Archive for the 'Olympics' Category

24
Aug
10

Communication Breakdown…

The snowboard industry has just as many hard-nosed, penny-pinching snakes as any money-hungry industry, but when this is combined with the laid-back nature and characters of the sport, you come across some pretty interesting business dealings. 

I recently came across the difficulties faced by a Canadian snowboard photographer, Chris Messervey. As you will see from his blog entry, he emailed a shot of Dustin Craven to him as a preview for his sponsors, which wound up being used on the Grenade Gloves website without Chris’ authorisation. Chris was annoyed as Grenade are a huge international corporation and should have known better  – basically they should have come to some agreement with him first before using his shot. The emails go back and forth between Chris and Grenade with a heap of angry language and without any resolution. Chris has received a fair bit of internet press about this incident, and there seems to even be a bit of a backlash against Grenade.

All this reminded me of some equally angry correspondence I had with a snowboard retailer (I’ll call them “Boardstore”) at the start of the year. I was annoyed to find two of my photos used on their shop’s Facebook page without my authorisation. Yes, I know it is only Facebook, but in this day and age Facebook has become a legitimate promotional tool to promote an enterprise, just like an advertisement on radio, TV or in print. I don’t mind riders using some of my photos (preferably last season ones, because current ones may jeapardise their “exclusivity”, and hence likelihood to be published by magazine editors) for personal things like in their own Facebook photo galleries, or to show as previews to their sponsors. But as soon as someone uses a photo of mine for a business, even if it is a friend of mine starting up a small company, I want to be paid…and paid preferably in money, not product.

So for all those who misunderstand the law of photography, here is a summary: As soon as I press the shutter on my camera, I create an image, and “own” copyright in that said image (up until 70 years after my death). Copyright reserves all my rights to the usage of this image, and in effect, anyone who uses, reproduces, publishes, or prints any image of mine without my authorisation has broken the law under The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), as well as the international treaties that back up this law overseas. I may “licence” you use the photo for free (as mentioned above with my snowboarder mates), however I deserve to be justly rewarded for the use of my photo otherwise. It is my business, and how I make money. Using a photo for free without authorisation is pretty similar to stealing a snowboard from a factory (minus the physical trespass): I created the photo, I own it, and using it for free is depriving me of my rightful payment for it. (For a more in-depth investigation of Australian photographer’s rights, click here and here)

And as for the snowboarders I take photos of, they agree, either implicity or expressly, to authorise the use their image in my photos for “commercial” means, ie for magazines, advertisements or websites. They are not paid for this, but they do so to increase their exposure, their personal “brand”, as well as their sponsor’s logos – that is the reward they get, hoping that their sponsors will in turn pay them in cash (and not just product) for helping to create this exposure with the photographer.

Take a look at the correspondence below with “Boardstore”. I could have probably been a little more explanatory and nice in my first email where I requested the photos be taken down…however I didn’t expect the backlash I received. But in the end, we sorted out our differences, and came to what seems to be an amicable end:

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Sean ‘Radman’ Radich 03 January at 20:15

Hi “Boardstore”,

I happened to see that you have 2 of my photos on your Facebook team photo page. Can you please take them down?

The shots are:

“XX” Snowpark step up, and
“XY” Tahoe front board.

Cheers, that’d be great thanks.

Sean Radich

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“Boardstore” 03 January at 22:08

For starters mate you gave us permission to use the “XX” shot about 4 years ago in a mag ad plus we got the shots from the riders to use so take it up with them. How about you actually talk to us about it first instead of throwing orders about – are you for real mate get your head out of your ass we could have actually worked together where we would of supported your work & actually worked a deal out with you – so unproffesional radman … We will take the shots down gladly – you’ve come across like a dick now … Good way to do business .

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Sean ‘Radman’ Radich 04 January at 11:43

Hi Boardstore,

Sorry, i thought it was a reasonable request? I’m a bit surprised by your reply.

You are right – taking it up with riders is where the problem lies, and it is hard to get a proper and professional outcome between photographer and a company when dealing with a middle man (ie the riders).

Re “XX”’s photo- he made representations to me that there would be payment/compensation for the use of that photo, possibly in the form of gear and/or money. That may have not been your understanding of how permission to use the photo was to be, but it was mine. And as much as you talk about ‘supporting my work and working out a deal’, I never heard any more about it those years ago and chalked it up as lost opportunity for reward. So there didn’t seem to be much intention to work out a deal previously, and so when you say you’re not going to support my work or work out a deal now, I don’t really feel like I’m losing much.

And nevertheless, even if permission to use the photo in an ad was given, that doesn’t give further permission to publish or reproduce the photo – this time on Facebook. If a photo is purchased ‘rights free’ for 12 months, then for that 12 months a company can use it as many times as they like. But any such arrangement is naturally more costly than a ‘single-use’ photo purchase.

