My Favorite 20 Images and Why

These are my favorite 20 images from Sochi.  They might not be the best pictures I took but they are my favorite images, in no particular order:

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Canada’s Noah Bowman warms-up before his first run for the finals of the Men’s Ski Halfpipe at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014.

This was my favorite day for the Winter Olympics, it was the first time I was at the Winter Olympics that it FELT like the Winter Olympics. As huge snowflakes were coming down, I hiked up to the top of the halfpipe to shoot the warm-ups and the first of two runs for the finals. There was some railing I was standing behind, about nine feet back from the lip, I leaned over and put my camera over the railing for a lower angle, so I wasn’t looking through the viewfinder when I took this picture. A happy accident to get him right in front of the light, we just had to guess where the skiers would be doing their jumps because it wasn’t the same every time.  I started my love of photography shooting skiing growing up in Colorado. This was back in the early 90s and it is cool to see how the sport has progressed. To be able to photograph the first ever Men’s Ski Halfpipe and see an American win was a great treat.

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Gold medalist Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova, right, and bronze medalist Italy’s Carolina Kostner pose for a picture following their flower ceremony for Ladies Free Skating at the Iceberg Palace for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014.

I like this picture because it shows their personality. Italy’s Carolina Kostner, left, had just won bronze, and Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova, right, had won the gold. After the flower ceremony they skated around the rink to celebrate and have their picture taken. Here they posed for a picture by someone in the coaches area.  I was sitting in shooting position A – which is on one of the ends of the rink, right above the coaches area and kinda of behind and to the right (when looking at) the “kiss and cry” area.

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People hangout in front of a fountain in downtown Sochi, Russia on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014.

One of the first days that I was in Sochi I actually went to downtown Sochi, it’s about 17 miles north of the Olympic Park, it took about 40 minutes by train.  A great train ride, a little slow, but it winds the coast of the Black Sea.  It was great to see Sochians (is that a word) celebrating the Olympics (the Olympic Torch had just gone through their city) and everyone seemed to be in a happy and excited mood.

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USA’s Sage Kotsenburg performs during his first run during the semifinals of Men’s Slopestyle at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014.

Mark Reis from the Colorado Springs Gazette showed another photographer (Paul Kitagaki for Zuma) and me a picture similar to this one and told us about this location at the extreme park, so we had to hike up and try and capture it as well. It was a decent hike up there, the weather was warm and sunny.  The only way we knew when a snowboarder was coming down was when the tv guy at the top of the hill started to move, because standing at the bottom of the hill we could see nothing.  Snowboarders could take a jump to the left or right of this doll but luckily most decided to go over the doll.  I lucked out because in this picture it’s a USA guy, who happened to win the gold medal and if he isn’t touching the doll he’s super close to it, most were very far away.

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Russia’s Elena Ilnykh gets a kiss following the Team Figure Skating compeition at the Ice Berg Skating Palace in Sochi, Russia on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014. Katsalapov was part of the team that won gold for the team competition.

I just like this moment.  In the background – just to the left of the guy kissing the girl, the half-head, is a blurry Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Russian fans cheer after Russia’s Evgeny Plyushchenko finished his performance for the Team Men Free Skating at the Ice Berg Skating Palace in Sochi, Russia on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014.

Wow is that little Russian girl excited!  They were pretty far away from me but after Plyushchenko performance I looked for some crowd reaction – stumbled upon these two.

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Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch heads down the course for the downhill during for the the Ladies’ Super Combined at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014.

I hiked up the mountain with another photographer – the only other option was to sit at the finish line – which I typically need to do because we usually only get to photograph one run and we want to get the reaction at the bottom.  Since this was the Super Combined they did one run of downhill in the morning and one run of slalom in the afternoon.  I photographed this with a slightly slow shutter speed – 1/200 of a second to get a little blur in the background which helps gives the skier a sense of speed.

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USA’s Julia Mancuso competes in the Women’s Super Combined Slalom at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014.

This was shot from the finish line – we were really far away. As we were waiting for the skiers to come down and get into a decent size in the frame I noticed skiers popping in and out of the trees – I wish that grey pole, on the left, which is a light pole, wasn’t there but I do like the skier in the trees.

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Switzerland’s Dominique Gisin reacts after finishing her run in the Ladies Downhill at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. She tied for gold with Slovakia’s Tina Maze.

I didn’t see a lot of great faces but this was one of them. I didn’t see it for very long either because I was in the second row of a very tight shooting spot at the finish line of the Alpine Center, I got only got off a few frames before I was blocked.

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USA’s David Backes (42) celebrates his goal against Slovakia goalkeeper Jaroslav Halak (41) in the second period for their preliminary round at the Shayba Arena for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014.

