Pyeongchang, 1 year later: Olympic moments frozen in time.
I put together a selection of photos and stories for CBC Sports celebrating one year since the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. Clicking the link below will take you to the CBC’s Road to the Olympic Games page where you can read my thoughts about going from an Canadian Olympic athlete to CBC Olympic photographer and where the of 10 best stories and photos are highlighted.
There were some extra photos I had written about and some behind the scene Olympic moments I thought were interesting and included those in the post as well.
Each morning I would ride the chairlift up to the top of the Slopestyle venue and then walk down to the photo position. I had never seen anything like these jumps before in my life.
The symmetry of the cables against the clear blue sky combined with shapes and different colour of snowboards was interesting as I looked up from below prior to the start of the Pyeongchang Olympic Games on February 6th, 2018.
Taking the bus into town later that day with CBC commentator Craig McMorris, it was cool to see how he could identify everyone in the picture by the designs on their boards as if he were looking at their faces. (Left to right) Craig McMorris, Mark McMorris, Tyler Nicholson, Jamie Anderson and Spencer O’Brien.
Working with the CBC crew is great because of the number of accessible resources behind the organization. I didn’t have much time to get ready as we piled into a van and headed for the ice rink and was the only photographer in the rink this particular afternoon. I was fortunate to catch some intense training moments as Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir took part in a training session prior to the start of the Pyeongchang Olympic Games on February 7th, 2018.
I lined up the straight railing with the beginning of the curved track in an attempt to add some symmetry to this image of Canadian Luger Same Edney as he made his way down the track during a training run prior to the start of the Pyeongchang Olympic Games in February 8th, 2018.
In a non-team sport like moguls there is a lot of time spent alone. Seeing Canadian Mikaël Kingsbury ride in the middle of the chairlift during a training run three days prior to the start of his moguls event reminded me of this fact.
Personally, I was always better as part of a team drawing motivation from not letting my teammates down when the pain of the race really started to set in.
Another individual athlete, Mark McMorris, rides the lift to the top of the hill during the Snowboard Slopestyle event at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games on February 9th, 2018.
Similarly to Mikaël Kingsbury in the previous photo, it stood out to me how this was another sport where when the official calls your name you have to be someone who thrives in the scenario of being alone and having nobody else to rely on except yourself.
The size and almost vertical landing angle of the final jumps on the slopestyle course are so massive when I first saw them I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Canadian Tyler Nochloson does his best to stay upright during the mens Snowboard Slopestyle Finals at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games on February 11th, 2018.
The quality of sports photographers at an Olympic games is at the same quality as the athletes at the Games, so it is a great chance to learn what others do and how they do it.
Looking for unique ways of framing athletes into their background is common practice and some do it better than others. This in an example of that where I used the course to surround Max Parrot as he flew through the air during the Snowboard Slopestyle Finals Pyeongchang Olympic Games February 11th, 2018.
After Justine Dufour-Lapointe put together a fantastic performance in her final run in the Women’s Moguls Finals at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games on February 11th, 2018 I had a feeling she was going to celebrate in classic Dufour-Lapointe fashion with the fist pump (as she did after her gold medal win in Sochi four years earlier). It was simply a matter of being ready and figuring out how you wanted to capture it.
Being an Olympian means is respecting the fact that you have positioned yourself in a scenario where you will either experience success or failure.
In this scenario Andi Naude mother, Colwyn wipes the tears from her daughter’s eyes following an unfortunate final run that saw Andi miss a jump and ski off course after leading in points following the preliminary round of the Women’s Moguls Finals at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games February 11th, 2018.
There are three possible jumps the moguls skiers could take and from my low position I couldn’t see them coming. Instead I watched the moving boomed television camera to give me a clue so when Mikaël Kingsbury took off for the first jump of the finals on February 12th I was ready.
I watched as Mikaël Kingsbury left the media mixed zone walking to the media room and picked a spot where I thought he would meet his parents, Robert and Julie.
I practiced my backwards “high step” walk before they arrived so I knew how to avoid the mats positioned in the snow to offer traction for the spectators. I was able to capture a moment that lasted about five seconds but I was very happy they had to share as a family.
Shooting from the stands rather than a designated photo position can yield great results if you are ready as it did here when Canadian Luger Alex Gough reacted to winning the bronze medal in the women’s singles event on February 13th, 2018.
If you are not in position early enough there is a chance of getting blocked by the crowd. You can either move to another position or try something like this (during Canadian Luger Alex Gough’s medal presentation after winning the bronze medal in the women’s singles event on February 13th, 2018.
Sports where your medal position is determined as you watch your competitors succeed or fail is exemplified here as the Canadian luge team celebrates after their silver medal win in the team relay competition at the the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang (February 15, 2018).
What you can learn as a photographer at the Olympics is immense. Watching Reuters Chief Photographer Dylan Martinez break the frozen filter off this lens due to moisture build up with a crampon between runs of the Women’s Slopestyle final showed me the lengths people with go to to get the shot.
What you can’t see are twenty photographers all wearing their crampons huddled together in one tiny spot on the edge of a the huge hill to capture Slopestyle skiers like Canadian bronze medalist Alex Beaulieu-Marchand during the warm-up runs when the sun was low enough on February 18th, 2018.
If you have never been to a live bobsleigh event the sound and speed are the two things that will likely leave a lasting impression on you. In this case, pointed down the track at Canadian gold medalist Alexander Kopacz and Justin Kripps I pushed the shutter button when I heard them coming. If I had waited to shoot when I saw them they would have been long gone.
