Beyond all the successes and events I shot during 2008, nothing can compare to my 3 weeks in Beijing, China covering the 2008 Summer Olympics. It was my first Olympics and allowed me the chance to try and compete with the worlds best sports photographers. It was a very long, exciting, eye opening trip. Continue reading to see some of my favorite images from my trip.

Before getting started on the best of the Olympics I want to notify my readers I am trying something new in this blog and perhaps future ones. I am always looking for different ways to make the blog more entertaining and informative so I have implemented quicktime movies of some of my sequences into the blog. Any photo that has the below graphic attached…..

is able to be clicked on which will take you to the small quicktime movie of the full sequence. Please let me know if it works and if it is interesting or a total piece of crap. Thanks. Now lets get to the blog!

The Olympics began with the opening ceremonies which is probably the easiest event on Earth to get cool pictures at. Seriously a drunk monkey could get great photos at an event of that magnitude with all the special effects and props provided.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/800th

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f4.5, 1/500th

Nikon D3, 600mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/1000th

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 400iso, f4, 1/40th

The Olympics was filled with several sports I had never shot before so it gave me a chance to immerse myself in sports outside of my comfort zone.

One of those sports was Fencing. It was a great sport to shoot since the competition area is lit up nicely while the rest of the arena was pitch black. It allowed me to toy around with some really slow shutter speed shots to see what I could come up with.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 100iso, f10, 1/5th

My main focus (pun intended) while covering the Olympics was gymnastics. On one of the practice days I got a funny shot of an official appearing to sleep while a male gymnast performed on the pommel horse.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

One day for womens gymnastics I decided to try something different and threw a star filter on my camera to see what I could come up with as Nastia Liukin performed on the uneven bars. To add a little more to the photo I crouched behind a fake plant to put a layer of green leaves across the foreground.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/800th

The below tight shot of Nastia Liukin on the balance beam was one of my favorites from he month as her facial expression along with her pony tail hanging down made for a unique image.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

Out of all the events I shot during the Olympics none were bigger (and ultimately more valuable) than the day I got to shoot swimming phenom Michael Phelps as he won one of his eight gold medals in the Mens 4x100m freestyle relay final. It was without a doubt his best celebration of the eight medals, helped by the fact he swam earlier in the relay so he was out of the water able to cheer his teammates on.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 3200iso, f4, 1/1000th

United States president George Bush gives his approval from the crowd.

Nikon D3, 600mm with 1.4 convertor (850mm), 3200iso, f5.6, 1/400th

The amount of media covering the swimming was insane as evident by the below photo….and thats only about 1/4 of the photographers at the venue.

A few days later I spent the afternoon shooting whitewater kayaking. This was a very cool event that made 

Back to gymnastics where the men and women of China put on a clinic of how to win gold medals, sometimes with crappy routines even!

Cheng Fei (CHN) reacts after her performance on the floor exercised which clinched the gold medal for China during the womens gymnastics team final.

Nikon D3, 400mm with 1.4 convertor, 4000iso, f4, 1/1250th

Yang Wei (CHN) celebrates after winning the gold medal in the mens gymnastics individual all around final.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

One event I was sent to shoot that I figured would be terrible was rowing. Basically boats with multiple athletes row a straight line course over a mile long. The races are long and somewhat boring but I did enjoy the below shot as rowers took off from the starting line. 

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 400iso, f8, 1/1600th

On a rare early evening off I instead chose to work and headed over to the Birds Nest stadium to shoot the signature event of the Summer Olympics, the mens 100m. Usain Bolt of Jamaica completely destroyed the field of runners on his way to a new world record. I shot slow shutter speed for something different and got pretty lucky that the shot came out with him the only runner in focus.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/60th

He put on a very good celebration after his run so that also made the decision to work on my night off a good one.

Nikon D3, 400mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/800th

Below is just a small portion of the media on hand to shoot that evening.

