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News & Insight

The 3 Minute Workflow of a Sochi Olympic Photographer & The Gear They Use Most

By Kishore Sawh on February 21st 2014


I love sports, but I merely appreciate athletics, and I like the summer Olympics much more than winter. Summer events seem more routed in utility. What use is the luge really? Whereas javelin, or shooting, come from necessity. I suspect that a man who could throw a spear a great distance and with great accuracy in the days before guns would’ve had himself many fertile wives. Then, in days after Mr. Smith met Mr. Wesson, a man who could shoot to defend, and hunt, would’ve had the same and earned his sheriff’s badge. But, right now it’s the winter Olympics that are on, and while I’ve sort of made it a point to watch as little of it as possible, now that I have an understanding of how the photos are made and published, that may change for good, and I’ll hoover the images that berate me all day.

Few events are as photographically covered like the Olympics. Every double salchow nailed, every mogul missed, every victory anthem played, every head hung in defeat, it’s covered. Aside from iPhone cameras in the hands of the stands, AP and Getty Images cover the vast bulk – and it is vast. Dozens of other news agencies also get their good share. Kevin Jairaj, who is on assignment for USA Today, shared with us a few of his images from Sochi.

kevin-jairaj-sochi-3The equipment used by Sochi photojournalists are generally top of the line, DSLR bodies like the Canon 1DX and Nikon D4 that are weather sealed, offering up the best autofocusing abilities, and pushing out up to 15 frames a second. In film perspective, that’s a 24 shot roll in under 2 seconds. Add to that the need to capture every moment without fail, and what you have are shooters with multiples of these bodies all set with different lenses and focal lengths to make sure they don’t miss a beat. Oh, and millions of pictures, delivered to the world in mere minutes.

Often shooters from Getty will have both Nikon and Canon gear side by side, as it isn’t a time for fanboys, unlike AP which is an entirely Canon outfit. Among their favorite pro lenses – Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, and Canon 300mm F/2.8L lens.

[REWIND: Shotkit: See What Essential Gear The Pros Use]


In the film era, the manual nature of developing didn’t allow for ‘breaking news’ photos, but now that’s the name of the game. In order to do this, it requires a Spartan level effort, and planning began during the Vancouver games 4 years ago. 2 years ago scouts were sent to find the best locations to shoot from, and a month before the games Getty had people at Sochi laying miles and miles of ethernet cable. Getty and AP had their own networks. They had to, and this is a short breakdown as to why, and how, according to Gizmodo who spoke with reps from Getty and AP:

The second a photographer fires the shutter on a camera, the resulting image—a high quality JPEG, not an uncompressed RAW file—is transported by ethernet to Getty’s central editing office in about 1.5 seconds. There, a team of three editors processes the photo. The first selects the best image and crops it for composition; the second editor color corrects; and the third adds metadata. The whole editing process is done in 30-40 seconds. Once the last editor is done, the image is blasted to the world. It takes about 90 seconds for the images to travel over redundant 100 Mbit/s dedicated lines to Getty’s data servers in the the United States.



‘Damn,’ sums it up. So, I still respect the events, am in awe of the work that goes into becoming a contender, and genuinely love when a human has exceeded what was once thought to be a limit. I still don’t understand it, or have any desire to do any of it, mind you. Running is fine if you are late for the train, or are training to survive a zombie apocalypse, or you’re 8. Running in circles for glory is questionable. Likewise cross country skiing is great, if you live in the Yukon and need to traverse snowy territory quickly to avoid bears. Doing it for fun tells me to avoid you at parties. Basically, I’m as impressed with the photography set-up as I am of the event it’s to cover.

Via: Gizmodo

Images Courtesy of: Kevin Jairaj for USA Today

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Thanks for sharing

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  2. briana

    great photography so professional ;)

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  3. Arturo

    Wow! This truly makes me think (and worry) about the future of photography. It would be interesting to see if those deadlines are, in a way, making the photographers go for a fast shot instead of a quality one. Many could argue that an experienced shooter could do both, but who knows. On the other hand, newer cameras, like the Canon 70D, that come with integrated wifi, might be what photographers will be using next, to reduce those 3 minutes into 10 seconds. The time between pressing the shutter and sending the JPG from the camera directly to the newsroom.

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  4. Al Pettman

    Why start of with a paragraph like that ? We other reason nor to follow this site

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    • Penelope

      1) why negatively comment like this? 2) why not expand your scope? 3) why are you criticizing when your work is so bad? His writing is different and you don’t have to like it but this isn’t an instructional post. Maybe that’s why you don’t like it bc you know you need a lot more instruction

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  5. Hanssie

    That is crazy! 3 minutes –I’m hardpressed to get mine done in 3 days. Haha

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