Hockey, like soccer, there is a lot of guessing as to where things are going to happen. I was sitting in my ice level position and was lucky enough to see USA’s David Backes celebrate his goal my direction.

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France’s Thomas Mermillod Blondin heads down the final jump during his downhill run for the Men’s Super Combined at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014.

Another picture from the finish line. I liked the visual of the mountains in the background.

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Workers prepare the course for the Women’s Super G at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014.

As I walked out of the press work area and headed to the finish line for the Men’s Super Combined I looked up and saw workers preparing the course for the next day’s race, the Women’s Super G.

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A stray dog sleeps next to a playground in downtown Adler, Russia on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014.

This was for the stray dog assignment we did, Elliott Almond wrote the story – there are a lot of stray dogs around the Olympic Park and some athletes were even adopting some of the younger dogs. We didn’t have access to the athletes so I went to Adler to look for stray dogs. I walked around the town and ran into a few, this one was taking a nap in front of a kids play area. The light isn’t very good but I like the fact that obviously the parents felt comfortable with the dogs around.  The dogs here have all been very sweet and most will let you pet them and they generally look well-fed and they never growled when they saw you.

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Latvia heads down turn five for the Two-man Bobsleigh at the Sliding Center Sanki for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014.

Photographed with a fisheye lens here is Latvia heading down the course. We were allowed amazingly close to the bobsled track. I could have literally reached out and touched the sled.  Bobsled, even though I have only photographed it a few times is one of the more fun, because it’s so visual, and challenging, because it’s so fast, winter sports to photograph.

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Men’s Snowboard Cross was delayed due to fog at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014.

When I reached the Rosa Khutor Exteme Park it was foggy, real foggy. So I went out and took some fog pictures. Afterwards I was resting in the media center waiting to find out if they were going to even race (they did not, it was postponed until the next morning) reporter Elliott Almond came up to me and said, and I’m paraphrasing here “I’m doing a fog story, do you think you can take some fog pictures.” It was great to say – I’ve already taken them! This was a couple up in the stands, I stood behind him, the man on the left turned around and waved at me and then waved the flag.

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Russia heads down turn 10 for Heat 3 of the Two-man Bobsleigh at the Sliding Center Sanki for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014.

Another bobsled picture, this time of Russia heading down turn 10. Bobsled is a great visual sport, but hard to photograph because they go so fast. This was the final for the Men’s Two-man Bobsleigh. Luckily the final started just before dusk so I was able get some light in the sky – just a few minutes later the sky would be pitch black.

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A Russian fan watches Russia-2 head down the track for Heat 4 of the Two-man Bobsleigh at the Sliding Center Sanki for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014.

A young fan at the finish line of the Men’s Two-man Bobsleigh. They were watching the Russian’s two-man team on a big screen television and cheering for them, here she waits for a split-time to be posted.

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People wander around during a weather delay in Men’s Snowboard Cross at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014.

This picture doesn’t have much to do with anything, I saw it after taking the fog features. I was leaving the stands and as I’m walking down the stairs I’m amazed at the scaffolding that is put up, it’s crazy the amount that is used. I just liked the lines that the scaffolding made, it’s like a scaffolding maze, it’s very impressive to see it from the outside and more so from the inside.

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USA’s Alex Deibold is carried by teammates after winning the bronze medal for the Men’s Snowboard Cross at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014.

Apparently this guy wasn’t that great at snowboard cross.  In Vancouver he didn’t make the team but was invited to go as a wax technician.  So when he won a bronze medal he was excited and so were his teammates, they ran out and mobbed him and eventually a couple lifted him onto their shoulders.  I shot this from the handicap area, which was in the front row of the stands slightly elevated.  It’s always good to see raw emotion.

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Heat 4 of the quarterfinals in the Men’s Snowboard Cross at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014.

This was a miserable day – it was at the Men’s Snowboard Cross, it was raining, cold rain, my least favorite weather to photograph in. This had been postponed from the day before due to fog. I had shot a few different events at the Extreme Park and decided to go for a different angle and I walked up to the top of the spectator stands. Because it was raining, and this was the rescheduled event, the stands were pretty empty. We are allowed to shoot from any spectator seat as long as we are not blocking anyone. I looked way up to the top of the mountain and I could see them for a second or two before they disappeared behind a hill. I like all the little people hanging out throughout the frame.

Thank you for reading.

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It Wasn’t Horrible

It’s over and it’s a weird feeling to be working like crazy (though the last few days weren’t too bad) and then come to a screeching halt.  I must say it is awesome to not be lugging gear around with me.  Spent yesterday cruising around Sochi  with Paul, Scott, Jeff, Mark and Dan.  Mark and Dan took off today so it was Paul, Scott, AAron, Jeff and I.  We ran into photo manager Rich Lam as we were getting on the 125 bus for Adler, he has been here since the beginning of January – I know he is ready to go home!  I’m looking forward to seeing Linda, my family and friends and having the comforts of home.

