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|| News Item: Posted 2004-07-28

In The Bag: Heading to Athens
By Dave Black

Photo by Dave Black

Photo by Dave Black

The Acropolis. Athens, Greece
Hello to all you sports photographers that have the pleasure to hit the skyways of the world. The 2004 Summer Olympic games are just around the corner. This will be my 11th Olympiad. So let's get packing!

I will be working for NEWSWEEK magazine in Athens. In a nutshell, I take everything I own accept my Elinchrom Sports Strobes. Sport Strobes are not allowed at the Olympics. To my recollection only Sports Illustrated has strobed basketball before and that was the original DREAM TEAM in Barcelona 1992.

So ... here are the obvious items to take, Nikon D2H camera bodies, Nikon lenses 12mm-24mm, 35mm-70mm, 80mm-200mmVR, 200mm-400mmVR, 300mm f2.8, 400mm f2.8, 600mm f4.0. and converters. Lexar Flash Cards, Bogen Graphite Monopods, Tripods, Super Clamps, Magic Arms, Ground Plates and Ball Heads. Pocket Wizard Multi Max Transceivers with custom channels, and Tape. My Sony VAIO Laptop, CDs, chargers etc, etc, etc.

All these items you have heard of before and probably have in your own bags. So let's take a look at a few unique tools of my trade that you might not be that familiar with.

The Olympic photographer must cope with far more than one 3-hour game. In fact, I will most likely shoot 3 events each day for 16 days in a row. Each event will require me to arrive several hours prior to the starting gun both for security issues and to obtain the photo position I want. Returning to the Main Press Center (MPC) in between events is time consuming, therefore, I must have extra batteries for all my cameras and Pocket Wizards.

This Olympics I will using two items that I hope will aide in my quest to save time and keep me in the field and not in the MPC.

The first item is the EXTREME POWER 20. This back pocket size portable power unit provides hours of power and can be connected to anything from Remote cameras, to a Color TV. I plan on using it to provide hours of power to my Laptop, and RoadStor CD Burner while on location at the event. Wall outlets are hard to find in Athens and time lost going to the MPC to recharge or burn CDs is costly. In the field power is a great asset.

Photo by

The ROADSTOR is my second unique item. This small unit burns CDs directly from the flash cards. No Downloading needed, it just copies images to the CD. Many photographers use an external hard drive, but, I have gone with the RoadStor so as to burn CD's as I continue to shoot. This cuts out the time spent after the event downloading and then burning back up CD's. Olympic Couriers will take my flash cards to Newsweek's office in the MPC several times during the course of an event. But before they do I will burn a hard copy with the ROAD STOR for back up and for my own files for future stock sales after the Olympics. Usually downloading would take place after the event or at the end of the day(1:30am). The RoadStor is 1/3 of the size of my VAIO and I believe it will save me time. Time that I can use to sleep as each day starts around 5:30am and finishes around 1:30am. You do the math: 4 hours of sleep ... maybe ... and this schedule goes for 16 days of glory.

Crowded photo positions can make life difficult at the Olympics. A monopod is best for heavy lens support but in cramped situations I use something that most do not, a Nikon Pistol Grip. The Nikon Pistol Grip allows me to be more mobile and more compact than those using a monopod, especially in close quarters. I use one with my 300mm f2.8 and 400mm f2.8.

Lights. With the use of Arena Sport Strobes prohibited at the Olympics the only strobe allowed is usually on your camera. This on-camera direct FLASH is useful but unflattering. I am bringing along 7 Nikon SB-800's this time. They are TTL wireless and can be programmed from the master unit when attached to the camera hotshoe. Using the new Bogen 175F clamp to secure them in position I hope to find situations were a bit of creative lighting might work well, especially at Track and Field. The Nikon SB-800 will also be useful for any portrait and or cover shoot possibilities for Newsweek.

Little Nell will also accompany me to the Olympics, (see and click Workshop at the Ranch and ON THE ROAD for May 2004 MASTERS images for the complete story of Little Nell) No, Little Nell is not my assistant but is my Nikon COOLPIX 8700 8 mega-pixel camera with silent shutter. I will find great use for this camera.

The Bags. Yes, I almost forgot the bags themselves. Lightware ROLLING MF1629. I have four with equipment and 1 with clothes as checked baggage. A Lowepro Laptop bag for my VAIO, a small backpack to carry - on two Nikon D2H digital camera bodies, my 300mm f2.8, 70mm-200mm VR f2.8, converters, my favorite waist pack that Nikon gave me at my first Summer Olympics in Los Angeles 1984, and my 25-year-old chalk pouch (no longer chalky).

Also ... whatever the Greek sweet tooth wants I will bring a bag to the venue. A little kindness by offering people something to eat can help move mountains at the Olympics ... or any event.

My list of equipment is a drop in the bucket compared to Sports Illustrated's Bill Frakes and his amazing caravan of camera equipment. Keep in mind that Bill's responsibilities for SI and my job for Newsweek can be quite different and require different approaches.

Everyone has a unique job to do at the Olympics and a unique approach to capture the shot their editors want. Your bag of equipment at the Olympics (or any event) should #1 get the job done right at any of the more than 35 venues, #2 allow you to capture an image that others might not be able to get, and #3 not take all your strength to carry or roll.

After all, you might want to walk up the Acropolis and photograph the Parthenon one sunny afternoon.

See you after the Olympics ... Adios, Dave.

(Dave Black is a freelance photographer based in Colorado Springs. Publications he is frequently published in include Sports Illustrated, Newsweek, Parade and the Wall Street Journal. His corporate clients include the VISA, Coca Cola, Chevy, McDonald's, Nikon and the United States Olympic Committee. A popular lecturer and teacher, he will be conducting a class on light painting at the Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau in November.)

Related Links:
Dave Black's member page

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