Hi and welcome to this edition of my instructional blog; Workshop at the Ranch (WATR.) The RIO 2016 Summer Olympic Games begin Friday, August 5, 2016. This month’s WATR features some of my favorite Olympic images, memories, and back stories.
Image 1 “Golden Girl” … Mary Lou Retton GOLD Women’s All Around 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. I have had the pleasure of covering 12 Olympic Games (6 Summer and 6 Winter) so let me begin this countdown to RIO 2016 with my first Summer Olympics:
1984 would be my first Summer Olympic Games, and as a credentialed Olympic Photographer I had to shoot the Gymnastics competition from the same designated photographer’s area with all the other Olympic photographers.
The designated photo area was behind the medal ceremony awards podium, thus all photographers would need to wait until the athletes turned around “after” they were awarded their medals … and it was without the benefit of TV Lighting.
So to make this iconic image of Mary Lou Retton at “the Moment” she was awarded the GOLD medal I pre-planned to leave the designated photographer’s area and make my way to a ticketed seat in the front row facing the Olympic Awards Podium were there was beautiful TV Lighting.
The ticket for the front row seat had been given to me by Glenn Sundby, owner of the International Gymnast Magazine and the Gymnastics Venue Photo Chief, with one request … that he could publish the picture in his magazine. I said Yes!
Immediately following Mary Lou’s perfect “10” vault I made my way to the ticketed seat. I now had a simple straight forward shot to make of Mary Lou … yet I was scared to death as I made my first image of Olympic SPORTS history.
Glenn and I saw each other often while photographing Gymnastics competitions. He was a great Ambassador of the sport and a friend.
The 1988 Summer Olympics featured many marque athletes, but none were more media worthy than Florence Griffith Joyner.
“Flo Jo” was beautiful, elegant, poised, and FAST! … winning 3 GLOD medals in Seoul: the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m Relay.
The 4x100m relay final included some additional excitement when Flo Jo nearly over-ran Evelyn Ashford during the final hand-off of the baton … I could hear her yell “GO! GO! as the passing of the baton was made and Ashford sprinted out of the exchange zone for the final 100m and the GOLD.
The 1992 Olympic Diving venue was a photographer’s dream come true. The state of the art Diving venue was located on the steep slope of Montjuïc Hill … and as such it offered a grand panoramic view overlooking the city of Barcelona.
It was a thrill for me to cover each day of the diving competition and make pictures of athletes perform their Sky High skills against the background of this magnificent city.
I was a much younger man in 1992 and recall running about 1 kilometer up to the hill-top Diving venue on the jogging path with my camera gear … I must have been crazy, … No, I was just that excited to be covering the Olympics.
I first photographed Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Jayce Phelps, Amanda Borden, Amy Chow, Dominique Dawes and Kerri Strug when they were little 10 year old girls.
I had photographed each of them throughout their careers … Junior competitions, Nationals, World Championships, Olympic Trials, and now the 1996 Olympic Games. I photographed them in their gyms, and their homes. I knew their coaches and parents. I knew all of them and had watched them grow up.
Yes, I have pictures of Kerri Strug’s EPIC vault and yes I have pictures of Bela Karolyi carrying Kerri to the GOLD medal award podium, but this portrait is a very personal moment and memory for me.
This team portrait was made for Newsweek magazine the day after they won Olympic GOLD and became known as “The Magnificent 7” … We all gathered in a small local gymnastics gym in Atlanta for the photo shoot, I set up my lights and composed the scene while chatting with them all … and when I raised the camera up to my eye, I said “all right ladies, look straight at me” … and then I cried.
The 2000 Summer Olympic Games would be a game changer for me … I would be shooting all digital cameras.
Common today, but digital photography files were not highly acceptable in the magazine industry in 2000 … and I would be one of the first to usher in this new technology for Newsweek.
When I arrived at the Olympic Stadium for the Women’s 100m final I made my way with my Digital camera gear to the upper deck photo position where I was greeted with jeers from my colleagues and friends from SI, Time, DUOMO, ALL SPORT and others.
“Traitor” they called me … “Benedict Arnold” from others … then, “Hey Digital Dave, are you going to Photoshop the moon above Marion Jones when she crosses the finish line?”
News had traveled fast that I was shooting all Digital … “We’ll all be singing in the same choir soon” … I answered back with a smile … but it was hard to hear the distrust and rejection in their voices.
Sydney 2000 was a great success for Newsweek and for me converting to all Digital … I set a new standard in the industry and for myself … and never looked back.
I have photographed many great athletes over the past 36 years … Jordan, Elway, Bonds, Lewis, Tiger to name a few … and Michael Phelps is certainly near the top of the list.
Every time Phelps competed in Athens the deck of the Olympic pool would swell with photographers, including my Newsweek colleague and friend Rick Rickman.
For the Butterfly Rick worked “with the sun” and also triggered an underwater REMOTE, while I wanted a classic butterfly Profile composition and chose to shoot backlit against the sun.
It was about 111 degrees on the pool deck … a “triple towel day” for myself and other photographers sitting on the 120 degree hot aluminum bleachers.
I didn’t mind the sun or the heat … after all, I was seeing Olympic history swim by me on route to a collection of GOLD medals and becoming the Greatest Olympian ever!
Image 7 The Opening Ceremonies for the “Games of the XXXI Olympiad” a.k.a. RIO 2016 are Friday night, August 5, 2016. My favorite Olympic Opening Ceremonies picture, and perhaps one of my most treasured Olympic stories is from the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
I arrived more than 3 hours before the start of the 2004 Athens Opening Ceremonies to set up a REMOTE camera. The REMOTE camera would be secured to a metal railing about 20 rows higher than my assigned seat. A little fact: Photographers covering the Opening Ceremonies cannot freely walk around to shoot pictures, we each have an assigned (ticketed) seat.
While setting up the REMOTE camera I began chatting with a young Greek girl who was an usher. I told her that I was working for Newsweek magazine (USA and International editions) and she exclaimed “I read Newsweek … it is very famous here in Greece!”
I gave her my Newsweek Olympic pin as a gift and asked if she could make sure that no one would touch or block my camera when the fireworks began at the end of the Ceremonies … she was VERY excited to help.
The Opening Ceremonies were amazing! … and when the fireworks began I looked over shoulder for my Greek friend and saw her “Vigorously” and “Physically” ushering dozens of crazy arm-waving Greek fans away from in front of my REMOTE camera…she was AMAZING! And I wouldn’t have gotten the image without her help.
The ceremonies ended and the 2004 Summer Games had officially begun. As I collected my REMOTE camera and thanked her for her help I asked what Olympic venue would she be working at during the games … “Velodrome Cycling” she said.
So when I went to cover the Velodrome racing a few days later I brought her a copy of Newsweek magazine and showed her that “our picture” was the 2 page spread Summer Olympic opener … a proud moment for both of us.
Enjoy the Games of the XXXI Olympiad everyone.
REMINDER: My 1 Day Summer Lightpainting Workshop is August 20, 2016 and my 3 Day FALL Lightpainting Workshop is October 6-8, 2016.
For detailed workshop information, registration, cost, daily schedule, and hotel information:
I hope you all have enjoyed this walk down Olympic Memory lane. I’ll see you here at Workshop at the Ranch next month. Adios. Dave