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This is the first Olympics I have done where I can honestly say I have zero interest in coming back to visit.  I actually went with my family four years before the 2004 Olympics in Greece to visit Athens and the various antiquities throughout the country.  I would go back for sure.  Beijing in 2008, I went the year before to do pre-Olympic stories.  I would visit there again.  Vancouver – one of my favorite cities and Blackcomb is a great ski resort.  I think I had been there on vacation three times before the 2010 Olympics.  London, a very cool city and would love to explore it more.  Sochi – it’s really nice here, but I have no interest in revisiting.  The mountains are great and the city up there, Krasnaya Polyana, is quite impressive, like a mini-Vail, but the snow looks really bad.

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What worked:

Security:  The fact that there were no major incidents makes that, in my mind, a great success.  The “ring of steel” worked.  Apparently even if you lived in Russia you needed a visa just to get down to Sochi.  Only Sochi residents were allowed to drive in Sochi.  If you weren’t a resident then you’d be taking the bus or train.  Security at the train station was very strict – you weren’t even allowed to bring glass on the plane!  So if you bought a glass souvenir in town, like a shot glass, they would confiscate it at the station!  No one was allowed to drive near the Olympic Park, unless they were a bus driver or else in an officially marked “Sochi 2014” car or a taxi.  Lots of x-ray machines and security personal.  The amazing thing is that, besides the first day, I never saw a gun again, well besides the rocket launchers (or whatever heavy artillery was out by the Alpine Center).  Were the security concerns a overblown?  I think a tiny bit, telling people not to wear anything USA related around town was a little much.  Regular citizens seemed friendly enough, I wish I spoke some Russian because several wanted to strike up conversations.  But I guess better to be safe than sorry.

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Photo managers:  They have always been great and professional at all Olympics and this one was no different.  Rich Lam ran a great bobsled venue and Steve Dykes did great at hockey.  The other venue managers were great as well.

The buses (this was also negative):  The TM3 (the bus from the hotel to the MPC) was amazing during the day, I never waited more than five minutes – after midnight it was a disaster.

Venues:  For the most part great – Olympic Park was great to have so many venues right next to each other.  We would go through security once and we would be good anywhere else in the park.  you’d have to wave your badge while exiting and leaving a venue but you didn’t have to do an X-ray or metal detector.

Photo spots:  Pretty good, not great.  Some venues, like alpine skiing were tough, other venues, like hockey, were great, plenty of spots.  Figure skating was great.  I rarely had any problems getting into shooting spots or and never any problems getting tickets for events for the big events.  Bill Hancock with the USOC was as helpful as ever in getting me tickets for popular events.

US Photographers:  it’s always fun to see people you know in exotic locations.  I mainly hung out with Sean, Paul, Scott, Daniel, Mark, and Mark.  Teaming up to cover events really helps me to figure out what I can do and what I can’t do.  Ran into a ton of other people from other organizations – too many to list but it’s always great to see a friendly face.

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My coworkers:  Reporter Elliott Almond and columnist Mark Purdy and editor Mark Conley (in San Jose) and our picture editors back in Walnut Creek (actually I think they may be in Pleasanton now?) Jami Smith and Cindi Cristie.  My bosses Michael Malone and Nick Lammers.  It was great to hear from coworkers like Patrick Tehan.  It was also great to hear from reporters who said that we were doing a good job and even our executive editor let us know he was happy with our work – so that was great.

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And what didn’t work so well:

The food (caution some complaining will be done here):  Okay food is bad at every Olympics.  But this one was so bad it’s not even funny.  I ended up eating McDonald’s twice a day for a week and half!  Towards the end of that I literally gagged at the thought of eating a cheeseburger, amazingly I had reached my threshold of fast food.  We walked around and saw some great markets with amazing fresh fruit and food.  Wouldn’t it be great if local vendors were brought in to make fresh cuisine – instead they have a company like Aramark (not sure if that was this case this year, but it has been in years past) come in and serve cafeteria style food.  When you ordered food in the cafeteria they would place it on a plastic plate and then microwave the food – the microwave was sitting right no the counter!  Every drink, like a coke, was luke warm, I guess they don’t like cold drinks.  If the food wasn’t horrible I was so happy, I would actually say that – “this isn’t horrible.”

