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|| News Item: Posted 2004-07-28

The View From the Other Side
By Darrell Miho

Photo by Shelly Castellano

Photo by Shelly Castellano

Darrell Miho at work at the swim trials.
Having survived 12 days as the Photo Chief at the US Olympic Gymnastics and Swimming Trials, I have to admit that I was thoroughly impressed and grateful for the cooperation I received from both the photographers and the organizing committees/TV.

When I first agreed to fill in for Dave Black, I didn't know what to expect. I was a Photo Chief newbie about to get thrown into the mix and learn as I go. Was I going to be an overworked and underpaid babysitter? Who was going to be the first photographer I'd have to pull a credential from? Do I represent the photographers or the organizing committees? How many arguments would I have with TV or photographers? These were just a few of the many questions that went through my mind.

Well I am happy to say that my worst-case scenarios never materialized. I didn't pull anyone's credential, most of the photographers played well together and played within the confines of the rules that were set forth at the beginning of each event and I didn't get pushed in the pool!

Going into the trials, the one thing I knew I didn't want to be was the one person we all hate to come across - the rogue official that runs an event with an iron fist. The soldier on the field that obeys orders precisely and follows the rules exactly by the book with no room for interpretation.

So I decided that the best course of action would be to use the F word as often as possible. Well, actually three F words - Fair. Firm. Friendly.

As a photo chief, my basic job was to be the liaison between the photographers and the organizing committee and to make sure all the photographers played by the "rules". However, being a fellow photographer left me in sort of a dilemma, who am I supposed to be representing, the organizing committee or the photographers?

Well, the organizing committee was the one signing the check, but still, I'm a photographer dammit, not a robotic marshal. Ultimately, I ended up wavering from one side of the fence to the other. Certain issues I had to be firm and side with the committee, while others I pushed to get more for the photographers.

In the end, I think everyone was happy. The photographers, for the most part, got unbelievably great access. When the committee and TV production crews were presented with special requests, most were granted. The few that weren't, were due to concerns for the athletes and it interfering or distracting them during competition or it interfering with TV. Understandable.

So having worked both sides of the fence, here are a few tips to remember when you are dealing with event officials.

Photo by Darrell Miho

Photo by Darrell Miho

Portrait of Dana Vollmer, the 16 year old who qualified for the team by winning the 200m freestyle.
First off, be nice. - If there is something that is pissing you off, don't go running to an official spouting off a slew of expletives and expect to get your way. Take a deep breath and approach him/her calmly and explain the situation and if possible, present a viable solution.

During the swimming trials, there was a lot of grumbling the first day as ten volunteers clad in red t-shirts would march in front of the photographers as they escorted swimmers to the start area and as they carried the swimmers clothes from the starting blocks to the athlete's area.

The volunteer coordinator was approached and given a viable solution - move the photo box one foot forward and create a walkway for the volunteers to go behind the photographers. The volunteer coordinator didn't budge. So I went straight to the top to the Organizing Committee Director and she gave me the go ahead.

So that night I re-taped the photo box area and created a walkway for the volunteers to walk behind the photogs. Needless to say, the Volunteer coordinator wasn't very pleased when he saw it the next day, but once he and I spoke about it and he understood why it was necessary and once it proved to be a good solution for all parties involved, he was cool about it. I think he was more peeved that I went over his head to get it done, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

Secondly, if there is a problem, go through the proper channels. - If a cable puller is in your way and you have asked him/her nicely to kneel down and they still don't cooperate (yelling "get the f*** out of the way", generally is not considered nicely), go to their superior. In the case of Gymnastics Team Trials (see Robert Hanashiro's rant "Pull This" in last month's issue) the order of command went through me to the Floor Marshal. At our next photo meeting, a Floor Marshal was introduced and photographers were told that if they had any problems with anyone, they needed to speak to a Floor Marshall and it would be dealt with immediately... and it was. End of problem.

Thirdly, Follow directions. Most events have a general set of rules that photogs are supposed to abide by and are supposed to be understood from the very start of an event. If by chance you are approached by an official or security, listen to them and do as you are told. Odds are, they have a very good reason as to why they are asking you to do something. Don't be an a** and say that you're doing your job and hold your ground.

Remember, the official is doing his/her job too. If you still have questions, approach them after you have taken your pictures and ask them politely the reason for their request. There might be a workable solution for the future and should be dealt with at the proper time and through the proper channels.

At the swimming trials, a photographer requested to go down to the porthole to shoot some pictures and I had to deny the request. I don't think he was real pleased, but I explained to him the following day that on that particular day, I was shorthanded on photo volunteers and I needed them all up on the deck cause we were still dealing with a more pressing issue (the volunteers walking in front of the photographers) and I had to make sure that the new solution being implemented that day was going to work, and it did. And the photographer's request was fulfilled the following day.

Photo by Darrell Miho

Photo by Darrell Miho

Dana Vollmer
And on a side note to Hanashiro's rant regarding the cable pullers:

The cable pullers blocking the view of photogs is partly my fault. The photo position photographers were seated at wasn't actually supposed to be there. The position was discussed during the walk through with all parties involved and my understanding was it was approved. So on day 1, I didn't see the photo box marked off, so I took it upon myself to lay down the tape and mark it off. That was a big no-no.

During the first event, I was overhearing through my headset the heated conversation between TV and the production crew about why there were photographers sitting in front of the still rings apparatus. So the cable pullers blocking photogs may have been "payback" since photogs were not supposed to be there in the first place. Sorry Bert!

So needless to say, that photo position was gone for the rest of the trials. The production crew was really cool about it. We discussed it after the first day and everyone was back on the same page and it ended up being friendly fodder for the next few days as they kept making comments over the headset about me making my own photo positions - all in good fun.

So my overall experience as a Photo Chief was a good one. I think having a fellow photographer as Photo Chief and not some hired yahoo who doesn't know a pinhole from his 'other' hole, proved to be a great benefit all both parties.

I felt like I had the respect of the photographers because they understood that I knew what their needs were and I was going to do what I could to get them the access they needed.

And because I had their respect, they played nicely and followed the rules for the most part. A few had to be reminded, but they didn't bitch and moan about it, at least not in front of me, and for the most part everyone went about their business in a very professional manner.

So thank you to all the photographers for making the job a fairly easy one. Thank you for playing nicely and doing your job within the confines of the rules. And maybe, just maybe, I'll do it again in four years!!!

(Darrell Miho is a freelance photographer based in Southern California. He previously worked as a lighting technician for Sports Illustrated before starting a freelance career. Miho will be leading a breakout class on small arena and gymnasium lighting at the Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau 2004 in November. For more information and a sample of his work, check out Miho's member page:

Related Links:
Darrell's member page

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