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"One of my greatest Olympic moments was shooting the Gold Medal Hockey game at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics!!!  I was sitting front row between the Newsweek and Sports Illustrated photographers right next to the goal, the crowd was electric and the game was beyond EPIC!! I was so very honoured have been able to shoot Team Canada win Gold on Canadian soil, and capture so many Hockey moments with excellence."

 

For a photographer the Gold Medal hockey game is by far the toughest Olympic sport to get in to and shoot because there are only a certain amount of spots available for photographers in the stadium.  So when I got there, even though I had credentials, I didn't know where I would be sitting or if I would be able to get in to the game at all.  I kept positive and ended up getting very lucky with the spot I got in the front row, but I was right behind the glass.  I had to improvise on the spot and I extended my lens hood with black tape to be able to attach to the glass to minimize reflections.  It worked great and I was able to get a fantastic eye-level perspective and still got razor sharp images.  Pro Tip: always keep some black electrical tape in your camera bag for situations just like this.   Speaking of luck: during the game an olympic puck flew off the ice, into the air and actually landed in my open camera bag without even breaking a lens!!  It sits in my trophy case as a reminder of what happens when you go for it, allow and surrender to the flow.

 

It was an amazing game and I fed off the energy capturing hundreds of great shots of our Team Canada!!  I took time whenever there was a break in the action to review my images, zoom in and make sure my images and settings were dialled, including the perfect colour balance.   My exposure setting was generally around  f/5.0 at 1/1600 sec - ISO 5000 on my Nikon D3s.  I hope you enjoy a few of my favourite shots from the game and share on Facebook / Twitter by clicking below.

 

Way to go Canada on winning another GOLD for Canada in Sochi!!!!

 

"I had the extreme pleasure of shooting World Champion and now Olympic Gold Medalist Marielle Thompson while backcountry skiing for a Nikon Canada shoot and then later a fashion shoot with her at my studio.  Marielle transformed in front of the camera and we ended up getting some amazing shots of her and her crystal globe!  A HUGE congratulations on your well deserved Olympic Gold in Sochi Marielle.  Looks like we have a new medal to shoot you with!!  Way to go!!!!!"

 

Congratulations Marielle on your Ski Cross Gold Medal in Sochi

When on a photo/video shoot for Nikon Canada called One Camera Two Perspectives, I had the opportunity to work with Marielle Thompson and her boyfriend and fellow Ski Cross Champion Tristan Tafel out in the backcountry for a ski shoot.  It was a crazy snow day, really tough wet conditions to shoot in but amazing deep snow. We had snowmobiles to tow the athletes around, had a blast and got some great shots!!

After the shoot I had Marielle and Tristan come to my studio for a what was to be a quick fashion shoot.... but as we started to get creative it evolved into something much more amazing.  I loved shooting Marielle with her Crystal Globe trophy and we co-created some really fun ideas.   One of which was to have Marielle's trophy reflect into her sunglasses as if she was peering into her Crystal Globe.  We used a purple and blue coloured gels on my lights to enhance the effect.  Tristan brought out some antique skiis and poles which made great props as well.   I have included a few of my favs of Marielle in this post!!

 

 

 

Check out More images and video from the Nikon Shoot Backcountry Shoot at:

One Camera Two Perspectives

Or Behind the Scenes Videos: Day 1 and Day 2

 

"Here are a few of my best images of Patrick Chan from from the Vancouver Olympics.  I am always amazed by the height and amplitude of his jumps.  In of the images he looks like he's flying!!  Congratulations on the Silver Medal at Sochi Patrick."

 

Visualize the Final Image before you Click

Like an Olympic athlete who visualizes their entire routine or event, I am a strong believer in visualizing the final image before you click the shutter. I see the image in a very final form, the look I want, including any treatments, filters or effects I may add in post processing.

I may even visualize the image cropped as it may appear in the final brochure, magazine or canvas fine art piece. I call this “shooting with the end result in mind” and I find that this gives me greater clarity that allows me to execute the shot more effectively, which translates into a much better final image. I look at it as “Excellence in, Excellence Out.”

Sometimes you need big lenses to get close enough to the action.  Shooting Olympic Halfpipe was one of those times for me... I was way up in the stands and used my AF-S Nikkor 200-400mm lens and sometimes an added teleconverter to capture these images.  It was fairly dark, even under the lights, so I had to shoot at  f/4.0 at 1/1600sec - ISO 4000 to freeze the action with my Nikon D3s.  I was really impressed how little grain I had at 4000 ISO.

Halfpipe is an exciting sport to shoot and I loved to use the lines on the pipe to create some illustrative looking imagery.  After Shaun White won the Gold Medal with his amazing runs I had to really hustle to get a decent vantage point to shoot him from while dealing with fans either trying to get close as well or leave the stadium.  There was a cool moment where he was talking to press and I couldn't get down there to him and I shouted out his name and he looked up and gave me a great reaction/celebration shot.  There is nothing like getting the athlete to look into the camera and recording that connection!!!  If you don't ask, you don't get...what a great moment!

I always tell my Photographic Rockstar - Photography Workshop Students "The Bigger the Why, The Smaller the How!"  When I know a Canadian is up, I raise my game as well, and always come up with my best shots of the day!  Why?  I believe its because I make the stakes in my mind bigger, I take the mindset that I must get the shot - that I have to create something incredible... and with that attitude I usually do!