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The buses:  After midnight the TM3 showed up either every 30 minutes or an hour.  Often a TM3 bus would pull in drop off and then just leave.  That was frustrating after a long day when we just wanted to get back to the hotel.  The trip to the mountains took forever – what would normally be an hour trip to Alpine (if driving) would take four buses and 2 1/2 hours.  A lot of time the volunteers would take the media bus instead of their workforce bus – often making what would have been a decent ride into one where we were packed in like sardines.  One time, in a packed TM10 bus, about half full of workforce people, I had almost decided to place my gear in the aisle but decided to leave it on my lap.  Good thing I did because about 15 minutes into the trip a girl right behind me projectile vomited all over the aisle.  I felt bad for her but I would have been most unhappy she had done that on my camera!

Volunteers:  Well, don’t get me wrong, many volunteers were extremely helpful and friendly.  But there were many that would just shrug when you asked them questions.  Few seemed to know where anything was, not to sound like the ugly American, but English is a pretty universal language, and few spoke English.  I was often pointed in one direction only to be pointed back the opposite direction when I got there.  I remember waiting in line over 10 minutes to buy something and when I got to the front the lady says “we are very busy you must wait in line.”  What?  I just left.  Customer service does not exist here.

Lines:  Pure anarchy.  No one paid attention to lines, we’d get in line and once a bus arrived everyone would lose their minds and try and get on the bus at the same time.  We would be waiting in line and people would just walk in front and order.  UGH.

Overall – these Olympics were tough, we can only hope that the good outweighs the bad.  But I always appreciate the experience and I never take for granted the great honor it is to be asked to cover the Olympics for our paper.

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2014 Sochi Slideshows and Panoramas:

Thank you to those who read this blog.  I figured I’d post all of the slideshows and panoramas that I did here – you can see all of the panorama’s here:

http://www.mercurynews.com/olympics-panoramas/

And all of the slideshows here:

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/05/photos-2014-sochi-olympics-feb-5-2014/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/06/photos-2014-sochi-olympics-in-downtown-sochi/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/07/photos-opening-ceremony-2014-sochi-winter-olympics/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/08/photos-usas-kotsenburg-wins-first-gold-of-olympics/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/08/photos-2014-olympics-team-figure-skating/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/09/photos-2014-olympics-mens-downhill/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/09/photos-2014-olympics-team-figure-skating-concludes/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/09/photos-2014-olympics-anderson-wins-gold-ladies-slopestyle/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/10/photos-2014-sochi-ladies-super-combined/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/10/photos-usa-hockey-practice/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/11/photos-2014-sochi-mens-halfpipe/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/12/photos-2014-sochi-ladies-downhill/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/12/photos-usa-versus-canada-womens-hockey/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/13/photos-2014-sochi-usa-beats-slovakia-7-1-mens-hockey/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/13/photos-2014-sochi-canada-beats-norway-3-1/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/14/photos-2014-sochi-mens-super-combined-downhill/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/14/photos-2014-sochi-mens-free-skate/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/15/photos-2014-sochi-usa-beats-russia-3-2-in-a-shootout-mens-hockey/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/16/photos-2014-sochi-two-man-bobsleigh-2/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/16/photos-olympic-athletes-trying-to-help-sochi-stray-dogs/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/17/photos-2014-sochi-mens-snowboard-cross-postponed/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/17/photos-2014-sochi-usa-wins-bronze-in-two-man-bobsled/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/18/photos-mens-snowboard-cross/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/18/photos-2014-sochi-usa-earns-gold-mens-halfpipe/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/19/photos-2014-sochi-polina-edmunds-competes-in-ladies-short-program/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/19/photos-2014-sochi-ladies-short-program/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/20/photos-2014-sochi-ladies-free-skating/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/21/photos-2014-sochi-usa-loses-to-canada-semifinal-mens-hockey/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/21/photos-2014-sochi-sweden-beat-finland-mens-semifinal-hockey/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/22/2014-sochi-usa-loses-to-finland-5-0-bronze-medal-game/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/23/photos-2014-sochi-mens-ice-hockey-gold-medal-game/

http://photos.mercurynews.com/2014/02/23/photos-2014-sochi-closing-ceremony/

Please see http://dfm.mercurynews.com/olympics for all of the great stories by Elliott Almond and Mark Purdy.

February 23rd – Day 16 – Sunday

I think they want me out of here – the last two days I have gone to leave the compound, security stops me and asks “are you going home now?”  uh no – I guess it’s because of my rolling bag.  Enjoying one of the last trips on the TM3 to the MPC:

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I had to say good bye to Sean last night – he left this afternoon.  That was a bummer.  It is fun hanging out with other and figuring out what assignments we could do.  Some people call us (ironically to me) orphans of the Olympics.  Those photographers that are alone and trying their best to supply their paper with images matching what our reporters and columnists are doing.  Sean is one, with the San Diego Union Tribune, so is Mark Rightmire from Orange County Register, Aaron Ontiveroz from the Denver Post, Carlos Gonzalez from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Mark Reis from the Colorado Springs Gazette and Chris Detrick from Salt Lake City Tribune, those are the ones I can name off hand – I’m sure there are a few more.  Most other papers here either have more than one (rare – like the NY Times) or else they are here for their parent company – like McClatchy or none at all.