Re “XY”’s photo – yes, I would have given him a copy of that shot for his personal files and use, to show to sponsors etc. It was a couple of years ago now too, but I’m sure I would have told him to check with me first before anyone is to use it.

It’s a difficult situation we are in, as riders want to show the fruits of their labour to the ones that hook them up, but in the digital age it is all too easy for those shots to then get passed down the line and published, reproduced or used without the photog’s permission. I can imagine lots of companies think they do have permission to use the shot, via the rider, but really, they should know better; professional photographers deserve reward for their work.

How would you feel if I came unannounced into your shop, took a snowboard from the shelf and walked out the door without paying? That’s how I feel about my photos getting used without my permission, and really the dollar value of a snowboard cost for shop vs a photo ‘single-use’ payment is about the same.

Ultimately a couple of photos on a team page on Facebook is not a huge deal, but honestly, I’m sick of seeing photogs get ripped off in the Oz Snowboard industry, so I’m starting to take a harder-line and not letting anyone, even friends, publish my shots without some sort of deal upfront. I hope you can understand my point of view on this?

I’m more than happy to discuss any of these issues with you further if you would like. And thank you for taking the two shots down.

Cheers,

Sean

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Boardstore 04 January at 12:49

Mate you’ve never been into Boardstore once if you have you’ve never introduced yourself so how are we supposed to work out a deal , you’ve never even written to us or made any effort in contacting us to make a deal . Its a massive difference in just walking into a store and stealing a board that’s called theft eh, we asked the riders for photos we could use they gave them to us therefore we used them its as simple as that – again you need to have a better relationship with who you shoot.
The photos will be down by this afternoon and I will be telling our whole team not to shoot with you again. It works both ways, do you pay the rider you are shooting ? They are the ones putting themselves at risk so you can get the shot which makes you & only you get paid – kinda selfish eh.. You should be paying them not just giving them a copy of the shot, what good is that if they cant use it. We pay our riders to do the job they are doing you don’t pay them anything until you do you cant tell them what & what not to do with their images that copy of the shot is their income .. In the end without them your doing wedding photos.
Regards
Boardstore

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Sean ‘Radman’ Radich 04 January at 14:59

Hi,

Yeah, I’ve never actually been to Boardstore, but have always wanted to check out what your shop is like as I’ve heard good things about it. And I’m glad to hear that you also pay your team riders.

Look, the “XX” photo was water under the bridge – I had written off the loss of reward a couple of years ago, but really it probably would have been best if I chased it up in some manner back when it happened.

And as I said- a couple of photos up on FB is not a huge deal in the scheme of things, but I still don’t want them used without my authorisation. Other photographers might be happy to have their photos all over the web, but I don’t. It came to my attention, and we dealt with it. I’m just trying to protect my interests, and the product of my labour.

And I do agree – theft is theft…and there’s a little thing called Copyright Law and the Copyright Act 1968 which gives photographers complete control and ownership of when and how their photos are reproduced, copied or used from as soon as they have pressed the shutter on their camera. I give my photos to riders as a personal favour only for their portfolios.

I’ve worked with many of your team riders over the years, and had a good shooting relationship with them. You can tell them whatever you like, hopefully they can make their own minds up about who they need to be working with in the media in order to help promote your shop and themselves. I guess there are lots of wedding photographers who have had snowboard photos and articles published internationally for them to choose from…

Cheers,

Sean

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Boardstore 04 January at 15:23

No probs lets just leave it at that then, I wont tell my riders anything, you just need to follow up on the deals you make . We were under the impression that “XX” gave you a board & bindings plus some cash as weve never met you or had any contact details for you ever. Weve done deals with alot of photographers before with never any problems.
Put it down to miscommunication then.
Regards
Boardstore

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Sean ‘Radman’ Radich 04 January at 15:35

Yep – no worries.

Cheers,

Sean

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So my advice for all other up-and-coming photographers:

