I was in Rio on my own, but as always, everything we did there was a team effort, involving everyone back here at the studio, as well. Lynn DelMastro, our studio manager, kept things running. She pushed forward with future jobs, planning, billing, estimates, and bids. In short, the grit and grist of running a photo business. Annie Cahill helped research Olympic news and updates on social media.
Michael Cali, our first assistant, was also essential. Every night, I would cull my takes as quickly as I could, given the fact of it generally being past midnight. Using Photo Mechanic, I would tag and color code the best of the day, being pretty severe in the edit. The raw files of these pix I would then drop into PhotoShelter, in a file called “Raws for Cali.” The next morning, he would tone, size and color correct those files and drop them back into PhotoShelter in a folder designated for web use and social media. Meanwhile, I would do my morning coverage, and by the time the venue would break, usually around noon, I could use the PhotoShelter app on my phone to pull those files and in between races, bouts and matches, I would post to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. My day started with gear prep about 5-6am, and usually ended around 1-2am. This pattern repeated itself from Aug. 4th through Aug. 22nd. PhotoShelter became a serious life line for our entire coverage, giving us pretty instant back and forth availability for files and postings. Photo below by Leo Martins.
Cameras used were Nikon D5 and D500, and for a couple days, I used a D810 for portraits around Rio. Glass ranged from a Nikkor 800mm f5,6 to a 16mm fisheye. There were no tripods allowed in the venues (and no flash) so I relied on Gitzo monopods for long glass support. ISO’s roamed from 1600 (when I could use faster, shorter glass, such as a 200mm f2) to 10,000 for Opening Ceremonies, where I was in the rafters with a 600 f4. I had really good luck with my D500 cameras. Putting a 200 f2 on those gave me, effectively, a 300mm f2. Thank you, Bill Frakes, for the advice on that! Also found the flip up LCD on the D500 to be invaluable for remote work. My remote bag, small but versatile, contained a base plate and a riser, a Gitzo ball head, and a Manfrotto super clamp. The camera would be then connected to a foot pedal, via a small switch box wired together with zip cord.
And again, many thanks to the hard working crew at Nikon Professional Services. During the Games, I borrowed an 800, a 600, a 400, a 200-400, 2 D5 bodies, and a 14-24 at various times. Toting all that to Rio with me on an airplane would have been just about impossible, not to mention nerve-wracking.
Theoretically, no roller bags were allowed at the photo positions, but this softened over time, as photo venue managers found ways to help shooters get gear to their spots. There were also lockers available to stash the rollers. Beyond that, it was backpacks, shoulder harnesses and belt pouches. I’ve never seen so much ThinkTank gear in my life. Big shout out to Deanne Fitzmaurice, who coached me through what might be the best ThinkTank options for gear toting. Photo below by Claudio Pilha.
In terms of Sports Illustrated, Erick Rasco directed the operation, and Jordan Murph, and Chad Carlson did double and triple duty as coordinators, shooters, tech gurus, and problem solvers. Miriam Marseau edited tens of thousands of images. Delivery of pictures happened in a couple ways. At the big venues, you could hook your D5 into an ethernet cable, and, miles from the venue, Miriam would be seeing your stuff as you were shooting it. At other times, cards had to be brought back to the office at the Main Press Center. Virtually all my images were shot on Lexar 128 gig XQD cards. Occasionally, using D500, I would spill onto a Lexar 128 gig SD style cards. These would dump into the high speed reader banks each dovetailed to a particular Mac laptop, which in turn was exclusive to that shooter’s pictures. Somehow it all got filed onto a server in Rio and back in NY. Don’t ask me how.
It was an exhausting effort, on everybody’s part, as I guess it should be, trying to keep up with Usain Bolt and company. The athletes performed magnificently, and deserved the best photographic efforts. It was a privilege to see the performances, as it was to be amongst the photographic talents assembled in Rio. Just a terrific collection of hard working, dedicated pros. Learned a lot, just watching the variety of approaches to different sports, many of which I had not shot in forever. Tokyo here we come!
Just kidding. I’m pretty tired!
Mark Suban says
Amazing work Joe!!! We love looking at the moments you captured at the Olympics!. Welcome home, it was great seeing you in Rio, too.
Joe.. great blog with valuable information. Your willingness to share makes you truly a great mentor and teacher.
Tom Bove says
Absolutely amazing images. It’s fascinating to hear what you did and what it was like. You’re one of a kind Joe.
Jay Loden says
Wow! that is exhausting just reading it Joe, I don’t know how you do it. Hope you at least got a little rest in there after the Olympics were over! The images are fantastic and I really enjoyed seeing your social media posts from Rio.
Paul Hodgson says
I particularly loved the multi exposure of the fencing you took.
On a devil in the detail question I know you’re likely shooting raw so picture control after the fact becomes meaningless, which leaves Cali. I adore the tones and colours you’re achieving and wondered if you could provide guidance what you’d images go through in post production.
Chris Lake says
Joe, as usual your post is informative and stunning at the same time. A great read for an aspiring photographer. Keep it up, I check here almost daily for inspiration to keep picking up my camera!
Charlie Young says
Your description of the process is really interesting, Thank you so much for sharing that. When i attended one of your workshops in NYC I found the workflow presentation (due to a rainout) by you and Cali was fascinating as it gave us a frame of reference with what the pros do and I picked up small and some simple advice that just makes so much sense. Although I will say my back hurts just looking at all of the gear you are carting around but understanding one must be prepared for anything and like in any endeavor when we strive for perfection one should expect pain. Your coverage of Rio when compared to several other photographer’s blogs that I follow always sets the bar higher in terms of the quality of the final image and what our goals as photographers should be. As always I look forward to your next blog and adventure.
Joe McNally says
Sure Paul….I’ll get with Cali and we can figure something out, maybe a follow on post….
Dean Souleles says
Awesome and inspiring as always. Thank you Joe for everything you do for the craft. Attended a workshop with you in Maine a few years ago. Critique with you inspired me to “get serious” about photography.
Joe, you are an amazing photographer and a very special man. Many times when I’m out shooting I ask myself “how would Joe do it”? I hope you had fun in Rio as much as we have fun looking at your shots.
Jonathan Henry says
Outstanding shots and truly amazing work. You never cease to inspirer and educate.
Brad Matthews says
Joe! As always!! Amazing!!!
Steve Caputo says
Corey O'Connor says
Thank you so much for this amazing look inside what you do. You take beautiful photos.
Such wonderful piece of writing to sum all your hardwork and struggles of covering Rio. Your pictures are marvelous esp the one with Simons Biles in action.
Thanks for sharing the story with all of us…