Today is my last day of real shooting.  Men’s Gold medal hockey game and then the Closing Ceremony.  In Vancouver I was able to do the Men’s Four-man Bobsled race in the morning (USA won gold), then the Gold medal game (between the US and Canada – Canada won) and then the closing ceremony.  It was not possible to do all three due to the timing – bummer, I had to give up the bobsled.  As it was it was going to be tight to do the Gold medal game at 4:00 p.m. and the closing ceremony at 8:00 p.m., plus we heard a rumor that they wanted us in our spots by 7:00 p.m.  Closing is in Fisht Olympic Stadium, very close to the Bolshoy, so that is good – but the Bronze medal game, including the medal ceremony took 2 hours and 45 minutes.  Yes some events do have the medal ceremony right afterwards, but the majority have their medal ceremony the next day at the Olympic Park.

After grabbing the beef and mushrooms I headed over the Bolshoy a few hours early.  I signed up for a spot on the ice, didn’t seem to be that busy on the ice, most photographers were going overhead.  We mostly cared about the two San Jose Sharks players that were playing on Canada’s team – Marleau and Vlassic.

I talked with Aaron Ontiveroz, from the Denver Post, we were talking about how the last few days were not very conducive to making interesting pictures – we’re covering events, like hockey, that we cover all of time.  Covering events we haven’t, or at least rarely cover, in new and fresh places is definitely more favorable to making interesting images then events that we cover all of the time.

Wow that was the most boring hockey game and the worst (non) jube ever.  I’ve seen more excitement after a regular season game.  Very anticlimactic.  Canada won 3-0 and did very little jube – I’ve seen more excitement from a regular season game!

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Marleau with his Gold medal:

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I saw Aaron after the medal ceremony and told him I was going right to the stadium because I wanted to make sure we could still get in.  It was about 6:55 p.m., so luckily the game went quickly.  No one I talked with before the game could tell me how we could get into Fisht.  So we left Bolshoy and started walking – one bus came buy – this is what it looked like – packed the gills.IMG_0984

Off we went, not knowing where to go.  We went to one entrance and were pointed to the right, we went to the right and got about 100 feet and were pointed to another direction, basically back to where we came from.  So we walked back to the bus stop and I asked a transportation person if she knew when the next bus was coming “I think not.”  Okay “do you know how we can get to Fisht” – shoulder shrug.  There was one other entrance worth trying, we got there and a security guard was not letting a Canadian through, I said excuse me and he didn’t budge, so I showed the security guy our ticket and credential and he waved us through and I moved the Canadian over, he said “you don’t have to push” – well you don’t have to stand like a road block and not move!  We got through there, hit another check point, then a security check, we were now on the Olympic Park, went to the closest entrance to the stadium, Entrance C – they said to go to entrance A.  We got to entrance A and had to go through security one more time – we had to scan our ticket and our credential – you can see here, even though it’s a little blurry iPhone pic, that once you scan your credential your picture shows up on the other side so that security can check to see if that really is you!  That’s Aaron, center, making his way through:IMG_0987

Luckily I had been there for the Opening Ceremony so I knew exactly where to go – Aaron was in the A shooting position and I was in the B position, basically they are next to each other.  I got the spot and there were still a bunch of seats open.  There was some weird guy with an iPhone and some wide angle attachment sitting in a great spot, I pointed that I wanted to sit there but the photo manager person wouldn’t move them.  It was odd because only photographers with sleeves were supposed to be allowed in that area – must have been a friend of the person in charge of that area.

A few people showed up AFTER the Closing Ceremony started, but everyone was annoyed, I’m glad we got there as soon as we could.

