Photographing the Olympics

You may have read the post on this site back in December last year about the death of Monte Fresco. Monte was the Daily Mirror’s chief sports photographer. I mentioned in that story how the job of sports photographer is now commonplace but how it was not always so. I can remember a time in ‘Fleet Street’ when there were no more than perhaps four or five, with much less sophisticated cameras than we have now. How times have changed.

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World © Darren Gatcum – All rights reserved

My friend Darren, who is a photographer himself, is just entering the world of sports photography. He sent me one of his recent pictures earlier this week, it’s of a Romford Raiders ice hockey player powering along the ice at their home stadium in the Romford Ice Arena. A fitting photograph as the Winter Olympics have just finished.

I’ll let Darren’s e.mail continue the story:

“I’ve been following the sports photographers at the winter Olympics with great interest (together with the competitors). I attach one of my favourite images. As a part time sports photographer, I have made lots of notes and have collected lots of tips from all the sports photographers’ blogs who are at the Winter Olympics.

I have gathered a number of statistics which I thought I would share with you.

1) There are approximately 1,000 photographers at the opening ceremony of the winter Olympics in Sochi – freelance photographers, photographers attached to sports magazines etc.

2) Getty images will send 68 staff to the winter Olympics in Sochi 2014. This included 37 photographers using 140 cameras covering 98 events sending 17 editors over 1,000,000 images. 50,000 images were good enough for clients.

3) At the winter Olympics the sports photographers started at 7am in the morning and they did not come down from the snowy mountain until 7pm or 8pm. The challenge was to have enough food and water for the entire day. Sometimes they worked until 2am!!

4) One sports photographer said: “When I first shot the Olympics, my contract allowed me 12 hours to go through the photos and get them back to the team. When I photographed the summer Olympics in London, my deadline was shortened to 2 hours. Now, with ever increasing immediacy of the internet age, they want me posting images at each break. So that means that, when the buzzer sounds at the end of the first period of hockey, I have 14 minutes to download my photos (I shoot RAW) go through them, edit, resize them and upload to Team USA. And I need to do this so that I am ready to start shooting again at the start of the next period. No pressure!”

5) There will be about 1,000,000 photos taken at the Winter Olympics by Getty. Divide that by 36 exposures on a roll of film. This means that by analog standards, today’s Olympic photo agencies are going through nearly 28,000 rolls of film a piece.

6) The powerhouse Professional cameras photographers use these days, like the Canon 1DX, are capable of shooting up to 14 frames per second. That is a finished roll of film in under 3 seconds!!!

7) The second a photographer fires the shutter on a camera, the resulting image (a high quality JPEG) is transported by ethernet to Getty’s central editing office in about 1.5 seconds. The whole editing process is done in 30-40 seconds. It takes about 90 seconds for the images to travel to Getty data servers in the United States for distribution to clients.

I cannot believe the speed of all this photography these days. “

So just a quick taste of what it took for those great Winter Olympic sports pictures to appear on websites and in your newspapers and magazines.

Geoff Wilkinson’s Really Simple Photography Handbook now available as ebook, to purchase a copy click here kindle.


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