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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2006-03-02

Leading Off: Grazie Torino
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Short Track Speed Skating Scene: Korea's Jin Sun-Yu slips and falls and takes out Anouk Leblanc-Boucher of Canada and Cecilia Maffei of Italy at the start of the women's 5000 meter relay "A" Final. At far left is Tianyu Fu of China.
I have this Olympic fantasy, I am in an exotic foreign country, covering the biggest sporting event in the world.

In the mornings I awake to the smell of our staff chef cooking our breakfast in the penthouse suite we're living in. After finishing my coffee, my photo assistant picks up my gear and we head out to a waiting sedan that whisks us through the near empty streets to a venue where we're dropped off in front of a door labeled "Photographers ONLY". Security glances at my credential ("EP-S" … the "S" stands for special) and we're waved through to the field of play where a photo position is labeled with a pre-printed placard that reads "Mister Hanashiro".

The available light is an even 1/1250 @ f/4 at ASA 400. During the game, polite Olympic volunteers bring by snacks, water, start lists (known in the U.S. as rosters) and running stats. After the game, I go to the photo workroom, where a picture editor is sitting in a comfortable leather club chair, transmitting my photographs on a dedicated T-3 line while chatting with his wife and children via iSight video conference on a second computer.

After a late lunch, my personal car takes me to another event that is similarly set up. By 8:15 pm we're done shooting and editing and deciding where to dine. I remember that I have a 10:00 Jacuzzi and massage appointment back at the suite, so we decide on a little café that is just around the corner.

By 11 I am tucked into my king-size bed, using a remote control to turn down the lights and lower the volume on the 50-inch plasma screen TV in the corner.

I say to myself "What a day …"

Fantasy indeed! (Only NBC anchors … or SI photographers … have it that good.)


* * *


A friend told me years ago that covering the Olympics is a marathon, not a sprint. But times have changed or maybe it's advancing age creeping in and now I think the opposite.

The recently completed Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy was not unlike most of the other 9 Olympics I have covered in my career. Fears that venues won't be completed, traffic will be a snarling mess. The food will suck and the Olympic bus system will fail more than it runs on time are all topics we like to hash over and over before ALL Olympics.

Journalists … photographers included … love to bitch. And every two years, those of us fortunate to be sent off to cover the Olympics will bitch. I am certainly not innocent of that.

But the theory that you're in this event for the long haul doesn't seem to hold true to me … it seems that we were "sprinting" each and every day. There was no pacing yourself like a marathon.

For 17 days it's a mad dash to get to venues ahead of the competition. Get in line first for field of play bibs and get to the door ahead of the pack to get the remaining decent photo spots not already snapped up by the IOP (International Olympic Pool).

(A veteran SI photographer challenging a USA TODAY staffer to a foot race to see who could get the first spot at figure skating one afternoon is illustrative of that.)

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Vincent Laforet rests his eyes in Torino.
I think it is safe to say that the Olympic Experience for photographers can be divided into three distinct time frames: The time before Opening Ceremony; the first 10 days of competition and the last week of the Games.

When you're sent early as I was along with my USA TODAY colleagues photographer Bob Deutsch and assistant director of photography Julia Schmalz, your job in "setting up" isn't so much "building shelves" as it is getting familiar with the surroundings, the venues and glad-handling the venue managers and most importantly the photo managers.

Knowing access points and photo positions is great stuff to share with the rest of your staff (and with other photographers who aren't fortunately enough to send advance crews) but putting in the "face time" with the people that run the day-to-day operations in the venues is what's REALLY important. (After all, the access points and photo positions are bound to be changed anyway.)

The excitement of being in a new city and country is cool… exploring, finding nice places to eat and shop, sightseeing and meeting the locals makes our job what it is.

Each day is new. Each day you're probably going to a different place, whether it's to check out another venue or shoot a "scene" feature.

As the rest of the troops slowly pour into town, you're "Da Man" because you have this cool info to share with your colleagues and you show off by taking them to a new restaurant each evening. Lots of laughing. Lots of good times. Life's good.

But Opening Ceremony is now a day away and the following morning: IT starts. The Sprint.

The first week of the games is where you establish your way of working. Like deciding if you want to take the 8:15 or the 8:30 MPC bus (to the appropriately named Lingotto Cluster. Or it could be changing how you pack your gear. Or even shedding gear that you brought but now know is useless. Even better yet, figuring out a quicker digital workflow or streamlining how much you edit and transmit late at night … because the longer you transmit, you discover the less sleep you're gonna get that night!

The games that are played between the venue staff and the photographers are now out in the open and the competition between photographers … friendly and not so friendly … is also evident.

(I will make only one comment here on Olympic buses: I only ride buses every two years, meaning the only time is when I'm at Olympics. I hate buses and it seems buses hates me. There are stairs to climb to get in - not easy with a roller with long glass AND a backpack - and there's no place to put your gear because it's usually pretty full. The only thing that keeps me sane on an Oly buses and my mind occupied so I can't think up more things to bitch about is a Blackberry. The 'berry filled the 45-50 minute bus ride each morning to the MPC, allowing me to keep in contact with my family and friends back home. 'Nuff said.)