The show was okay – it was super dark and sometimes not terribly visual.  There were times I was just sitting watching because there was nothing to shoot!IMG_0994 ssjm0224olympics046 ssjm0224olympics048 ssjm0224olympics050 ssjm0224olympics053 ssjm0224olympics071

I saw Paul and we agreed that we wanted to go out and shoot fireworks at some point – so I figured that I’d do that after the Korean show, even though we agreed to that beforehand Paul, Dan and Mark headed out before their show.  I waited, figured it was important to get the next host country.  As soon as that was over I booked out.  We had figured it would probably be a good spot in front of the figs arena because it’s somewhat elevated over Fisht.  The bad part is it was a good haul over, the area in front of the flame was close of course so I had to go around.  I figured the fireworks would start going off shortly after I got outside, but I got around with plenty of time found the three guys and looked for a good spot.  We were kinda hoping that the fireworks would go off before they extinguished the flame – but no such luck.
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I had a ton of editing to do afterwards because I had the hockey game (I did a little editing before the start of the Closing Ceremony) and then the Closing Ceremony.  I tried to get the beef and mushrooms but they didn’t have it in the cafeteria a- so McDonald’s – I couldn’t decide what to eat, got a cheeseburger, chicken mcnuggets, a salad and fries… I didn’t get the salad or cheeseburger.  I did edit quickly though and was able to catch the 2:00 a.m. bus.  Went back to the same place, the Wine Bar – it’s near Paul and Scott’s place, which is the second stop off the TM3 bus, a five or ten minute walk.  I was starving and there was this little food cart outside – I got a shawarma, it was great – maybe because I was hungry or maybe because I didn’t have any good food in a while – but I chomped that thing down as Russians celebrated and danced and sang Karaoke.  IMG_0997Normally during the Closing Ceremony I get a little sentimental – it’s just a crazy experience, a ton of work and I’m always relieved that I made it through.  This time I had no feelings at closing – I was just happy it was over.  This one was a lot of work, it feels like more than in the past.  But as always, I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to be here and I always try and do the best work I can under difficult conditions.

February 22nd – Day 15 – Saturday

Okay, I’m declaring that today would be a great day to start the 2014 Winter Olympics!  Everything, well for the most part, seems to be working, we have a shower curtain, most the food venues in the media housing complex are finally open.

I’m feeling very unproductive.  The first week was just completely insane back-to-back 21 hour days and now, one hockey game at 7:00 p.m.  It’s frustrating because I want to do more, but everything is at nearly the same time.

Elliott says it feels like we are in a russian novel – they took our “do not disturb sign away” but then they got angry that we didn’t put it on the door this morning.  (footnote, found out they didn’t take it away but hung it up on the jacket hook, instead of on the back of the door, upon which we put a jacket so we couldn’t see it).

The big events were ticketed, this is the first Olympics that there was never an issue with not only getting tickets to events I wanted to go to but also positions – in the past that was not always the case – it was whatever position was left over, I would almost always be able to get a ticket but it might not be where I wanted to go.  Here’s the entrance to the USOC:

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I went there to get a ticket for the USA bronze game – Bill told me no ticket was necessary.  So that was good.  But I would need a ticket for the Canada versus Sweden gold medal game but those wouldn’t be available until after 2:30.  I did pick up my closing ceremony ticket – section B – same place as opening ceremony.

Here is the photo ticket list for the gold medal game, not a lot of US papers – though if the USA had been playing in the gold medal game there certainly would be more:IMG_0883

I was dreading another McDonald’s, my body is revolting, I literally gagged when I went into McDonald’s for lunch.  A week and half, non-stop twice a day is just too much.  I couldn’t finish my lunch either – I’m going to have to get something else for dinner.  After picking up the closing ceremony ticket Sean and I headed back to Adler to see what was up there for souvenirs.  We walked there but grabbed the 125 bus back, we didn’t know how much it cost, but the nice bus driver took my 100 ruble bill and gave me back 75 rubles.  It dropped off pretty close to the MPC, definitely closer than walking.

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This the view from the bus stop:IMG_0933

After we got back from Adler I headed over to see Bill at the USOC and grab my final ticket – the Gold medal game between Canada and Sweden.  I thanked Bill for his help, he really is a great help, his regular day job is working for the BCS – and now that that is no longer in existence he works for the college playoff system.  A couple of the mascots came and visited the photo workroom – a French photographer was pretty excited to have his picture taken with the mascots.
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Like I told Sean, I’d rather arrive early and sit around than sit around the photo workroom in the MPC for a few hours.  So two hours before the Bronze medal game between the US and Finland we took the bus over to the Bolshoy Ice Dome.  Signed up for a lower level seat number #20.  Since we had a few hours to kill we walked over to the Olympic Park to see if there was anything worth photographing.  Just saw a bunch of people milling about.

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Headed back and shot the USA versus Finland Bronze medal game – wow was that a terrible game.  The US looked great the first period and then once Finland scored their first goal they just completely disintegrated.  ssjm0223olympics002 ssjm0223olympics004ssjm0223olympics019ssjm0223olympics017

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Afterwards I decided to go to the cafeteria and I ran into Elliott!  It’s a good thing I did because I didn’t even realize off to the side was this little place that had rice with beef and mushrooms.  I got that and you know what, it wasn’t horrible.

