Photographers' Blog

Click, edit, crop or drop

By Russell Boyce

Being a picture editor for a wire agency at the London 2012 Olympics is like being a referee at a title-deciding football match. If everything goes well no one really notices you; but one big mistake and you are the most hated person in the stadium. If you call it wrong and miss the picture that captures the vivid moment of sporting agony or ecstasy you risk the jeers and frustrations of the whole team. The reward? A good picture editor has the chance to select that defining picture, the shot that the photographer doesn’t even know he or she has taken, or to crop a frame that changes a good picture into a great one.

At the London Games, Reuters has more than 55 photographers, 17 picture editors and 25 processors. My role is to edit the Gymnastics and Athletics. Below is a picture of my screen for the men’s 200m final.

Photographers have to lug pounds of gear in sweltering sunshine or heavy rain, arrive early at the venue, fight for a position or an angle, argue with anyone that they feel is in their way, prepare themselves mentally to capture a fleeting moment and all the while competing alongside the world’s best shooters who are doing the same. A fraction of a second miss and their mistake will stare out at them from papers, websites and books. They must also be technically astute enough to stream their pictures from their cameras or laptops to the editor.

An editor sits in a temporary workspace at the venue and can be bombarded with hundreds of images, often at the same time, of the same moment taken by different photographers, each believing they have shot the iconic image. Managing expectations is one of an editor’s people skills, saying “well your shot wasn’t as good as his or hers…” just doesn’t cut the mustard when thrashing it out in the bar afterwards, even though that might be the ugly truth. At any given moment an editor could be looking at a multitude of images and so needs to understand how the story is unfolding. This same editor could be looking at three different events simultaneously, communicating with photographers who are shooting at different venues at the same time, understanding the context of events that they are shooting.

Once the editor is satisfied the picture is the right one, the image is then sent to a processor. The word “processor” falls short when describing someone who has a skill set that I can only dream of. An uncaptioned picture appears on the processor’s screen, and then another and then another – and this bombardment continues for up to ten hours. The processor identifies the athletes in the image (often using the competitor number if the face is obscured) and writes a caption which answers the questions: Who? What? Why? When? Where? Processors need to add technical details that allow the image to be sent to our global clients. They are also responsible for ensuring the picture is color balanced, and for finessing a crop, for example cutting out unwanted lines from the picture’s edges and spiking slightly unfocussed images. If there is a caption mistake the buck stops with the processor.

Shooting through the Olympic flame

By Max Rossi

In one word: a nightmare!

From my top position above the flame I have to fight with it every day and the results are both frustrating and exciting. Frustrating when a nice celebration or action are completely blurred by the heat, exciting when the heat and the composition of the picture work well together.

The best results are produced on sunny mornings as the light difference between the track and the flame is minimal so you can have the correct exposure. During the night the difference is larger so you have an overexposed flame as the track is still dark. But the funny thing about this kind of picture is that you can have a sort of tilt lens effect without even using one.

The javelin throw is a good example of this kind of picture as you can have sharp focus on the head as the rest of the image is totally blurred. Another issue is the focusing: shooting exactly through the flame you obviously have the athlete blurred so you can decide to either have the flame in focus or the blurred image in focus. Depending on which lens you use, you will have different results, both of them interesting.

Gold, silver and bronze

By Eddie Keogh

My colleagues now call me the medal man. No, I’ve never won one or even got close but during the 9 days of athletics at the Olympic Stadium in London one of my jobs is to photograph every athlete that wins a medal. The unbridled joy is evident in most cases. Years of blood, sweat and tears have come to fruition and occasionally the emotion of the moment and the playing of their national anthem will bring a tear to the toughest of men and women.

For one man the emotion of the moment was just too much.

The Dominican Republic’s Felix Sanchez was here to receive a gold medal for winning the 400m hurdles. Four years earlier he received the news of the death of his grandmother on the morning of his heat. Having cried all day he ran badly and failed to get past the first round. He promised that day that he would win a medal for her and now he was fulfilling his promise. Felix cried the moment he arrived to the end of his country’s anthem.

