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|| News Item: Posted 2006-01-25

Getting Ready for Torino
By Erich Schlegel, Dallas Morning News

Photo by Erich Schlegel / Dallas Morning News

Photo by Erich Schlegel / Dallas Morning News

Bode Miller (USA) skiis to a second place finish at the World Cup in Beaver Creek, CO.
I love the Winter Olympics! My first experience was in Albertville, France in 1992, and I haven't missed one yet! Most of the people I see at The Games are veterans as well, so any advice given here is meant for any newbies out there. I'll keep it to three key factors: health & fitness, clothing, and gear.

Health & Fitness
No matter how well you prepare gear-wise, if you're sick in bed, you ain't doin' nobody any good! So many photographers got sick the second week in Nagano, the year I freelanced the Games, that I was able to get day rate assignments from Time and Newsweek.

You gotta be healthy and you gotta be fit. Even if you start now (Jan. 1), it will make a huge difference how you perform in February. It isn't so important for the city events (speedo-skato, hockey, etc.), but it sure is at 8,000ft. for the mountain events. The first time you have to walk up the bobsled/luge run, you'll see! You're carrying all this crap and trying not to fall on your ass doing it. It will be so much easier and safer if you are in shape. Not only cardio-wise, but strength-wise in your legs and shoulders. Most of us will be using those nifty NPS backpacks from the SLC Games. What, yours blew out? Hah! I'm still using mine!

Keep fueled, eat more! Your body is burning more energy that usual trying to keep warm and get you up and down mountains. Rick Rickman and I like to stuff our faces with two full entrees at the ski lodge, right Rick?

Drink as much water as you can. Four liters a day is good. Of course, that means more trips to the bathroom or the woods, but it will help keep you from getting altitude sickness. A real danger if you are based in the mountains for the two weeks like me. Your body gets dehydrated quickly at altitude, especially if you are sleeping there for an extended period of time. Keep hydrated. I don't think beer and wine count!

You gotta keep warm. The secret to shooting well and comfortably is staying healthy and keeping warm. You can't shoot good if you are miserable. Most of this is personal preference, but the basic idea is to layer. Most publications/agencies allow for a clothing budget so tell your paper that it's normal.

At a recent World Cup skiing event in Beaver Creek, Colorado, I wore (top and bottoms) lightweight synthetic underwear, fleece mid layer, and a waterproof/breathable outer shell. I was pretty toasty despite the cold. Those underarm "pit zips" help air things out if it gets too warm. For the outdoor stuff I like a windproof hat that covers my ears and fits under my jacket hood. I use two gloves: one Gore-Tex pair for waiting and skiing, and a liner-type pair for shooting. Other options include a balaclava (not the dessert), neoprene facemask that covers the nose and hand warmers.

A basic item newbies may not consider, but are mandatory for alpine skiing are crampons. They are required to shoot on course. During the women's downhill in SLC, we all watched in horror as a photographer fell on course due to wearing improper crampons. To make matters worse, a snowboarder lost control above him, fell, just missed a tree and landed on the photographer being worked on by ski patrol. Both of them could easily have been killed! Get the kind with front points and anti-balling plates to keep snow from accumulating on the soles. If you don't ski and take the lift up and walk down, they are especially important. They make them for snow boots so get them before you leave.

A nifty item that has saved me is a pair of small instep crampons I use around the bobsled/luge track. They have two small spikes that fit in front of the heal of your boot and will keep you off your ass (not good carrying a load of gear).

Gear is gear so bring what you normally shoot with. CPS and NPS are there and always provide excellent support! Consider a digital camera battery for those outdoor events where the cold will zap your ditcam batteries. I keep my extra ones inside my fleece jacket pockets. Guess it helps. For alpine events you might need some really long glass. In the SLC men's downhill, the standard jump shot throw was a 600 f/4 with a 2x converter!

Some last bits of advice:
Be patient. Security lines are always long (but never as bad as they say they will be). Bus rides are long (but a great way to sleep off that late night). By the way, they are ALL late nights. Keep a positive attitude. So you missed that shot, so what! Forget about it and get out there and make up for it. We all miss shots. Hell, this ain't an easy job! Don't worry about how they are running (or not) your pictures back home. You can't do anything about it in Italy anyway, so forget it! Don't even look at the papers if you can help it. Save it for when you get back and then lay into them if you want.

Go for a different angle. Try to avoid the pack and get something that no one else has. That's why they sent you isn't it? I am trying something very cool and different and will be badass if I pull it off.

Most of all, have fun! You'll shoot better pictures and enjoy the experience with a positive attitude. However, save the craziness for after Closing Ceremonies. You know, sliding down the ski jump hill at 2 a.m., or sliding down the luge track on aluminum scaffolding. Yep, better save that 'till after.

I'll be based in Sauze d'Oulx and covering most of the mountain events while Smiley Pool is down in town, so look us up! Please contact me if you have any questions.

(Erich Schlegel is a Senior Staff Photographer with the Dallas Morning News. This is his fifth Winter Olympic Games.)

Related Links:
Erich's member page

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