  1. Stick with your friends. When you find some people you like working with, and that you can trust, try and work with them as much as you can. It just makes life easier, and the work more enjoyable.
  2. Don’t ever give a photo away for free to a company or business. Not only do you cheapen your work by giving it away for free, businesses will begin to expect to get things for free and baulk at paying for photos from other experienced and professional photogs.
  3. Stick to your guns on price/payment. Always have a bottom line that will keep you happy – that may be just a pair of gloves, or a snowboard jacket, or it may be $50…or $43,000. Whatever. The times when I have agreed to a sale of a photo for a price below what I really wanted (just to see the photo blown up big, or to help a rider out) I have always regretted it later. Now I prefer a photo not to get used if I am not happy with the price I have in my mind. It sucks for the rider that put so much effort into getting the shot…and it sucks for me too. But sticking to my guns has made me feel better about it in the long run, and has let me get paid what I want most of the time too.
  4. Always get something in writing regarding the use, and hopefully payment, of your photo. In the past I hadn’t done this enough, naively relying on goodwill and trust, and have been burned too many times as a result. So at a minimum, send the company rep an email confirming the agreement to use the photo, include the agreed payment, and explain their “rights” to use the photo under the licence you have given them. If you can, try and get some sort of contract, but this almost never seems to happen in snowboarding.
  5. Inform the riders of your rights. Make sure all the riders (and company reps, team managers and marketing managers) you send previews of your photos are aware they are not to be published commercially, and not to be put up on Facebook etc if you are hoping to get those brand new shots published by a magazine in the future.
  6. Include some sort of watermark and/or copyright into the photo “preview”…and only email low res versions that can’t be blown up big for a poster, until you have come to an agreement.
  7. And finally, beware the perils of iPhones and Blackberries…and trying to combine work with late-night drinking sessions:

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From: “Alex”
Sent: Saturday, 28 November 2009 2:34:10 AM
To: Sean Radich

Hey Sean,

Well hello hello hello… how are you? And more to the point where are you in the world?

We are finalising the 2010 brochure with the last round of changes and after only two days off going to print you have seen the Olympic DPS which aims to highlight those athlese that call “YY” home and this will be a great spread.

THE afore mentioned offer os abot athletes and more so, the single image which align to current market trends and stainless good brands.  

Tjamls

Akew

——————————————————-

If you can’t even see the tiny phone keys enough in the dark to write “Thanks” and your name correctly (which of course, wasn’t “Alex”), you might want to save your work emails for Monday morning…not 2.30am on a Saturday…And what the hell is “stainless good brands”?

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14
Jul
10

Behind the Scenes of Snowboarder Issue 2…

 

Issue 2 of Australian-New Zealand Snowboarder has been out for a couple of weeks now, and it was a productive issue for me, including another double-page-spread advertisement for Destyn Via. This time the photo was of Cohen Davies taken on the June Mountain stair rail. Here’s the original shot, which you can see has been cropped a bit, I guess to enlarge Cohen and his DV gear.

It was great that Linton from DV was willing to negotiate to purchase another photo, instead of just re-running the Darragh photo – not only did it give Cohen a big exposure boost, but it advertises some other “colourways” of the gear and shows the breadth of their team…and it was nice to see they spelt my name correctly this time! Check out my previous entry here and Olliepop Films’ video of our trip here.

On that same June Mountain trip two photos I took of Darragh made it into his 7 page interview that I conducted with him. The above shot is a slightly alternate angle of his June rail switch frontside boardslide, but the one published had better style. While discussing the upcoming interview with Darragh and living with him and his constant lolly munching, we came up with the idea to highlight this unusual habit in the text, and top it off with a themed portrait shot.

One rainy night at the end of our season we drove all around trying to find a candy vending machine, and finally spotted one out the back of the Tahoe Inn next to the Tahoe Biltmore Casino in Stateline. We snuck in and set up the shot…and of course got hassled by a few curious residents, but fortunately weren’t stopped by any rent-a-cops.  It’s a shame there’s some shadow across Darragh caused by his arm and hair, but with only about 5 minutes to set up the scene and lighting and shoot a few frames before we felt we would be boosted, we didn’t have time to check every frame. But we did manage to capture the feel for the shot that we wanted, and I liked how the magazine designer ran with our theme and gave the article some candy-cane flair.

I also thought my 8 page interview with Courtney Phillipson and Jess Rich looked good and came together as a good light-hearted read. As I mentioned in my previous post about shooting the girls in Tahoe, as a visual theme for the article I had envisaged it to be all about mirror images, reflections, and like I said in the intro: “Brunette vs blonde, goofy vs regular, experienced pro-rider vs pro-ranks rookie, measured confidence vs all-out fearlessness.”

I had planned to shoot as many features as possible from opposing angles, as I had a photo layout in mind. I even sent through some Photoshopped arrangments of the photos side-by-side, which I was pleased to see the magazine designer applied when putting the pages together. I think it really captures the mirror-image action theme I was going for…however, they failed to follow my suggestion for a slightly saucy/creepy/arty reflection-in-a-mirror portrait shot.

Perhaps the artisitc references for my unusual portrait shot would have been lost on the Aust-NZ Snowboarder reading public? Diego Velazquez’s 17th century painting Las Meninas is the original famous artwork to place the artist eerily within the frame, along with intriguing dark figures and mirror reflections, giving the artwork an overall feeling of unease.

More recently, the revolutionary Aussie-German fashion photographer icon, Helmut Newton, often used mirrors in his work, placing his reflection in the frame as a sort of creepy voyeur in a trench coat, or all in black like here in a hotel room with his wife Alice Springs. This was my true photographic inspiration, and it was fun to try and recreate this sort of image with Jess and CP, and I made reference to the unusual photo shoot in the interview in the hope the shot would make it into the mag. But alas, Evil Editor decided that Snowboarder was not a proper place for some art history education.

