Olympic Photographers Report Few Problems

By: Dorothy Ho

(Photo District News) Security, an occasional pairs skating controversy, and sleep deprivation aside, the Olympics are humming along smoothly, thank you very much.

Photographers covering the Winter Games in Salt Lake City report that the much anticipated traffic problems did not occur. Trent Nelson, the news editor of photography at The Salt Lake Tribune, says traffic has been non-existent. “Venues that pre-Olympics news reports said would take over three hours to get to are taking only 30 minutes,” he said. “The biggest delay remains the heavy security.” The main media center is the only place with X-ray machines, and security personnel at all other venues are taking their time going through cameras and bags.

Nelson cited the opening ceremonies as an example of a “security horror story” when being early meant nothing. He and the first wave of photographers waited for an hour and a half to get in and started running into positions in the stadium when they were stopped by a National Guardsman. “He held us there, standing in a huge, ever-growing pack, for 30 minutes while they brought in President Bush,” Nelson recalls. Some missed shots because of the delay.

One zealous guard even uncapped every pen, recalls Getty Allsport shooter Doug Pensinger. Photographers adjust by budgeting enough time for the tedious search, he adds. Except for a small glitch at the first downhill event, when organizers handed out 60 bibs to 60 photographers to stand at one single photo spot, everything else has gone smoothly.

Lee Martin, the vice president of sport and news for Getty Images, faces another type of challenge. As the Olympic Committee’s official photographer, all 23 Getty Allsport shooters have to capture the action, emotion, and medal moments of every event. “The biggest challenge covering these Games is there’s just too many sports and too much to shoot,” he said.

The cold weather also has digital cameras and external battery packs acting up. At a downhill event, a Reuters photographer had to borrow batteries from an AFP shooter because his battery was dead.

And don’t forget the bad food at the media center. Nelson recounts living off Powerbars, vending machines that take no bills, and bad hot dogs. He added: “It’s a lot of work. We’re all in the drone zone. Now we’re thinking of the next thing to do, but when it’s all done, we’ll really be pleased.”

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