Focus is doing what you say you are going to do and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are fine examples of this. Knowing the kind of nerves they are experiencing prior to an Olympic final I appreciate moments like this as they juxtapose well with the jubilation in the photos following their performance on February 20th, 2018.
When I saw Tessa and Scott heading off the ice I took my lens off my camera and began to pack up happy to begin my three hour bus ride back to the the hotel. That was until Scott turned around to take one more tour of the ice with Tessa and the Canadian flag. I quickly put the lens back on my camera and took this photo which ended up being one of the most iconic photos of the Games. It was a lesson in not putting your camera away until the Gold Medalists have left the building.
Looking through the camera as Christopher Delbosco flew off course on February 21 during the mens ski cross event, I thought a bird had flown in front of my camera lens. It wasn’t until I saw him crash land and I looked back through the photos did I realize what had happened (and that I had it in focus).
A fish eye lens pointed directly down at my knees about 30 feet from the track led to this multi-exposure photo of Canadian bronze medalists Kaillie Humphries and Phylicia George during the third heat of the Women’s Bobsleigh event on February 21, 2018.
Shooting a Seattle Seahawks Green Bay packers Game a few years ago I overheard a photographer say in the media room “I track Line Backer Clay Matthews and the play finds him.”
When I saw Marie-Philip Poulin back-checking at full speed trying to stop an American scoring chance during their Gold medal game, her determination stuck out. I remembered what that photographer said and decided to track her movements separate from the play (which led to this huge collision).
Being up high on top of the broadcast tower can be a bit chilly with the wind chill but is does offer a nice clean white background when the Canadian Maple Leaf gets a chance to fly as it did here on February 23rd when Kelsey Serwa and Brittany Phelan took gold and silver in the Women’s ski cross finals.
Sometimes you are on the right side of timing that you have no control over which is what happened here as Mark McMorris spun through the rings while competing in the Mens Big Air Finals on February 24th.
Vantage point from the 3/4 of the way up the ski jump showing the importance of a telephoto lens at the Olympics.
I had the end of track photo position all to myself and was leaning out as much as I could to capture the Canadian sled of Pilot Nick Poloniato, Lacelles Brown, Bryan Barnett and Ben Coakwell as they passed through a ray of light after completing their final run of the Olympics.
The blue jacket of the CBC interviewer covering half the frame along with the neck warmer and hat of Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle silver medalist Laurie Blouin act as a vignette, accentuating the black eye Blouin received after a nasty crash a few days earlier during a training run.
Behind the Scenes at the Olympics
Everyone was busy making the roads as safe as possible walking between venues.
Some of the food was a bit different but overall my diet consisted of eggs with toast some yogurt and corn flakes. Lunch was Cliff bars I brought from home as I was on the hill in the middle of the day. For dinner was either traditional Korean BBQ or on the nights I knew I would be getting back to the hotel after midnight I would buy a Pizza before leaving and eat it cold when I got back.
I met Bob Babinski in Rio and he was also in Pyeongchang. I knew from his website that he is one of the top performance trainers in Canada, having coached more than 500 broadcasters and works regularly with commentators and hosts at Hockey Night in Canada and Rogers’ Sportsnet. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, he prepared Donovan Bailey, Mark Tewksbury, Perdita Felicien and Clara Hughes for their on-air roles. His room was next to mine in the hotel and he called me over to talk. He was such a big help to me in Rio games and I wondered what he had to say. Turns out a laugh was the perfect way to start the games.
Was an awesome experience to meet Philippe Marquis, Mikaël Kingsbury and Marc-Antoine Gagnon and to see that they were all still together in the days following the completion of their Moguls event. Philippe and Mikaël had some questions and each had an opportunity using the camera.
Getting your fitness up prior to a games is important. If you are covering outdoor events in the mountains you will be walking a lot and carrying a heavy backpack full of gear for 18 days straight. It is absolutely fun but very important to eat properly, sleep when you can to avoid a mental and physical crash halfway through.
Editing a photo of Kequyen Lam on the bus from the cross country skiing venue to my hotel. Coincidentally I met Kequyen through a mutual friend of mine during a ski retreat at Mt.Baker in 1997 and the next place I saw him was 21 years later on a mountain across the world.
Everyone gets a little tired on the bus. My shoulder ended up being a nice pillow for about 45 minutes.
View from outside my hotel room at the bottom of the Ski Hill at the Phoenix snow park. All shaved up and ready for the day.
I brought three kinds of gloves with me and used a combination of each gloves depending on the temperature, time of day and venue. Operating the camera required a tactile lobster style glove whereas the hand holding the monopod most always required the warmest mitten.
Watching my rowing body turn into a photographers body is never easy. My only exercise other than walking up or down hill during the games was timing myself for 100 push-ups. I got it down to under 6 minutes and the next morning at breakfast feeling proud of myself asked Kayaker Adam van Koeverden to give 100 push ups a try. He told me the next morning he did 100 in under 5 minutes which was a bit of a blow but served as motivation to keep up the training for the rest of the games.
It is easy to forget that training three times a day six days a week is not normal. Physically it is quite an adjustment following retirement because your body capacity to perform changes much faster than what your brain does.
Canadian Press Photographer Jonathan Hayward and I left Vancouver on the same flight and we shot most of the events together. The first night I was supposed to meet him for dinner and I turned right at the bottom of the hill instead of left and in -20 temperatures on icy sidewalks I walked 15 minutes only to find the wrong restaurant.
I walked back to find the proper restaurant only 5 minutes away from the hotel. There is a great CBC article on Jonathan and his Olympic motivations as a photographer below.
If anyone has any questions or comments about what it is like to photograph or attempt to make a National team and participate in the Olympics as an athlete let me know I’m happy to answer any of your questions.