Photographers' Blog

Robo-cams go for Olympic gold

By Fabrizio Bensch

Is it possible to get 11 photographers into a box and put them in a position where you could never place a photographer? Normally, it would be absolutely impossible. But nothing is impossible when it comes to the Olympic games.

The London Olympic summer games will produce huge emotions, records and we as the Reuters photographers team will catch it from any extraordinary angle. When athletes from around the world compete against each other for the glory of an Olympic medal, hundreds of photographers try to capture the one and only moment which makes the Olympic games so unique.

On any sports event where there isn’t a place for a photographer or there is a need to freeze a moment from different perspectives we use remote technology – cameras triggered by cable wire or with a wireless transmitter. We wanted to make impossible things possible; just like the athletes at the Olympic games.

Reuters photographer Pawel Kopczynski and I have been developing since the 2009 athletics World Championships in Berlin a new technology, which enables Reuters sports photography to shoot pictures from unusual angles and make them available to our customers around the world in minutes. We tested the technology at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea and at the world indoor athletics championships in Istanbul.

At the upcoming Olympics for the first time we are using robotic cameras made specifically for the high elevated roof positions that can only be covered by a remote camera and not by a photographer.

Stretching the Olympic portrait limits

By Lucas Jackson

Over the course of three days Reuters, along with several other prominent outlets, was given a space and (almost) guaranteed time with every member of Team USA that was able to attend a media summit in Dallas this past May, in order to take portraits of the team members. It was a win-win situation for all involved. The athletes were able to take care of a great deal of their media availability in one weekend and members of the media were not required to travel all over the US in order to get portraits of these elite athletes before they head off to London for the 2012 Olympics. As the photographer from Reuters assigned to this portrait marathon there was only one issue; how to take a single space along with extremely limited time with each athlete to make unique, interesting, and ideally self-explanatory images of dozens and dozens of athletes.

It was a daunting task to say the least but I started with a simple lighting setup that played off of several portrait collections I had seen, including Douglas Kirkland’s, and work that tends to appear in either men’s health or sporting magazines. I finally settled on a dual setup where my first setup would use a simple grey background and light to enhance the muscle tone of the athletes. My second setup was to use a large American flag (given to me by my brother as I arrived in Jalalabad, Afghanistan) to take photos of the athletes who were involved with sports that did not lend themselves to the flexing of muscles or shedding of clothing. I wanted to use ProFoto lights as they have a remote controller and trigger called the “Air Remote” that I could put on my camera to control the light’s power output from the controller mounted on top of the camera. This would save me precious time as I wouldn’t have to physically go to each of the four lights to change their outputs depending on whether I was shooting on the grey seamless backdrop or the flag.



FULL FOCUS GALLERY: TEAM USA

I cannot think of a single athlete who was not gracious and accommodating in the time we were given. Some of the times were shorter than others. The uber-popular yet incredibly bouncy gymnasts gave us between 30 seconds to one minute. Overall, everyone was up for whatever pose or idea that you could come up with. Some of the competitors brought the tools that accompany their sport like racquets, rifles, bows or fencing swords.

There is always one…Part four

Sport is a dominant theme at the moment, obviously, because of the impending start of the Olympic Games in China. 

 Nevertheless I offer no apologies for selecting this picture by Darren Staples of Manchester United’s Patrice Evra and Juventus’ Mauro Camoranesi clashing in mid-air during their pre-season friendly soccer match at Old Trafford in Manchester on August 6. As I looked through the file of Reuters pictures it jumped out at me, and has everything a good soccer picture should have. Of course it’s sharp, tightly composed, is shot at the height of the action and, because the players appear to be so far off the ground, it conveys a sense of drama. Also, a very simple point, but one that is often missed – the ball is in the picture!

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Getting your point across

With the Olympics now only a month away the search for scene-setting images to tempt the visual palate has begun in earnest. From the Beijing file Henry Lee gives us this to kick start the week - Wei Shengchu, 58, a supporter of traditional Chinese medicine, poses for photos in front of Beijing Railway Station with his head covered with acupuncture needles depicting 205 national flags and an Olympic torch, 7, 2008. Local media reported that Wei wanted to express his good wishes for the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games as well as to promote traditional Chinese medicine. 

 China 2

And it is all his own work, all 205 and something more substantial representing the Olympic flame, painstakingly inserted into his head to the obvious entertainment of passersby. 

China 1 

Even in this low resolution the Stars and Stripes, the Swiss, French, Canadian, Brazilian and a host of other national flags, are fairly easily spotted but not the Union Jack. 

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