Most photographers start their photographic journey taking photos at special events. Whether it’s a football game, a family wedding, or a rock concert, capturing the raw, spontaneous moments of these events is something all photographers aim to do.
A few weeks ago, I had the rare opportunity to photograph the Olympics in my home town. The action was happening outside my window 24 hours a day for 17 days, and as you can imagine I felt both elated and overwhelmed at the same time.
Besides learning to pace myself and charge batteries each night, I learnt some valuable lessons. Here are my top 5 tips to taking better event photos:
5DMKII +16-35mm f/2.8, 1/80 @ f/4.5, ISO 100.
1. Know what you are going to shoot before shoot it.
50% of event photography is preparation. Before you even leave the house, visualize what shots you want to take. Seems like overkill, but if you only get a few seconds chance to capture a bride walking down the aisle or a few one hundredths of a second to catch a speeding bobsled on the track, so you have to make your shots count.
I recommend writing down a shot list (e.g., wide shot of the bobsledding venue, close-up shot of some passionate fans, shot of speeding bobsled etc.) and even sketch out the important shots you want to take. If you don’t know where to start, search Flickr and the web for shots that people are taking of the event have taken at a similar event in the past.
Now that you’ve got your shot list and have an idea of what you plan on shooting, you can choose the right lenses for the job. Ideally, you want cover all your bases with a wide, mid, and telephoto lens. If you lucky to have these options then use them. And no wining about how heavy your lenses are! If you are like me and only own a few mid range lenses, consider renting a wide angle lens like the 16-35mm f/2.8 and a mid-range telephoto lens like the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS.
If you are working with a standard 18-55mm kit lens, you’ve got your wide and mid-ranges covered, but fall short on long distance zoom. You might want to bring along your point and shoot for zoom shots, or just focus on the action you can capture.
This flimsy umbrella will protect me from anything! Maybe not. :(
3. Prepare for bad weather — rain, snow, hail, world-wide apocalypse etc.
Inevitably, if you are shooting outside, it will rain, sleet, hail, or fireballs will fall from the sky. If you are unprepared, bad weather can ruin your gear, your shots, and your shoes. I learnt this the hard way when I had to trek through the slush, snow & mud at the bobsled event in tight jeans and Ugg boots with a floppy canvas bag. By mid-day I had 4 inches of freezing, dirty water in my boots and my photo bag was drenched. Luckily my 5DMKII and the 16-35mm f/2.8 were water-tight, though I did get some crazy condensation in my view finder.
Not that you’d make this same n00b fashion error, but taking a few moments to weather proof your gear and your feet is always a good idea.
Most camera bags offer some kind of water protection, but none are completely waterproof. If you want ultimate water protection, you’ll have to cart around a pelican case. Just to be safe, I always carry a spare plastic bag that fits over my camera bag just in case I get caught in a thunder storm. Smaller cameras can be sealed in plastic ziplock bags. An umbrella can be used to shield your camera when you are changing lenses and works well in snowy conditions as well.
4. Capture the story of the event
Every event has a beginning, middle, and end. Try to capture the entire story of the event. Take pictures of the empty venue and snap shots as people arrive. Show the full scale of the event. During the main event, set your camera to burst mode and shoot as many shots as you can. Bring a lot amount of memory cards. Never let space dictate how many shots you should take.
Set your camera to burst mode and concentrate on capturing the reaction of the audience, as well as the main action. Reaction shots are priceless and often capture the emotion of the event better than the actual event.
5. Get as close as you can to the action
You are never going to get those pure visceral shots if you shoot like a shrinking violet. Watching professional sports photographers at the Olympics made me realize that you really have to get close to the action to get great shots. Even with huge zoom lenses, they parked themselves right against the bobsled track, elbowing their way in, and constantly moved around to get the best shot.
During the Olympics I shot wherever I wanted to shoot without concern for whether it was “allowed” or not. In the past I’ve been so worried about getting in trouble that I’ve missed excellent shooting opportunities. I honestly think the best policy is shoot fast and furious until the cops show up.
5MKII + 16-35mm f/2.8, 1/320 @ f/5.0 ISO 250.
Many people were surprised that I was able to get so close to the bobsled track when I captured this footage of the USA-2 bobsled crash. I happened to be in the right place at the right time, but I had to really stand my ground when other photographers started trying to push in.
Did you see the Closing Ceremonies and wonder how the crowd experienced it?
Well I’m gonna take you behind the scenes of the Closing Ceremonies pre-show and gives you an inside peek at all the pre-show activities including, learning the ins and outs of moose antler props, gettin’ groovy with the “Sochi Snowglobe” wave, packin’ on pounds with the hospital poncho and the good and bad of blinky, flashy buttons.
The video was shot with two 5DMKIIs & a Canon PowerShot 980 IS (for the reverse angles during the show). I was shooting with a 16-35mm f/2.8 & the LensBaby Composer (at the end) & my friend, Scott was shooting with a 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6. Niiiice piece of glass.
Today six bobsleds crashed during the first two heats of the Olympic four-man bobsled event up at the Whistler Sliding Centre.
I was right at the side of the track when the USA-2 bobsled flipped over and slid side-ways over the finish line. Apparently, USA-2 pilot, John Napier, lost control during the infamous curve nicknamed “50-50.”
I was able to capture all the action in this short snapshot video that shows the entire incident, including footage of the Americans being pulled from the bobsled and being assessed for injuries. There were no major injuries, but a very tense moment for the Americans and the worried fans in the crowd.
John Kershner was watching and grabbed this screen shot of me in the sidelines.
Coca-Cola is Corporate Olympic Sponsorship at its very best. Free Coke, free interactive games, free picture of you with the Olympic torch and the shiniest, happiest PR people ever. Although, come to think about it they did seem a bit disgruntled when I asked if I could get Pepsi instead.
Shot with 5DMKII, 35mm f/1.4. Music cred: “St. Clinton St.” Wakey!Wakey!
From tear-jerking Gold medal victories to heartbreaking 3rd place near-misses, the Olympics is jam-packed with glittering stories that leap off the newspaper page. It’s a reporter’s dream to cover the glory and the grief of the Olympic games. But I’m not one of those reporters. I revel in finding those peculiar stories, the hidden gems if you will, that catch my eye and make me chuckle.
Yesterday I set off in search of a weird and wonderful story of Olympic pride. I wasn’t more than 100m from my place, when I heard rumours of a sock puppet mascot contest being held at the CBC. Surely enough, when I walked in the doors of the CBC, I came face-to-face with over 40 googly, glued-on eyes, pompom noses, and pipe-cleaner whiskers. Some were simple, some were practical, and others were beyond the scope of my imagination.
The winner of the CBC Vancouver Welcomes the World Mascot Contest, David Julian Abhijit Xinshi by Susi Bainard, a three-eyed moose/beaver aka “Moover” was quite laid-back about his victory. He remained both strong and silent, when asked about his new-found fame.
You can see the masterful collection of sock puppets at the CBC on the corner of Hamilton and West Georgia open from 9am-6pm everyday until February 28th. Also, make sure to check out the daily “meet and greets” held in CBC plaza where you hobnob with CBC personalities and Olympians and pick up a limited edition pin.
One of the most uplifting nighttime highlights at the 2010 Olympics is Robson Square’s impressive light and laser show, Ignite the Dream. Situated right in the heart of the downtown buzz, this amazing light show captivates thousands of eager on-lookers everyday.
There are two nightly shows starting at 9:30pm and 11pm. Arrive 30 minute early to secure a decent spot and to avoid the drunken rowdies, who, in their own way add a whole new dimension to the Olympic experience.