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I saw how the other half lives tonight – karaoke – apparently they did this every night the whole Olympics!  Since the game was somewhat early, 7:00 p.m., we got out somewhat early so for the first time since I’ve been here I went out for a drink.  Gosh if I could have done that every evening  the olympics really would be fun!  Do one event and go hangout with friends the rest of the time!  Though there were some people that worked long days and would still go out – I needed sleep!

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February 21th – Day 14 – Friday

Last night was a late night, didn’t got to bed until sometime after 4… but the good thing is that not much is going on today – two semi-final hockey games.

Sean, Scott, Dan and I watched the Women’s Ski Cross in the photo workroom – that’s four tv’s made into one big one (below) – we started to pick racers to see who would win.  By the end Paul and Mark and joined in – I won three races but DNF (did not finish) the gold medal race – I had picked France – oh darn.

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There’s Sean, Scott and Dan watching the Women’s Skier Cross.IMG_0868

Here’s the photo workroom, in the back on the left you can see the Nikon booth, the Canon booth is on the right.  If I ever go to the Olympics again I’m bringing far less gear because I can check out so much (though I say that every time).  It’s a decent sized room and I never had a problem finding desk space.  I would often head here right after most assignments in Olympic Park.  We transmitted via ethernet ports (that rate card I signed up for early on) – that was totally worth it, I think it was about $130 for the whole Olympics.  There is free wifi around but it’s slow as molasses.IMG_0870

After losing at skier cross we took the bus to the Bolshoy Ice Dome to shoot the two semi-final games – Finland versus Sweden at 4:00 and then USA versus Canada at 9:00.  I didn’t need to cover the first game but I figured I had nothing else to do and one of those teams would be in the final, so might as well shoot them too.  What a bummer that USA vs Canada got matched up in the semis – that should be the final – it was in 2010 in Vancouver.  Canada won that one but at least the US was assured of a medal.  Got an ice level spot with Sean.  Here we are on the way there – someone had flowers:IMG_0872

Here’s the what’s on tap on the menu – did not eat there!

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Canada won.  Just one goal and I was lucky enough in my spot to be able to see the reaction and even a little bit of the jube.  Last Olympics I went up because I wanted to make sure I got both teams.  But this time I figured I’d stay down even though we cared about both teams.  I remember what Robert Gautier from the LA Times told me in Vancouver as I was heading up to my overhead  (safe) spot and he was heading down to his ice level spot for the gold medal game, paraphrasing here because it was four years ago – “they didn’t send me here to make safe pictures.”ssjm0222olympics002 ssjm0222olympics004

The hockey venue is great – tons of room to move around.  Photo manager Steve Dykes does a great job keeping everything in order.  There are so many ice level spots it’s quite amazing, I never had an issue shooting on the ice.  Since this arena was specially built they put about 10 feet of space around the ice which means photo spots can basically be put around almost the entire rink – except for the benches and officials of course – and TV takes up a lot of space too – but even after that there is a lot of space.  I think there were about 60 ice level shooting spots!  Probably 20 of those were taken by pool and the rest were available for anyone – you just had to sign up before the game, get a number on a  blue laminated piece of paper (about 2″x2″) that you found on a map of the arena and then find your corresponding number.  Here’s Sean you can see behind him how much space there is:

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In Vancouver the seats go right up to the rink – so once you got in your seat you couldn’t move around, fans were literally right behind you and there were fewer shooting spots.  There seemed to be more upper level seats in Vancouver – I heard the upper level spots were a little tight.   I liked spot #20 and #40.

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USA lost 1-0 – bummer.  Can’t win a game if you don’t score a goal.  They looked good for a few periods but obviously that wasn’t enough.  Late night – caught the 2:00 a.m. bus back.

February 20th – Day 13 – Thursday

One would think that the busiest time of the Olympics would be the last few days – it’s actually the opposite – things have slowed down drastically – there are few if any events in the morning and the events in the evening are all basically either overlapping or the same time.  That really sucks.  I feel kinda like a slacker.  I can only really do one or two things, but gone are the days of going to the mountains and coming back down for events.  A sign at the USOC (U.S. Olympic Committee):

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For example – tonight at 7:00 p.m. is the figure skating finals – last night they went until 11:30 p.m.  Also tonight is the Women’s gold medal hockey game at 9:00 p.m.  I really wanted to go to the gold medal game but it is not possible (or so I thought).  There is Men’s Ski Cross finals at 2:40 but that’s gonna push figure skating a little, we have to be there early to make sure we have a decent spot.

