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|| News Item: Posted 2012-08-27

2012 Summer Olympics - Mike Blake
The Good. The Bad. And The British

By Mike Blake

Photo by Mike Blake

Photo by Mike Blake
London was my 12th Olympics shooting for Reuters. That may sound like I’m a totally old goat but truth be told I started young.

I’ll start with the BAD news … and it all centers around one thing; Backgrounds
Olympic photo manager Bob Martin did an amazing job opening up access to great overall positions , and those positions at certain venue sites did a spectacular job of creating locater pictures that put the games in London.

However, when it came to shooting the athletes and them performing, it became very obvious that TV has been intently watching what we do as photographers because they were pretty much always where we wanted to be. And rightly so, they pay for the games to happen. There would be no Olympics without that 4 billion TV contract, and London would not go to all the work of hosting the games if the world was just looking at pictures and reading about what happened on their phone.

The best example I can give you of this would be seeing a TV camera set up perfectly level and straight down the line of the gymnastics balance beam. This angle makes for compelling still or moving pictures and to add to that, looking straight down to the other end of the beam on the wall there were huge Olympic rings, wow, you have something that brings it all together….Except for the fact that TV drops another camera right in the middle of the rings, so they essentially destroy their one image because they want to have every angle covered. I guess to say it’s bad is unrealistic, it’s just the way it is, and we as photographers all made the best of it .

Oh yes, and the color: PINK. A wee bit too much PINK at the gymnastics venue.

Gear, the gear we used was nothing short of amazing. I’ve been shooting since the B&W and color film days and I’m totally blown away by our ability to capture what we see. It’s never been a better time to be a photographer… in the capturing of the image sense (not necessarily in the business of photography sense).

The Canon DX camera … GOOD; Canon 200-400 zoom, GOOD (built in TC 1.4 good), Robotic cameras good (I never used one, but we had a whole robotic department set up at the MPC and Fabrizio Bensch and Pawel Kopczynski @ Reuters will soon be working for NASA @ JPL no doubt.

Editing. As photographers we will always find something to complain about in any edit. In past Olympics we have had multiple editors editing multiple events at the same time. Due to new technology we were able to utilize real time editors all over the world to edit specific events that they were familiar with

For instance, Mike Segar shot basketball and his editor was Jeff Haynes in Chicago. I’m not sure how that worked for Jeff on the first game of the daytime wise, but the 10:30pm start time for the USA games made for an early evening in Chicago . At gymnastics, where I was based with a crew of Brian Snyder and Dylan Martinez, we had local editors at the MPC, Russell Boyce and John Voos who stayed with gymnastics from start to finish, so it worked amazingly well.

I covered the Women’s singles final at Wimbledon one day and my editor was Mike Fiala in Toronto. At the opening ceremonies my editor was Wolfgan Rattay in Berlin. All in real time, all spot on , all good. Canon and Nikon were there and took good care of us with gear and repairs, all good.

But without a doubt the best thing about shooting an Olympics is seeing all the other photographers you know from all over the world. Whether it’s a chat on a bus ride or a quick meal between sessions at an event , this is a great community of like-minded people and it’s amazing to see the pictures everyone was shooting, just some amazing images being set out across the planet every day.

Photo by Mike Blake

Photo by Mike Blake
I think Sebastian-Coe, chairman of the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, said it best at the closing ceremonies. When it came time to host the Games: “We did it right”. And they did.

The British people, their humor at the opening ceremonies, the Queen and Mr. Bond, Mr. Bean, the NHS hospital bit, and the music, the music tied it all together. At every venue MUSE was playing “Survival” along with a great video of moving still pictures from Olympics past, it was hip and artistic. At the opening ceremonies the music that the British have given us over the years was played and it was incredible to just take in.

Other than getting lost at 3am on a bus from the opening ceremonies, the bus system was spot on. The tube was a great alternative to get around as well. London is an amazing city, and they dressed it up very appropriately to host the Game.

Make no mistake, as a photographer the Olympics is a grind. A marathon of image opportunities intertwined with back to back 18-hour days, a heavy lack of sleep, Sherpa like duties of hauling gear all combined with stiff competition from the best of the best photographers from around the globe. But the British made it all hospitable, they made us welcome and they made me laugh through the rough spots; cause we really all do need to “Look on the bright side of life”.

Mike Blake is a Reuters staff photographer based in Southern California. You can see examples of his work at his Sports Shooter member page:

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