitor Center to hit up the ATM machine and the sushi stop, which was run by a nice Japanese man and was surprisingly good for such a small operation. Afterwards we grabbed a cab as a bunch of drunk kids spilling out of a local bar stumbled by. One girl collapsed in the street as her boyfriend tried his best to pick up her limp body. The Olympic party was in full swing…
By the time we returned to Rich Glass’ crashpad, I was exhausted, packed all my mountain gear for the big race tomorrow and opted for the bare mattress rather than the couch for the 4 hours of sleep I was looking forward to. Right as my body started to relax and I began to doze, I heard a ruckus at the front door as some of Rich’s roommates piled in with their middle-aged girlfriends who all seemed like they were three sheets to the wind. I might as well as been a some inanimate object or a dog sleeping on the floor because before I knew it the lights were on, and their party continued right next to my mattress with total disregard that I had to shoot one of the premier events of the game the next morning. A couple more people piled in, with some dude who told some really gross story about his genital warts; my earplugs, noise reduction headphones and shirt over my face couldn’t block out all the commotion. Just when I was getting ready to loose it, they all cleared out and I was able to salvage a couple hours of sleep before starting it all over again Monday morning.
The alarm went off at about 5am, and after I hit snooze a couple times it was 5:45 and I was running late. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, threw on my snow clothes and camera backback and jumped into a cab to Creekside.
It was still dark when I arrived, but you could see the ominous lights on the Men’s Downhill course. It was the coolest and driest morning I could remember since being up here, so I was sure the postponed downhill would go today. The taxi dropped me off a couple blocks away form the venue at a coffee shop where I grabbed a latte, sandwich and two cliff bars, then I walked to the bottom of the gondola lift where my skis were stored in the lockers. I immediately ran into Getty photogs Doug Pensinger, Al Bello, and Clive Rose. We took the lift up together, skied down part of the course, then took the lift to the top of the hill to ski the course top to bottom with our 60lbs packs on our back. I have always enjoyed skiing photography because of all the physical challenges involved, and the difficulty to get a really nice photo.
Christof Innerhofer of Italy competes during the Alpine skiing Men’s Downhill at Whistler Creekside during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics on February 15, 2010 in Whistler, Canada. (Photo by Donald Miralle)
After Doug and I skied most of the course, we settled for a spot that was a gate with a little jump, turn and clean tree background. I imagined it was going to be a fairly dynamic shot where hopefully the skiers opening up a little and got squirrelly, but as soon as the first forerunner went through it was obvious it wasn’t as good as it previously looked. I had the urge to hit the eject button but I decided to stay put and shoot out the entire session. It took me about 7-8 skiers to get the hang of shooting what was a difficult shot: a blind jump with the skier going across the frame with a ugly gate on one side of the gate and a crowd of coached on the other, making the window of a clean background very small. Then you had to worry about getting the photo sharp on the athlete’s head too, and since they were going much too fast, AF was not an option and you had to manual focus a spot in front of the gate and fire as soon as they appeared in your frame. I completely missed Bode Miller unfortunately, and finally got into a rhythm unfortunately when all the punters started. But that’s the nature of skiing photography, and sports photography for that matter; that sometimes you have tons of set-up and the photo you imagined just doesn’t materialize at the end of the day. I’m waiting to hopefully get lucky and go on a run here in the next couple days and start making some photos…