The 3 Minute Workflow of a Sochi Olympic Photographer & The Gear They Use Most
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.
The 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.
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.
Images Courtesy of: Kevin Jairaj for USA Today