Back to gymnastics, with over two weeks of shooting boys are girls flipping and balancing I was getting totally burnt out on shooting the same thing day after day so I really made an effort to look for different/unique shots. One shot I took was focused on a radar gun aimed down the runway for the vault. A portfolio shot? No. But something different? Yes.

Nikon D3, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

Volleyball was a good sport to shoot at the Olympics because there were some good spots to stand to get totally black backgrounds. I shot tight on some plays to just get hands and the ball.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1600th

While shooting womens water polo I got a very nice dejection shot after an elimination game as the womens team from Hungary cried poolside.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 3200iso, f4, 1/1250th

The womens soccer gold medal game provided me with a few shots I liked. 

USA player Lauren Cheney (12) battles Marta (10) of Brazil during the gold medal game at Workers Stadium.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

The USA women celebrate after defeating Brazil to win the gold medal.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 2500iso, f4, 1/1250th

On one of the final days in China I finally got to cover a sport that was up my alley as far as fun and comfort as I shot the first gold medal BMX racing events. As one would expect I set myself up in a spot to get some crashes. Mission accomplished!

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1250th

BMX riders #114 Arturs Matisons (LAT) #121 Raymon Van Der Biezen (NED) and #777 Marc Willers (NZL) crash in turn one during the mens bmx semi finals at the Laoshan Bicycle Moto Cross Venue.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1600th

Next up in my Best of 2008 blogs will be my best NASCAR Images.

Posted in China, Olympics, Sports   | 9 Comments

9 responses to “Best of 2008-Best Olympic Photos”

  1. Hi Mark,
    Love reading your blog! Your photos are amazing! I really like your sequences so looking forward for more in the future.

    I had a question for you. I saw a bunch of photos of you carrying your big lens on your shoulder.. do you use a monopod or do you often shoot without it so you would be faster moving around?

    Keep your blog updated, I love it!

  2. Sergei,
    I will use monopods for long glass periodically if I am in one spot and dont need to move the camera around too much (such as in an seat sittiing) but I just find it much easier and its without a doubt faster to simply handhold. I grew up shooting with my dad and he never used monopods or had me use them so after doing that for so many years its something I cant get used to now. Thanks,


  3. Ariel says:

    Great work, as usual Mark! I’m totally diggin’ your best-of shots.

    I like the movie idea. It adds an extra sense of realism and feeling of being there. The BMX video works the best for me, almost like watching it on TV.

    It looks like they had the Olympics really well lit too.

  4. Ryan Marr says:

    The fencing stuff really reminded me of David Burnetts Olympic coverage from 2004


    Love the frame of bush. HAHAHA priceless!

  5. michael says:

    ah the memories, thanks for reliving it for us Mark.

    Out of interest did you by any chance get any shots of the media village, the MPC (inside and out) including the photographers sections, they where shots i really wanted to see (the scope of media at the olympics) but i could never find any.

  6. Guy Rhodes says:

    I should make an Inmotion of you dropping your D200 at Summer X.

  7. The opening ceremony movie was nice, and the BMX one almost looked like slow motion, but the Quicktime stuff itself is a total piece of crap 😉 I’d like to be able to stop, flip forward and backwards myself, so maybe some kind of slideshow would be better? I really like seeing more images from each sequence, though.

    Great images, of course! I especially like the woman with the heavily painted face next to W 😉

  8. Timmy Huynh says:

    I like the idea of the sequence thing, but the execution could be refined a bit. I’m not sure quicktime videos are the most efficient way of showing the sequences. Maybe you should look into flash video files (flv)? This would be way old school, but maybe animated GIF’s? But you also have to take into consideration what’s the most convenient for you, if you’re going to make it a more regular occurrence.

    But great job with the blog. I really enjoy reading it. It’s nice to see all the behind the scenes stuff that goes on, and to read what you’re thinking as you shoot each sporting event. Keep up the good work!

  9. Josh says:

    Amazing photos!!!! I love your blog as it has so much information to give back to photographers.

    I do have a question what setting you use on the d3 for the bmx shooting?

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