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|| News Item: Posted 2008-09-04

Olympic Moments: Donald Miralle
'Wine from water.'

By Donald Miralle

Photo by Donald Miralle / Newsweek

Photo by Donald Miralle / Newsweek
There were many great moments and amazing photos that I saw come out of these Olympic Games by so many different photographers. It was humbling and inspirational to see the gathering of the best photographic talent on the planet, shooting, editing, and blogging their way through 16-plus days of hell.

I think these Olympics, however gift-wrapped the presentation of Beijing was by our hosts, will go down as an unbelievable spectacle that will be hard to top, especially by London in 2012.

Of all the amazing stories and records I witnessed, including Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt who stole most of the spotlight of the Games, my favorite photo I shot came from a lesser story.

The one sport other than swimming that I can relate to most at the Olympic Games is the Triathlon. I don't consider myself a true triathlete, but I compete in about 3-4 sprint races a year. I think when you compete in or follow any sport, you know the nuances of that sport very well.

I've been fortunate enough to have covered some of the great TRI races including the Hawaii Ironman, multiple Olympics and Pan-American Games, and the Escape from Alcatraz to name a few. But no matter what the setting of the race, I usually follow the same formula; that is shoot the swim from the water (using a housing), follow the bike and run on a motorcycle, and get to the finish line before the leaders do.

At the Beijing Olympics, I planned to do the same, but in the end didn't have the access to the water and motorcycle that I usually have at races. I think on this day, as many days at the Beijing Olympics this time around, not having the usual access was a blessing in disguise. It forced me to look for photos that I wouldn't usually shoot; in this case it was a water station photo. A water station hadn't given me a good frame in a triathlon since the 2000 Ironman and the only reason that happened was because there was screaming light and I had some Velvia in the camera. But on this day, by the time the competitors were on their run leg, the light was getting pretty harsh overhead and I was already heading toward the finish line to get the winners.

On my way there, I stopped for literally a minute at the water station, just trying to line up a pretty boring shot of the athletes grabbing water bottles on their last lap with the Ming Tomb in the background. I found myself gravitating towards this landmark in most of my earlier photos because it was the only thing on the course that really said "China" as the rest of the course looked like an amusement park.

After taking a handful of shots at F8 / 1000 sec with 250ASA to try to add more depth of field to the photo and at the same time freeze the water droplets, I rushed to the finish line scrum. On the bus back to the MPC, I was editing my photos and I realized how lucky I was to capture a nice water splash and Tomb composed between the silver medalist of the race and a hand of the volunteer.

But it wasn't until NEWSWEEK Director of Photographer Simon Barnett pointed out to me later that evening that the water formed the shape of the wine glass served by a volunteer's hand in a white glove akin to that of a butler's, that I felt the shot was was like wine from water.

If I shot this picture a thousand times in similar circumstances, I probably wouldn't capture it again exactly the same way, which is why I really like the frame. It was a "decisive moment" that I didn't see in my viewfinder nor planned for, but came together because of chance to make the picture work. But sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

Related Links:
Miralle's member page

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