 

One of the image I was most proud of at the Vancouver Olympics was this one, where I was able to capture the Canadian Bobsled perfectly over the Olympic rings.  If any of you have tried to shoot bobsled, and the sheer speed of it, you would understand that its a really hard shot to get... those sleds move FAST!!!  I had to shoot with a whopping 8000ISO on my Nikon D3s at f/4 at 1/3200sec to capture this moment in time.  Its so exciting that new advancements in photography equipment and high ISO capabilities have made these incredible shots possible today.

 

I was also extra honoured to be able to capture some images of my friend Chris Le Bihan at his bronze medal victory.  Way to go Chris!!

Capturing Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir win Gold for Canada in Vancouver was definitely one of the highlights of my Olympic experience.  They were outstanding and amazing to shoot!!  I used my Nikon D3s with Nikon 200-400mm lens (the perfect zoom to shoot the figure skating).  I was able to shoot at 3200ISO which allowed me to exposure at f/5.6 at 1/1250sec.

 

Wishing you both good luck in Sochi!!!

Shooting Ski Cross can be fun and exhilarating...there is always a ton of faced paced action, airs and competitor jams.  Sometimes the conditions or venue rules can make it more difficult to get the perfect shot.    I remember at the Vancouver Olympics the photographers had to all shoot from one area at the bottom and we were aways competing for the best spot to shoot from.  We had to use really long lenses to get close to the action.

For the men there was great conditions – warm sunlight on the skiers and shadowed cool backgrounds.  These elements created some wonderful colour contrast to the images and really gave the subject impact.  When the sun is shining its also much easier to freeze the action with fast shutter speeds and reasonably low ISO settings.  The women were a different story, it was foggy and snowing really hard out.   I remember very wet snow and having to constantly be cleaning off my lens and camera.  Many photographers just gave up trying to shoot because of all of the condensation.  A life saver in these conditions is a garbage bag or protective lens/camera gear to keep out the wetness and lots of dry lens cleaning cloths.

Record the Energy of the Moment at its Greatest Potential

When people ask me what to shoot for in a sports image, I show them a photograph and explain that in most cases, it is all about freezing the peak of the action, the height of the jump, the maximum edge... ultimately recording the energy of the moment at its greatest potential.

 

Focus and Composition

One of the keys is to a fantastic shot is to focus on the eyes of the athlete. There is so much emotion, intensity and concentration that can be told through the eyes. If I cannot see the eyes then I pick another key point on the athlete to focus on. I set my Nikon to AF-C (Auto-Focus Continuous Mode) so I don’t miss the shot if the camera isn’t sure if the subject is in focus or not. I then pre-determine what I want my composition to look like. Whether I want empty space to one side of the image to give the sense that the athlete is moving in that direction, or space below the athlete going off a jump to give the sense of height, I picture how I want the final image to look. I pick a focus point where I want the subject to be to match the composition, and then follow the athlete, holding the trigger down lightly to keep autofocusing. When the subject is at his/her peak of action, I fire away and usually hold the button down for a few extra frames while following through smoothly to make sure I don’t get camera shake. I keep a good grip on my camera and lens, and use dynamic pressure by pulling slightly on my lens while pushing the butt of the camera with my other hand. I usually have VR (Vibration Reduction) turned on for sports images to minimize any potential camera vibrations and cre- ate the sharpest image possible. You can also use a tripod or monopod to help keep your camera steady.

Shooting the Olympics or any action sporting event can be intense, but settle in and take the time to get creative.  Always be thinking of ways to capture the subject in a "different," artistic or illustrative way.  In my feature image above I used the multiple exposure feature on my Nikon to create an interesting effect.  Using a tighter than normal crop with negative space, leading lines or using a lens like a fisheye to create a different perspective are all ways that I have mindfully expanded my photographic toolbox.   Other cools effects can be created by slowing down your shutter speed and creating movement, trying a pan shot or zooming your lens while shooting.  Practice some of these effects when the athletes are doing their training runs so you can get really creative during the big race with confidence.

Use a FAST Shutter Speed

When trying to freeze the action and create blurr-free images with longer lenses, I try to shoot at a shutter speed of at least 1/500 second and optimally about 1/2000 of a second for most sports. Generally I recommend that photographers use manual metering (my preference) or shutter speed priority, where you set the ISO and the shutter speed and the camera adjusts the f/stop automatically. This is a quick and easy way to shoot sports and you can use your exposure compensation controls to adjust to the light conditions if necessary. This is especially helpful when shooting near white snow and ice which might throw off your meter as it tries to adjust between the bright background and darker subject. Turn image review on so that you can evaluate your images often, ensure that your whites aren’t blown out, and zoom in to make sure that your image is razor sharp.
 

Push the High ISO Capabilities of Your Camera to the Limit

Another cool option on many new cameras is Auto-ISO. This feature enables you to set your desired shutter speed and aperture and the camera will adjust the ISO or sensitivity of your sensor to get a correct exposure. Most of the newer cameras have phenomenal high ISO capabilities which make getting great sports images easier than ever, especially at indoor venues. Experiment with the ISO settings on your camera and evaluate your results. The higher the ISO the more noise or grain you will get, so use it, but use it mindfully. Many of my indoor shots from the Vancouver 2010 Olympics were shot at 3200 or 4000 ISO (like my Figure Skater image above, shot with my Nikon D3s and 600mm lens: f/7.1 at 1/1000sec at 3200ISO ) and I have enlarged them to 24x36 inches with very little grain and remarkable results.

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