Getty Photographers were there to capture this big event in the build up to the Games. Here’s how they went about capturing the ones to watch…
With just minutes to produce a wide range of looks on different backdrops of 120 athletes, staff photographers Doug Pensinger and Harry How along with two assistants did their best to produce visually stunning images.
Getty Images was one of seven organizations provided with studio space by the USOC to photograph the athletes. The USOC divided a hotel ballroom into cubicles approximately 12’X12’ where each agency constructed a photo studio to capture images of the athletes.
The result was a maze for the athletes to navigate with their assistants, handlers and agents along with their skis, snowboard, ice skates, hockey pads, wheel chairs etc. With time spent ducking lighting equipment and stepping over electrical cables in razor sharp ice skates, only 3-4 minutes remained for each photographer to capture an athlete.
With tight working conditions, Pensinger and How had to strategize on how to use four different backdrops while still making room for the athletes to get in-and-out, room to take the pictures and room for all the lights. By setting the backdrops close to one another, it allowed each of the shooters to utilize their tight space, but also for the athletes to just turn and the next backdrop would be ready.
“The space was not defined until we got there,” said How “Being it was so tight, I tried to concentrate on half length shots knowing I would be limited. The environment can be chaotic. There are a lot of moving parts to coordinate for that split second. My goal is to not allow the chaos to affect the athlete.”
Pensinger, lacking the space for a second backdrop had to come up with another idea once he saw the space.
“My priority was to create a space with a white seamless backdrop so that I could photograph the athletes and their equipment in full length on a neutral background to accommodate a wide variety of end uses by our clients,” Pensinger said.
This set up entirely utilized my allotted space. With my desire to capture an alternate view I decided I could step the athlete off the background and move myself 90-degrees and use a ring flash and shoot portraits of the athletes using a stone wall in the room as a background.”
How, a staff photographer for Getty Images for over 15 years shot many of the same athletes over the summer during a photo shoot for Getty Images and NBC. Having that previous experience How feels is to his advantage.
“If they like what you did in the past, they trust you immediately and it relaxes them. I can feel their trust,” How said. “Given the short amount of time we have, it makes a huge difference to gain trust immediately.”
Pensinger explained his strategy in getting the athletes to feel comfortable.
“Some situations were easier because I either know the athlete from covering their competitions or by being familiar with their discipline,” Pensinger said. “Some of my research helped put subjects at ease quickly. When Amanda Kessel from the USA Women’s Ice Hockey Team entered my area I said ‘Hey are you that famous sister of those brothers….what’s their names?’ She chuckled as I referred to her brothers Phil Kessel who plays in the NHL and Blake Kessel who plays in the AHL.
“Katie Uhlaender is a USA skeleton athlete and has won World Cup titles and a World Championship. She is striking, confident, and is just as comfortable in front of the camera as she is plummeting a down an ice chute, head first, at speeds up to 80 mph. She left little for me to do as she immediately started striking poses and moving almost as quickly as she does on the ice. However, when I asked her to remove her sleek custom painted helmet, everything came to a grinding halt. She refused. She was obviously overwhelmed with all the demands from so many members of the media and was just not comfortable constantly being asked to put on and take off her helmet. It took the wind out of my sails and I was at a bit of a loss. By quickly moving on to a different background, I got a few more nice photos. When we finished she was extremely apologetic for refusing me and gave me a big hug. No harm. No foul.”
One of the biggest stars at the media summit was gold medalist Evan Lysacek. Lysacek, who won the men’s overall figure skating gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, is battling to make the 2014 team after injuries and time away from the ice. Lysacek was the big story during the summit as he announced he would not be competing in the upcoming Skate America Event.
Lysacek had been photographed by How many times in the past, they reminisced about the portraits he took of him in 2009.
“First thing he asked me this year was where was the fake snow?’” said How of Lysacek, referring to a technique How had used in past portrait shoots. “Plus, he always brings up the icicles we used in 2009.”
How stayed away from using any props this time around, but found a backdrop that fits with the location for the Sochi Games. He used the Cyrillic alphabet.
“I’m always thinking of different ideas and this one I think worked well as a backdrop with the letters, the white background and the red letters,” How said. “The athletes really got a kick out of it as well.”
How and Pensinger will be among a team of almost 40 photographers covering the 2014 Sochi Winter Games for Getty Images.
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