It was a very special moment as his emotion was shown 20 meters wide on the stadium screens and the crowd stood to applaud him. I don’t mind admitting I shed a tear for him too, I doubt I was alone.

Attempting to shoot the moon

By Luke MacGregor

With very little understanding of astronomy but with the aid of a phone app, I began a three evening attempt to capture the moon with the Olympic Rings. The rings have been hanging iconically on Tower Bridge for the London 2012 Olympic Games and it was suggested to me that a full moon should – at the right angle – cross through them.

Day One – Having planned to be in the “perfect” spot on London Bridge with a good view of the Olympic Rings further up river and using the app information, I waited for the moon to rise. However the horizon itself was a little cloudy. When the moon eventually showed itself about 10 minutes after the app’s moonrise time it was off to the right hand side of the bridge. I hadn’t taken into account that the moon wouldn’t rise in a vertical line but would travel across the sky. So, by a combination of it appearing late through cloud and miscalculation, I was totally in the wrong place. I rushed carrying the tripod with a heavy 400mm lens attached and the rest of my camera gear hanging off my shoulders – running off the bridge, down several flights of steps, and to the path alongside the River Thames to try re-align the moon with the rings. However, the moon moves surprising quickly. I couldn’t manage to run far or fast enough in time to get the image before the moon rose high, over and above the bridge.

Day Two – Armed with my 400mm, only a monopod and less gear, ready to run after the moon should I be in the wrong location again, I returned to London Bridge. A recalculation had been made. The moon was rising later and at a slightly different angle to the night before. From my previous mistakes I knew that when the moon was on the horizon it needed to be to my left in order for it to move across through the rings. However, to my dismay, the rings were not there. As Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge (i.e. the carriageway lifts to allow boats through) it had raised in preparation to allow a vessel through. I waited just in case they might be lowered, taking in the misfortune of looking at what would have been the perfect shot – that didn’t happen.

18 hour days at the Olympics

By Dominic Ebenbichler

The alarm clock was set for 7.15am. After a short breakfast with my colleague Damir Sagolj I took the bus to Wimbledon, a journey of about 1.5 hours.

After arriving I met with our tennis specialist Stefan Wermuth who is covering the whole tennis tournament during the London Olympics. He showed me the venue and we figured out who was going to be covering which matches. I got to shoot Andy Murray, which also included capturing some pictures of Prince William and his wife Catherine, who were cheering for Murray throughout the game.

As the matches were spaced with only 15 minutes break inbetween, there was not even enough time to eat a sandwich. But who needs food during the Olympics?

Robo-cams cover all the Olympic angles

By Fabrizio Bensch

We are on day 5 of competition at the London 2012 Olympic games and our robotic cameras triggered by the team of Reuters photographers are producing amazing pictures from the most unusual angles whenever athletes all over the world are competing for gold, silver and bronze medals.

GALLERY: OLYMPIC BEST FROM LONDON 2012

We had big expectations to create pictures from new perspectives and they have been surpassed by what we are seeing right now. From the colorful opening ceremony to the athletes’ reactions, many Olympic moments have been captured by the remote robotic cameras. At the moment I’m covering the fencing events at the ExCel venue and I trigger the remote cameras with the help of wireless Pocket Wizard wireless transmitters, simultaneously as I shoot with my hand-held camera with the 400 to 800mm lenses. When I see a new angle on the field of play, I can make corrections remotely with the joystick to control the two axis camera head.

Below is a selection of images made by our photographers (Michael Dalder, Adrees Latif, Murad Sezer, Sergio Perez, Mike Segar, Dominic Ebenbichler, Pawel Kopczynski and Fabrizio Bensch) with their eyes but through the lenses of the robotic DSLRs catching the dramatic moments at many different Olympic venues.