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Men's curling: The USA's Shawn Rojeski (left) and John Shuster as a blur across the ice as they sweep in front of the stone during the USA's match with New Zealand.
The first week in Torino is when I was assigned two full days of shooting curling. Curling has been made fun in the ss.com message board and questioned as to its place as an Olympic sport. But I will say that after spending about 22 hours covering the sport, it was in the easiest venue to work at this Olympics, with plenty of light, many varied photo positions and an easygoing staff of photo marshals.

The photos can be graphic because of the markings and color on the sheets (the ice the competition is held on) and there are plenty of opportunities to "play" … i.e. use pans, blurs and zooms. And that's because like bowling, there are 10 frames (or in curling terminology 10 ends) … so you have 16 shots at it (each of the team members tosses two rocks per end, each team has four players). The repetitive nature of curling could make the uninitiated a little … bored. What passes as emotion during the game is the screaming a player might do after tossing the rock as they bark orders to the sweepers … the Canadians and Germans seemed best at this. For the American's a raised voice by USA men's skip (the team captain) Pete Fenson had to do.

What passes as "jubo" during curling is a flip of the hand in the air after the rock settles into the house, the area on the sheet painted like a target where points are scored. But trust me … after watching this sport closely for two full days, the skill involved in throwing a 42-pound stone across 142-foot long sheet of ice and placing it precisely where they want it is … well, a sport. A couple of pieces of advice on shooting curling: take your extenders. Shoot tight and shoot details, shapes and patterns. And drink lots of Italian coffee. You'll survive.

The days in the first week go fast. (Unless you're at curling for the entire time.)

The second week of competition, through your departure a day or two after the Closing Ceremony draaaaaaaags. The Sprint you do each day is becoming more and more tiresome.

You're staying out late because … you can! Torino has fabulous restaurants near both the MPC and the Verolingo/Mortara media housing complexes. These restaurants have wonderful food, are open very late --- the owner of Il Barrone when I asked him how late he was open while standing in his doorway at 2am, shrugged his shoulders and said "Whenever everyone leaves." --- but you're not getting a helluva lot of sleep.

During the final days of competition it's common to see photographers taking little naps ("just resting my eyes" as my dad would say) … on buses, in venues or sprawled out under tables in photo workrooms.

The great coffee …even in the vending machines for 1.50 euros! … becomes your lifeblood.

Personally, this is the time of the games I get cranky because I'm tired and I miss my family. I've been away from home nearly three weeks. An occasional insomniac anyway, the late nights covering events like speed skating combined with a couple of shots of coffee has me up hours later than most.

Doubts creep into a wandering, sleep-deprived mind. I also think that my choice of reading material on this trip contributed to my introspective mood on occasion … "Deep In a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker". It's a depressing book on the life of jazz trumpeter and hopeless heroin addict Chet Baker. I finally had to put it down midway through the last week of the Olympics when I got to passage after passage of drug busts throughout Italy. (I think the only city in Italy he didn't get busted in was Torino!)

Frustration is another thing to cope with … at least it is with me during the final days of the Olympics.

It seems the decisions you're making aren't right or the ones being made for you aren't.

For instance during the women's short track 3000 meter relay "A" final I decided to shoot the start at 1/15 of a second. My thinking is that it would look cool compressed across the track shooting with the 300mm and NOBODY crashed at the start of a distance replay.

You guessed it … CRASH CITY in the first 25 feet of the race. All captured at 1/15 of a second!

Now the really bad news: I'm working on a FULL PHOTO PAGE on short track speed skating and editors are looking for a good crash photo for a lede.

Yikes!!! I cannot win for losing the last week of the Olympics!

Now I don't want to paint a totally depressing picture of my Olympic experience in Torino … after all , the food, like I said, was good, so not all was lost.

Honestly, there are many, many great things I experienced and participated in during my nearly month-long stay in Italy:

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

LEFT: USA TODAY's Bob Deutsch stands in for Chad Hedrick and Eric Heiden. RIGHT: U.S. speedskater Chad Hedrick photographed with Eric Heiden, winner of five gold medals at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.
• I had not one but two wonderful portrait sessions in Torino with long tracker Chad Hedrick. I had met Hedrick months before in Salt Lake City working on a pre-Olympic portrait project and found him funny, friendly and easy to photograph, not to mention just a really nice guy. The perfect subject. The first portrait was in a buffer zone outside of the Athletes Village with 5-time gold medal winner Eric Heiden. What to do, what to do? With Bob Deutsch assisting, we came up with a variation on a theme I used for my SLC portrait of Hedrick … instead of the American flag reflected in his sunglasses we reflected the Olympic rings. The second portrait was the day with his family after he won the gold medal in the 5,000 meters. It was fun to photograph him during a happy time, but more fun to listen to him talk to his mom and sister about whom to invite and how to get them to the medal ceremony that night.

