I brought along my Canon EOS 1D Mark II N and 1Ds Mark II with a selection of my favorite Canon EF lenses—16-35mm f/2.8; 24-70mm f/2.8; 70-200mm 2.8; 400mm f/2.8—and backup lenses, also EF: 14mm f/2.8; 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6; 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6; 200mm f/1.8; 300mm f/2.8; 500mm f/4; plus 1.4 and 2.0 extenders.
I packed my Apple PowerMac G5 Quad, 7800 graphics card, 30-inch Apple Cinema Display, and PowerBook G4; a Lexar FireWire card reader; PocketWizards for remote cameras; Bogen Magic Arms and clamps to mount the remotes; a Gitzo carbon fiber monopod; Overxposed Pro Platform mounting gear, plus my Think Tank Airport Security case.
Here comes the plan. Before the trip, I approached Apple with a question: Is there a way to have an editor remotely edit my photographs so I could load my disk into my computer and have someone with access to my Internet connection edit while I continue shooting?
Their answer was “yes.”
This meant I only had to stop shooting long enough to put my Lexar CompactFlash cards into a card reader attached to my Apple Mac PowerBook. From there, Image Capture and Automator automatically copied and moved high-res images (for transmission to the Times and their low-res images for my photo editor into separate files on my PowerBook.
In the Kodak Center, miles away, my photo editor, Jeremiah Bogert, was able to access my public folder on one of the Aperture editing stations. He used the Multi-Image Viewer to compare similar images side by side and the Light Table feature to narrow down his selections.
By the time I returned to the media center from Palavela, he had picked a half-dozen selects from my 2,000 images and moved them to the Times FTP site for publication on their website and in the paper. We were finishing when other photojournalists were just heading to the media center to start sorting and transmitting images.
The wire services have been doing something similar for years, with very high-speed lines, a team of networking people, and a great deal of expense. Apple and Aperture just leveled the playing field.
Vincent Laforet, Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer, is the first national contract photographer for The New York Times, for editorial, portraiture, commercial, and corporate projects. His work has been published in most major publications, including Vanity Fair, Time, Newsweek, Life, The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Stern, and Paris Match. It has been recognized by the World Press Photography Awards, Pictures of the Year competitions, Overseas Press Club, National Headliners Awards, and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
While this was my third Olympics, it differed from the first two in terms of access to the events. For the Salt Lake City Winter Games, I assembled the team that put together the official Olympic Committee commemorative book of the 2002 Games and had full access to the venues. In Athens, I had virtually unlimited access for my assignment helping the IOC capture the artistry and spirit of the Games.
In Torino, I was the exclusive ESPN photographer. I was part of the editorial pool, with no special access. You have to be prepared for everything. I brought along my Mamiya RZ67 and Mamiya 7 rangefinder, my Nikon F5, with Kodak Ultra 100 and 400 color film, a Polaroid camera with type 665 Polaroid film, a B&W 3x4-inch negative film, and my Nikon D2X. Lighting wasn’t as good as it could have been, so I decided to use film more for outdoor events, using lower ISOs to get sharper pictures; and digital indoors, since it was more forgiving.
I’m a commercial photographer, so I don’t look at the Olympics the same way sports photographers do. I was there to capture what the Olympic Games looked like to me, focusing on my impressions of events and Torino. With 300 photographers shooting from the same angle with the same cameras and the same lenses, I had to think of a way to get something different. I would use my Nikon for most action shots and the Mamiya M7 or RZ67 for mood or environmental shots.
I had a five-part workflow process: shoot, develop, edit, retouch, and upload. I shot 80 percent film (200-300 rolls), 20 percent digital (300GB or SanDisk Extremes, 2GB cards). At the Kodak Media Center, they scanned every piece of film, every image, from every roll, and created hard drive space for me on their server, intead of giving us contact sheets. Apple set up G5 workstations so each day I would log on and download my work to my hard drive.
On an average day, I spent just 2.5 hours shooting, and a lot of time downloading and retouching for creative before I could send to ESPN. I didn’t create what wasn’t there, but I enhanced it with my view. For example, I was working on a speed skating image and someone came by and asked why my ice wasn’t white. Everyone was trying for white, but there was unbelievable color from all the reflections, so I darkened the ice to bring out color while others tried to make it as neutral as possible. That’s what sells for newspapers, but that wasn’t my assignment.
Since we weren’t permitted to shoot with lighting equipment, I used what light there was. I looked for shadows falling on people’s faces, how something was backlit. At the ice skating venue, I was shooting from very high up. The skaters were doing their warm-ups when I noticed a light coming from across the rink, almost a spotlight. For every skater there was this dramatic pool of light and a dark shadow. I shot a ubnch of these images.