Photographer in focus with courtside crash

By Mike Segar

For any photojournalist, when you cover events of any kind, be it sports or news or daily life, you really never want to be part of the story. Your assignment; to be present to make the best possible images of the events unfolding in front of you is a privilege, and ideally your only mark on the event itself is to come away with as compelling a visual record of what happened as you can under the byline REUTERS/Mike Segar…

However, sometimes… you just can’t get out of the way.


Photo courtesy of Richard Mackson for USA TODAY Sports

My assignment at the London 2012 Olympics along with my colleague Sergio Perez from Madrid, is basketball; 15 days of basketball games, 6 games a day, as nations compete for the Olympic Gold medal. Even for basketball lovers, that’s a lot of basketball.

This is my first time covering an Olympic basketball tournament. I have been fortunate enough in my career at Reuters to have covered many NBA Championships and NCAA championships. I love basketball as a sport that I play, love to watch and love to photograph. Action at the feet of the world’s best players is exciting and fun. My close friend and colleague at Reuters Shannon Stapleton and I spend many hours talking about the game. I always look forward to being on the court, close to the action of the NBA, NCAA and in this case the Olympics where many NBA stars are competing.

Multiple exposure’s digital era

By Mike Blake

The ability to take a number of pictures all on the same frame was simple in the days of film cameras.

You would find a situation where the background would drop off enough to accommodate a number of exposures on the same frame of film. After that, it was a matter of how many exposures and how do they all fit next to each other on the same frame.

GALLERY: MULTIPLE EXPOSURES

We have never been able to do that with the Canon camera system until the release of their new DX camera. And of course, being at the Olympics, what better place to use this new technology? Paired with the world’s best gymnasts and a camera that can take 14 pictures a second, it’s amazing.

Learning the ropes of Olympic sailing

By Pascal Lauener

When Switzerland suddenly became a sailing nation after Alinghi won the 2003 America’s Cup for the first time and then had to defend the Cup in Valencia, I had the chance to cover sailing. Since a young boy, I have been attracted to boats, more so to container vessels rather then sailing ships. However after covering the America’s Cup in Valencia, I became fascinated by sailing. Challenged by the elements (wind, weather and water) and on a shaking rib (boat) it’s not so easy to get a good shoot of the action. But with the help of my Spanish colleagues and some old sailing photography professionals I made my way to the Olympic sailing in Quindao followed by another America’s Cup and now to the sailing event at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Benoit Tessier, a Reuters photographer from Paris, and I arrived in Weymouth on July 23 and started our coverage of the games with press conferences and training sessions of the different sailing classes. Every morning on our way to the ribs (boats for the media) with our heavy Peli cases, mentally checking that you have packed everything for a day out at sea, the sun cream and the oil gear for the sea spray and rain, you hope you will return with some cool frames.

On board the rib the first thing I do is to get my underwaterhousing and my cameras ready for action. I put the underwaterhousing on the floor of the rib so it’s ready whenever we have the chance to come as close as possible to a sailor. I also have the two cameras one on a 500mm and the other on a 28-300mm lens back in the Pelicase. On the way out of the port you make your plans together with the captain of the rib and your colleagues on board. But as they are also your competitors you need to find a way so that everyone gets the things they need as there is no place for dispute on a moving rib.

Hackney Wick: An artistic Olympic community

By Paul Hackett

I first became aware of Hackney Wick over the last year or so and went once or twice for lunch. Last year I went to the Hackney Wicked arts festival held there and was struck by how raw the place felt – none of the normal sensibilities of any London arts event I had been to. The event had an energy to it which for some of the time didn’t feel entirely comfortable.

I went for a wander last weekend to have a look at the place and take some pictures – I was interested in this enclave of artists nestling so close to the massive modern structure of the Olympic park.

As soon as I got out of my car I could see two young men painting a mural on a wall – not an everyday sight on London’s streets – but it looked entirely normal. In fact when I got close to them I could see another couple of artists doing the same thing further up the road.