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"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.”

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!!

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.

Here are some of my favourite Olympic reaction shots where I captured the E-MOTION or "Energy In Motion" of  the moment through photography.

When you look at these images, how do they make you feel?

Photography is an incredible art form in that it records the energy of the moment.  Thats why when we look at a photograph we can feel some of that energy.  We can relate to the subject and their experience.

One of my greatest all-time olympic moments was capturing Catriona LeMay Doan winning the gold medal for Canada at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake, Utah.  It was really early on in my sports shooting career and I was actually shooting a commercial job in Utah at the time.  My client had a place I could stay there and asked me if I would like to stay for the olympics.  I said "YES"... and thats when my olympic journey really began!

The day of Catriona's race I was actually out shooting mogul skiing.  I had heard that Catriona was in the finals and I decided to try to get to the venue which was very far away.  I was told that it was impossible to make it there in time by several people, but I trusted my gut.  I went anyway, even without a ticket to the event or accreditation.   My positivity perservered and I was able to get to the venue in time and was even given a ticked by a coach I bumped into outside the arena.

During her two laps of the oval I got some of the best shots in the world of Catriona's win on my Nikon D1X (my first pro digital camera).  During one of the laps I decided to take a risk and do a pan shot where I shot at a much longer shutter speed than normal and panned the camera perfectly to have Catriona sharp but give the background a motion blur.  I got lucky with the red background and nailed the technique... the feeling was exhilarating!!

I am very proud to have been able to give Catriona the composite of images that I used in this feature which she hangs on her wall and many wonderful images for her book.  When she retired from speed skating they printed a 16x20 foot print of my pan shot of her and unveiled it at the Olympic Oval in Calgary with a plaque under it with my name.   I feel honoured to have been able to capture Catriona's gold medal win with excellence and be able to contribute to our Canadian athletes and the Olympics with my own talents.

I learned two important lessons here that have been transformative in my life:

• When the opportunity calls out to you ... always say YES!!!

• When you trust your gut and are willing to take a risk and just go for it, the payoff is always tremendous!

 

 

The Olympics have always been a very special time for me and I have captured some incredible Winter Olympic moments over the years.  With the Olympics happening right now in Sochi I thought that I would honour the Spirit of the Olympics and Our Canadian Athletes by sharing an Olympic Moment, Photo, Story, Tip or Video from my past Olympic experiences for each day of the Sochi Winter Olympics (Feb. 7, 2014 - Feb. 23, 2014).

 

I am calling this series of posts "The Spirit of the Olympics: A Journey Through The Lens" and I hope to add to the inspirational spirit of the Olympics by sharing with you some of my most amazing Olympic moments through the perspective of my Nikon lens.  Photography captures the energy of the moment and I hope that you can feel some of the energy from the images I will share with you over the next few weeks.

Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremonies

I thought I would begin this journey with some of the images I captured at the Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremonies which tell the story of the passing of the torch from Vancouver to Sochi.

 

I would love to hear your comments  or if you have any of your own Olympic moments to share on Twitter or Facebook.  Enjoy!!

Shooting sports, whether it’s the Olympics or your children’s soccer game, is a great way to practice capturing the peak of the moment.  With the groundbreaking high ISO capabilities of the new digital cameras out there, shooting sports has never been easier or more exciting.   The trick to getting great sports images is knowing how fast a shutter speed you need to stop the action.  I suggest starting at 1/2000 sec, reviewing your image and zooming in to check focus and any movement in the image and adjusting from there.   I had the pleasure of shooting this windsurfer launching out of the water at f/5.6 at 1/8000 sec, 800 ISO, all while keeping the horizon line in mind, focus tracking and recording a sequence of razor sharp images while my titanium shutter purred along 10fps on my D4.  Capturing fast action can be exhilarating!

High ISO capabilities can be a great tool for all types of photography.  It allows you to not only shoot faster but also control light in ways never before possible.  At 1000 ISO a flashlight or your camera flash becomes 10 times as powerful as it was at 100 ISO.  Therefore you can have a lot more fun with mixed lighting. When the Nikon D4 camera was first released, I had the pleasure of testing it first. With its incredibly high ISO capabilities, I was excited to see how the camera would handle in low light and sports settings.  After discovering I could get great results at a remarkable 12,800 ISO, I shot a series of star images with the Haleakala volcano in the foreground.  During my exposure a car in the parking lot turned on its parking lights and magically illuminated the volcanic rock bright red in this 10 second exposure.  Those parking lights at 12,800 ISO became a powerful light source – now image the possibilities and how that can affect our photographic perspective.

At this past winter Olympics I used high ISO, especially indoors to freeze the action.  I was even able to shoot at 8000ISO to capture stunning images with very little grain that look amazing at 24x36 inches and larger.  To stop the action of a sport like that of bobsled you have to push the limits.  High ISO capabilities of most new cameras allow you to do just that!  Play with your settings, test out High ISO Noise Reduction and the settings that work best for your camera and see what utilizing HIGHER ISO settings for your sports photography can do for you.

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