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

My first shoot of the day was women’s field hockey. I wasn’t excited to shoot it and it ended up being one of the worst events I’ve shot since coming to Beijing. It would have been better had I brought my 600mm but with only a 400mm (on a full frame camera) it just wasn’t a good situation. Harsh light and cluttered backgrounds did nothing to help my cause. Below are the only two shots that weren’t horrific….even they aren’t anything to brag about.

Nikon D3, 400mm, 500iso, f4, 1/6400th

On a penalty shot the USA scored and had a pretty solid jube in my direction. Don’t you just love the empty stands?

Nikon D3, 400mm, 500iso, f4, 1/8000th

After finishing up there it was an hour long bus ride to go shoot rowing finals. I will be honest, I was not very happy to be shooting rowing because I think slow moving boats with no good access. Boy was I wrong.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 100iso, f8, 1/250th

The course was about a mile long and most photogs were camped out by the finishline to get the rowers reacting after the race. I found out about a truck with a min grandstand on the back for photographers to sit in and it followed the rowers from start to finish on a road alongside the course. It was a good choice as it allowed me plenty of time to try different shots as they raced the long slow race.

I enjoyed the few minutes we would sit at the starting line waiting for the race to begin as you could find some interesting patterns and lines (like the lead image for this blog) Before each race the riders would throw out any water bottles, towels or trash which would be added weight in the boat which slows them down.

Nikon D3, 400mm with 1.4 convertor, 200iso, f4.5, 1/1000th

Also prior to the races swimmers would swim around and under the boat to remove any weeds or debris on the oars or around the starting line.

Nikon D3, 400mm with 1.4 convertor, 500iso, f11, 1/800th

After shooting a few races from the chase vehicle I got off and shot from the starting line for a few races to see if there was anything interesting to shoot from there.

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

I also walked 100 yards to this bridge and shot down as racers would glide beneath on their way from the practice course to the race course.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 250iso, f5, 1/2500th

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 400iso, f8, 1/250th

Then it was back onto the chase vehicle to shoot a few more races before heading out.

Nikon D3, 400mm with 1.4 convertor, 400iso, f11, 1/800th

At certain points on the course there was colorful reflections coming off the grandstands across track.

Nikon D3, 400mm with 1.4 convertor, 500iso, f11, 1/800th

After each race as soon as they crossed the finish line most competitors would just lay down and coast to a stop.

Nikon D3, 400mm with 1.4 convertor, 500iso, f11, 1/800th

My final race before I headed out had amazing light that made the 2 hours of roundtrip bus ride very well worth it.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 400iso, f8, 1/2000th

Then after an hour or so hanging out at the media center I caught a bus to the nearby National Stadium (Birds Nest) to shoot the mother of all track and field races, the men’s 100m final.

I got there nearly 3 hours before the race and even that early it was difficult to find an open shooting location due to the sheer number of photographers there.  It was unlike anything I have ever seen in my life with media.

While waiting for those couple hours I resorted to watching tv shows on my ipod. What a great little invention.

Then came the actual race….finally! As you saw above the amount of photographers was borderline out of control so instead of shooting the same normal stop action shot of the race I attempted to be a little different. During smaller qualifying races while waiting I tried various slow shutter speeds to find a speed that gave me blur yet had a decent chance of getting something usable. I ended up settling on 1/60th of a second. Out of the 20 shots I took at that slow speed only 2 had anyone sharp. Luckily the 2 sharp pics were actually of the race winner (dumb luck).

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

The winner had such a dominating performance that he actually was show boating the last 20 feet or so and STILL set a world record. Insane!

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

He was a photographers dream as he had about a 15 jube around the entire stadium. I have seen a lot of things but this was the first time I saw a man who was proud to finish in under ten seconds!

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Posted in China, Olympics, Sports   11 Comments

11 responses to “Rowing down a river and a man proud to finish in under 10 seconds!”

  1. Geoff Bolte says:

    Mark, once again, always amazing. Its nice to see the background on what is going on while you are making these amazing shots. How you get them, the trouble you go through to get them as well as the “dumb” luck. Love the blog, and look forward to the rest of the weeks work.

  2. Rob K says:


    If you ever have a chance to shoot rowing from one of the chase boats do it. Shoot as low to the water as possible and at an angle that will capture all the rowers faces. The Catch, where the oar enters the water at the beginning of a stoke, and the stroke itself will yield the best expressions on the rowers faces.

    Loving the blog entries by the way and the photos are fantastic.


  3. fred Harl says:

    I know it’s a tiring assignment to shoot but can’t wait to see how you do everyday. Great work.

  4. Kim Mattina says:

    Hey Mark. I just saw some of your shots on FM and ran (or clicked really fast) to get over here to your blog! Some great shots. I love the details that you so often get, away from the field of play. Not to mention the artistic quality. Seriously. I hate fencing and want your shot on a canvas! 🙂 Can’t wait to see more of them (especially upside down rain puddle shots) as the Olympics progress!


    P.S. It’s sunny and hot here in AZ. Shocked? 🙂 Although we actually got a little rain the other day!

  5. Dale E says:

    Another set of great images. Your blog has become my first site to visit each morning to see what events you covered. I have also enjoyed your pictures of the photographer pits. This will also give all those “Canon vs Nikon” people something to do. They can spend the day figuring the ratio between the 2 brands of cameras so they can draw up their charts and graphs. 🙂 I just drool over the 2 800mm Canons in the shot above. My favorite of this rowing series is the one shot from the bridge looking down on the rowers. Perfect!!

  6. […] bookmarks tagged rowingbeat everyday stress list Rowing down a river and a man proud to finish in u… saved by 3 others     ShamanKing10 bookmarked on 09/01/08 | […]

  7. It’s amazing to see so little female photographers in your media shots.

  8. RaiulBaztepo says:

    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  9. Edoardo says:

    Hey Mark!
    In a month I’m going to shoot a rowing race. Unfortunatley the organization does not have “a truck with a min grandstand on the back for photographers to sit in wich followes the rowers from start to finish on a road alongside the course”… so I’m going to stay on the river side, just before (50m) the finish line.
    Do you think that a 600mm f/4 with a 1.4x converter is sufficient? I would like to have as many close-up photos as i can.
    I have a 5D mark II and a 50D wich combined with the lens and the 1,4 gives me the opportunity to cover from 600mm to 1176mm. Obviously I’ll mount the whole stuff on a solid tripod!

    Do you think my setup is ok? Or do I need something else?
    Any other suggestions?

    Thank’s a lot!

  10. Edoardo,

    Its somewhat difficult to answer your question without seeing the venue you will be at and how far the rowers will be away from you but with the lens and convertor I cant imagine you not being able to get some decent stuff with it. That setup is about as much lens as you can get so if that doesn’t work then there really is nothing that will work.
    Good luck


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