• Watching great photographers work day in and day out is ALWAYS a treat for me. Guys like Smiley Pool from the Dallas Morning News, Wally Skalij from theLos Angeles Times, Dave Black shooting for Newsweek, Dave Klutho from Sports Illustrated, Dean Rutz from the Seattle Time and Doug Mills and Vincent Laforet from the New York Time. And getting to work with my good buddy Bob Deutsch on almost a daily basis was not just a treat but showed me how much more I need to learn. All of these guys were inspirational, of good cheer and fun to be with. Watching and learning made the trip worth it just for that…

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Mike Blake and David Klutho at hockey in Torino.
• You can teach an old dog new tricks: At my first ice hockey shooting through the glass I couldn't get a damned thing sharp. When I talked to Reuters staffer Mike Blake about it after the first period he just told me mater-of-fact that all I needed to do was crank up my ASA a bit and stop down to f/3.2 or 3.5 and "it'll make all the difference in the world". I stopped down to f/4 to be on the safe side and voila! Sharp photos. (At least sharp for me!) It was amazing what just a small amount of stopping down did to sharpen thing up.

• Almost 30 years separate Oleg, a 19-year-old local college student working for us in Torino and me. We were in a car together when an Eagles song came on the radio. He sighed and said "Oh, I looove the Eagles." I looked at him like he was nuts! I said you're a kid, how can you like old farts like the Eagles? I then asked him who his favorite group is. "That is easy," he replied quickly, "Jethro Tull!" Ohmygod! I thought. So who else did Oleg listen to? In order of preference: Pink Floyd. The Stones. CCR. Pete Townsend and the Who ("Who's Next is THE BEST record" he exclaimed). He didn't know anything about Emerson, Lake and Palmer, so I guess there's a little bit of a difference between us … besides 30 years.

• The little things you see around town or the kindness of the locals are things I remember most. Like an Olympic volunteer in his 60's dancing around behind the cheer leaders while they were rehearsing before a short track session. Two volunteers searching doggedly for my lost keys and cellphone (left at security in the stupid red bin). A waitress in Il Barrone translating the menu for the 10th time for Deutsch. The loving care the owner of café Il Bicerin takes in making us her signature drink, the bicerin … a combination of coffee, liquid chocolate and cream layered in a large glass.

• American curler Jamie Johnson coming up to me in an overhead photo position at the USA - Russia ice hockey game to say hello and chat. I had shot a portrait of her in her hometown on Bemidji, MN for a pre-Olympic feature and found her and the rest of the team fun to be with, sort of like a group of sorority sisters. I asked how she was doing and she said quietly "we're done" meaning they had been eliminated from the competition. We chatted for a few more minutes until she said she had to get back to her teammates and family. I called out to her as she left "I'll see you in four years!". She broke into a smile as she left.


* * *

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

From left: Wally Skalij, unknown shooter, Bob Deutsch and Vincent Laforet at skating in Torino.
This issue of the Sports Shooter Newsletter features a series of essays addressing the topic of "Is Film Dead?" Freelance photographer Matt Mendelsohn, Trent Nelson, chief photographer of the Salt Lake Tribune, Robert Seale of the Sporting News and Brian Davies of the Eugene Register-Guard contributed to this project.

Brad Mangin gives us an insider's look at one of the rights of Spring Training … photo day.

G.J. McCarthy contributes another "Sports Shooter Conversation" and in this installment, gives the Q & A treatment to Colin Mulvany of the Spokane Statesman-Review on his transition from still photography to multi-media and video.

Freelance photographer Darrell Miho recounts from Hawaii the huge credential flap with the LPGA and his involvement.

Porter Binks of Sports Illustrated writes about the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, the site of the NCAA Men's Final Four.

AND … I have a little announcement on the return of a traditional Sports Shooter fall event … with a small twist or two.

So sit back, adjust the brightness on your monitor, turn up the volume on Chet Baker's "Let's Get Lost" and enjoy Sports Shooter v.88.


Acknowledgements
As always, thanks to Special Advisors & Contributors: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Rick Rickman, Rod Mar, Vincent Laforet, Trent Nelson, Jason Burfield, Grover Sanschagrin, Joe Gosen, The Photodude, Reed Hoffmann, Anne Ryan, Darren Carroll and Bob Deutsch.

Thanks this month to: Matthew Mendelsohn, Robert Seale, Brian Davies, Darrell Miho and Porter Binks.

I welcome any comments, corrections, suggestions and contributions. Please e-mail me at bert@sportsshooter.com.

The Sports Shooter Archives as well as tons of cool resources and information can be accessed through the Internet at http://www.SportsShooter.com.

Use of the content of the Sports Shooter Newsletter is prohibited without the expressed written permission of The Big Kahuna and the author of the article.

Opinions, rants, raves, insults and praise whether intend or not, are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sports Shooter and public sensibilities.

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Contents copyright 2017, SportsShooter.com. Do not republish without permission.
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