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|| News Item: Posted 2010-03-16

'Superman. Lone Gunman. One Man Band.'
Robert Hanashiro asked members to recount their experiences working solo at the Vancouver Winter Games.

By Gerry McCarthy, The Dallas Morning News

Photo by Gerry McCarthy / The Dallas Morning News

Photo by Gerry McCarthy / The Dallas Morning News

The United States' Evan Lysacek is applauded as he takes a victory lap with the American flag and his gold medal following the men's figure skating final in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
(Editor's note: USA TODAY staff photographer Robert Hanashiro recently returned home from shooting the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. They were his 12th for the Nation's Newspaper. He has never worked as a "Lone Gunman" at the Olympics - but secretly wishes he had. At least once. He decided to ask some of his friends what it was like last month in Vancouver.)

"So you're Superman too, huh?"

Those were the first words out of Chicago Tribune staffer Nuccio DiNuzzo's mouth when we met before the USA - China women's ice hockey game. Many of us there planned to leave that game early, and go from UBC Thunderbird Arena to Pacific Coliseum for the figure skating pairs short program.

We got lucky - the women's game was a 12-1 beater. Before I knew it, I was sprinting after "Nucc" and John Leyba of The Denver Post as we dashed in a frenzy from a media shuttle to a cab, all to hopefully get "decent shooting spots." That was only my second day of covering events and it set a tone for the rest of my experience.

Superman. Lone Gunman. One Man Band. We threw these masculinized nouns around to describe how we were dealing with being the only photo representatives from our respective newspapers at the Winter Olympics. It was my first time shooting the games, so I didn't have a huge frame of reference for what it might be like working with more staffers or on a team. It didn't take long though to see where the advantages lay.

I spent the first several days leaving early from my first event to make it to the second in time for that much sought-after "decent shooting spot." It was frustrating, but on a funny, nostalgic level, it reminded me of my first job out of college at The Paris News, where I spent many a night covering two prep sports games in one shift. Amusingly it was no less easy or frustrating now as it was back then.

Before I get any further, I should add that I had it pretty lucky as much of my shooting schedule in Vancouver was mapped out in advance. I spent most of my first week and-a-half at the Olympics knowing pretty much what each day might hold, thanks to a lot of pre-planning with sports photo editor and ADOP Chris Wilkins, and sports editor Keith Campbell. The few holes left in coverage plans were filled in pretty quickly by sports writer Kate Hairopoulos and columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor, who were also in Vancouver.

But with all that pre-planning still came compromises ... and some second guessing. I mean, you can't be at more than one place at a time, so when you hedge the bet and pick one event over another - only to find out the one you didn't pick was the story that day - it can be pretty frustrating.

"It is what it is."

Photo by Gerry McCarthy / The Dallas Morning News

Photo by Gerry McCarthy / The Dallas Morning News

An image from McCarthy's "Smurf Series," one of the many little things he did in Vancouver to keep creatively sane when he wasn't shooting ice events from an elevated position. More can be seen on his member page.
That pretty much became my mantra during 17 shooting days in British Columbia. If I went to short track to cover local athlete Jordan Malone, but later heard that at the same time Lindsey Vonn wrestled a wounded child from the clutches of an angry bear *after* winning gold in downhill - "It is what it is."

If I was late to figure skating because I had to stay for a whole hockey game, and was forced to shoot from the one position left, behind the Zamboni - "It is what it is." If I lost 10 minutes of shooting time because I was inside a port-a-potty, sobbing and thinking I'd just dropped my Olympics credential into the nasty poop hole (it was hanging in plain sight on the door) - "It is what it is."

No matter what, I had a great time. And having been through the experience, I kind of like that I was on my own up there. It wasn't the easiest way to learn the ropes, but the lessons I learned sure are going to stick.

(E.g.: Don't try to bring a rolling case on a ski lift unless you want to almost die; Don't have a bowl of Grape Nuts and bag of dried apricots for dinner if you have an early assignment in Whistler the next morning; Don't bring your whole backpack to your cramped shooting position.)

If I ever get the opportunity to shoot the Olympics again, it would be nice to go as a team, but at least I've done the solo thing before, and hopefully the next time I'll make less mistakes.

And take less out-of-focus pictures.

(Gerry McCarthy is a staff photojournalist with The Dallas Morning News. He previously worked at the Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune and The Paris (Texas) News. He is happily married, out of shape and balding, unable to leap tall buildings in a single bound. He was Joan of Arc in my former life.)

Related Links:
Gerry's member page

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