Let’s just say there are a lot of photos being made at the Olympics, and many of them are damn good, some truly memorable. The amount of pro talent here on the sidelines is staggering. On the Sports Illustrated team, amongst the four true sports shooters who are here, there has to be 100 years of experience of being on sidelines, poolsides, and ringsides.
So when I show up at an event and stare at a firing squad of 100 or more photogs, each with the appropriate lens for the sport at hand, my shoulders slump a bit. How to do something, anything, different? Often it’s just not possible. Getting truly specialized access is the key to difference at an Olympics, and that takes years of relationship building. Taking a spot in the line is cool enough, and there are good pix to be made from the general photo positions. It’s just that every flight of excellence or fall from grace out on the field of play is recorded hundreds of times over.
So, when I got assigned to wrestling, I brought an 800, specifically, a Nikkor 800mm f5.6, to be precise about it. It’s a lot of glass, way too much for a floor position there, which is where I was. Overkill. Like bringing an RPG to a knife fight.
What I went after were the patterns and details of the brutally tough, classic art and sport known as Greco-Roman wrestling. I was trying to see the hands, muscles, strategies, and the sweaty human architecture that gets created when a couple of folks get on the mat and try to toss each other around.
It’s risky. None of these pictures really fulfill an assignment. You’ll never see them on an AP wire. It became, really, a self assignment within the larger assignment. If someone makes a big move, you’ll miss it. A bunch of the take will be out of focus, even with great AF at the camera. Simple mismanagement of the lens, perched like teetering rock atop the monopod, causes that. And if the wrestlers move fast, as they tend to do, you’ll be looking at empty space, and have to curl your non-camera eye around the corner of the prism head just to figure out where the hell everybody went to.
But a change of lens means a change in perspective, and that’s potentially precious. So I gave it a whirl.
More tk from Rio….
Matt Aden says
Mr. McNally, It has been a real pleasure following your journey through the Rio Olympics. Every night when I watch the events I find myself constantly thinking, I wonder where Joe is. And then every morning I get a chance to see what captured along with your brilliant insight behind the images. I dream of one day being in your position to photograph the worlds best. It will probably never happen, but its fun to dream. Thank you!
Joe Howe says
Looking at the photo pit on TV it would seem impossible to make a photo that is going to stand out amongst the other 50 photogs. Taking a chance with a lens not suited to the event is risky but worth a try. Not sure I would do that while on assignment though.
John Grow says
You my friend, are both master and magician! I envy your skill. Thanks for sharing with us.
charles young says
Infinitely more interesting than many of the pulled back overall images. Captures so much more of the sense of the battle. I would have loved to have seen the other photographers expression when you showed up with an 800.
Tony solis says
This is how I feel when I see you walk up to the same event I’m shooting. I think, what kind of magic is Joe making today? What does he see that I dont? I love that you are showing us all what you see and highlighting the struggles along the way. I no longer feel alone in the crowd.
James Thibault says
Been loving your shots, Joe! You always have a knack for using what you got….and still getting the shot! Looking forward to more.
Allan Bramsen says
You didnt happen to get some shots of the final in male wrestling ?
Steven Gotz says
This is why you have a following.
I have only made the AP wire once and it is unlikely that it will ever happen again. But it seems to me that the guy in green with the enormous amount of effort he is applying, would love to have that image. Only if he won, perhaps, but nonetheless.
Being different, using your imagination, that is what sets you apart.
Dave Updegraff says
Great images Joe. You’re always thinking and striving for the best. One of the things I admire about you. Best.
Hey Joe, just saw you in the background of a tv interview… Recognized the lense… Then the hair… And yes it was you! 🙂 women’s basketball game. Admire your work!
Joe McNally says
THANKS! Hopefully I was turned away….:-))) Not a face made for TV!!!
Giotto Bianchi says
Amazing Shots.I could mean these pictures able to show complete force of those guys.close up shots of male wrestling.Great job.
Mitchell Krog says
These are superb and yeah I can imagine you were sitting there with the best of the best in the world, but they too were sitting right there with the best of the best. These tight close and personal shots are simply superb. Hope you had a GREAT time there.
john warren says
Joseph, outstanding as usual.you are in my hall of fame.