Had a pretty uneventful morning – slept in – that was great, headed to the MPC, had lunch, McDonalds of course.  Everyone has pretty much figured out the food court is bad – here’s the entrance, and you can see maybe 25% of the seating from this picture – but as you can see – pretty much empty, this is lunch time!:

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We headed over to the fig arena around 5:00 got in around 5:30 – today is the gold medal day so we figured it’d be busy… not so much – but it was good because we got there early and got a spot that we liked, it really helped that no Japanese skater was vying for a medal because that really cut back on the amount of Japanese photographers – here is Sean and Paul in our A-section seats.  We had tickets to get in – you need to show your ticket to get in the building and show it to get to the seats:

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After we got settled, and those guys were watching my stuff, I really wanted to go out to the Olympic Flame and get a flame picture at sunset, I was happy with the way it turned out:

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Here is the link to the 360 degree pano – in total I did 15 360 panoramas:

http://extras.mercurynews.com/slideshows/sports/2014/02/olyflame/_flash_html5/olyflame.htm

Saw this out there too – after shooting headed back in around 6:30-6:40 lots of stuff going on outside would have been fun to shoot more but needed to head back:

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Figure skating takes forever!  Started at 7:00 p.m. again – lasted until 11:00 plus the flower ceremony – so 4 1/2 hours again.  There were 24 competitors, there were 30 last night.  Only the top ten or so really have any chance at medaling – it would be great if they just did the top 12 or 15 skaters and make the competition a couple of hours.  Oh well.  Our local, Polina, skated 17th I think, so it took a few hours before she skated.  No one before that mattered at all so I shot light, did some blur stuff, tried to stay awake.  Polina did well, Brian Boitano said anything in the top 10 would be great for her – she finished in 9th place, fell once during her performance.

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Scoring was kinda weird again, I thought for sure the Korean lady Yuna Kim had won, the Russian Adelina Sotnikova did great but what do I know.  Seemed a little odd, maybe a little hometown help?

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I thought this was kinda funny – The Russian winner, Adelina Sotnikova, right, with the silver medalist Italy’s Carolina Kostner pose for a picture after the flower ceremony.ssjm0221olympics047

We carried our stuff so that we could go light, as soon as the flower ceremony was over we took off for the bus – TM1.  They were showing highlights of the Women’s hockey game as we were walking out – I wish I had taken a moment to find out what happened, I figured I would

On the bus back I tried to pull up the score of the game – we were chatting with an English broadcasting lady and she was telling me how good the food was – in the broadcast section of the MPC – which of course we are not allowed in to – plus they have a Starbucks!  ugh.  Anyway that’s when I saw the score 2-2.  CRAP we should have just walked over from the figs arena.  As soon as we got off I yelled at Paul who was already walking into the MPC that Sean and I were going to try and make it for OT.  So we got on another TM1 and headed back – I kept refreshing the game on my phone to see what the score was… here is what we saw as we pulled up to the Bolshoy Ice Dome:

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 We literally ran off the bus, I have only been shooting from the ice so I didn’t really know where to go to get to the upper spots, I had an idea, but Paul had been there a few times so we told him to lead.  We ran up the stairs and went to an overhead spot – the photo marshall said – you have to have a blue sleeve to be able to shoot here.  We were deflated, we knew it would take too long to go down to the photo workroom get a blue sleeve and then come back up – it was amazing that the game was still going on anyways.  But then she said “you can go to the other side” – we’re like oh – crap – so we ran over there.  We sat down in the green sleeve area – which is a slightly blocked by the safety netting around the rink and started shooting.  It was only a few minutes later that the US was took a penalty and then shortly after that on a 4-3 power play Canada scored.  I was using the Nikon 200-400mm f4, with a 1.4x converter so that’s like a 280-520mm f5.6, Sean and Paul were using the Canon – the thing is the Canon lens is nearly twice as expensive – roughly $13,000 versus $7,000, their logic being “it has a built in converter” – well today was one of the very few times I wish I had had the built in converter, I was too tight, I racked the lens all the way out to 280mm and I could not get the USA players dejected and the Canada players celebrating.  This happened in a matter of seconds I did not have time to take the converter off, I should have grabbed my 70-200mm – but didn’t.  I typically like to shoot tighter for faces, but looser was actually better in this instance, oh well:

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 Paul and Sean had the next two images in – one – if that makes sense:

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I didn’t hear until much later that the US had blown a two goal lead with 3:00 left in the game – oops.  That sucks.  I blew it too, but I wasn’t even supposed to be there, but it was worth the effort, Paul and Sean had nice pictures.  We didn’t stay for the flower ceremony – we learned later that they actually had the medal ceremony – oops again, but we had so much to edit… if the US had won I would have stayed.

 

Tried my best to catch the 2:30 a.m. bus, after midnight it’s kinda a crap shoot.