But I’m not the only one who has been inspired by Newton and his use of mirrors – TopShop in the UK even set up a “Newton Machine” photo booth to recreate his self-timer and model-in-the-mirror shoots. Check it out here.

A couple of my Vancouver 2010 Olympics photos of Torah Bright made the issue, but I believe the bulk of the action shots will run some time on the magazine website.

But the biggest thrill for me in this issue was my quarter-page self-portrait pow slash from Northstar that ran on page 17! I think this is the second action shot I have featured in among the pages of Snowboarder over the years. Dragon get good exposure with their goggles in this shot, but unfortunately for Nitro, I had split the nose of my board out at Donner the previous day and was riding an old loan board while my Nitro “Team” 159 was being repaired. But maybe I should still try to claim a photo incentive payment from Dragon?

For this shot I was inspired by a couple of Frode Sandbech point-of-view covers I had seen overseas, and I played around a few times with my 15mm fisheye and motor-drive as I followed the girls down through the park while shooting them for their interview. Clearly I’m not the only one who had noticed Frode’s shots – take a look at the cover of issue 2 of Snowboarder if you haven’t seen it on the shelves. This shot from a previous blog entry was another POV experimentation from the same session.

I was able to thank Evil Editor, Ryan Willmott, in person for putting me in his magazine, as he came up to the Gold Coast for a week to finish off issue 3 in the Burleigh Heads HQ of the publishers Morrison Media. He was pretty stoked to show me his new free ride, a stickered-up Toyota Rav 4. It was cool to check out a bit of the behind the scenes of magazine publishing, and get a preview of issue 3, which has our Los Angeles trip in a big, colourful feature article…and also pick up a few free mags. Look out for that issue on the shelves very soon…and take a look at some shots below from my visit to Morrison’s head office.

23
Feb
10

Canadians are weird, man!

Wow – there are a lot of loud, drunk and dumb hockey rednecks that congregate en masse down Granville Street. I know that Australians can be unbelievably embarrassing, and the cheap flights of V Australia and Jetstar are just allowing povvo bogans to travel overseas for the first time and ruin the reputation for the rest of us, but I don’t remember Sydney 2000 having such an agressive, teetering-on-out-of-control vibe…but maybe that’s because I was part of the “team” cheering along, and not a foreigner making sure that I smile and high-five the gangs of guys in red, lest I get set upon? Or maybe it has something to do with the brainless way Canadians cheer for their 51st State of America. After 10 days at Sydney 2000 I never wanted to hear “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie…Oi, Oi, Oi…” again. In Vancouver, Granville is jam packed with a sea of red and white, random games of street hockey, and chants that start up: “Can-a-da!…Can-a-da!…” Or guy will start screaming “Whoooooooo!” and then another will join in, or it will be “Yeahhhhhhhh!” and another will join in till the street sounds like a riot. Their cheering and chants are even more brainless than ours…and it’s the worst in an around Canadian hockey matches. (But then again, ‘U-S-A! U-S-A!” is pretty uninventive as well.)

And I forgot, I found another difference between Aussies and Canadians at the start of the week: Aussies shout “Show us ya tits!” at Indy/Bathurst/Melbourne Cup, whereas the Canuck chant must be ‘We want boobs! We want boobs!” After the Opening Ceremony a random mosh pit of crowd surfers (with the aforementioned “Whoooos” and “Yeaaahhhh”s) had formed on Robson and Howe Streets, and when a girl was lifted on to shoulders the booby chant started, and wasn’t sated till another girl was lifted upon high for a faux-lezo makeout. An interesting, organic way to celebrate the start of the Olympics I guess?

And I have also noticed a bit of a “bad sportsmanshio” from the home team, whether it be claiming to “Own the Podium”; or bar crowds cheering-on the last non-Canadian (and incidentally American) mogul skier to “Fall, Fall, Fall!”; ripping the flag off the back of some Americans cheering down Granville and throwing it on the ground; or booing former-Canadian Dale Begg-Smith during his medal ceremony. I hope that Aussies would never act such a way – but then again, my impressions might be coloured by the fact I had been getting back to Vancouver exhausted and grumpy each night, hating having to dodge throngs to get home, and seeing the crowds at their drunken worst?

Anyway, right now I’m in West Village, New York, New York! I decamped from the Olympics the day after Torah’s amazing Gold-Medal win – but sort of wish I had have stuck around now. And what a night it was. I was so nervous – so nervous to get the shot after she blew her first run (as night shots are clearly so different looking to the qualification photos), and so nervous for her to score well and get the win. Afterwards, I felt so happy for her and gave her a rousing shout-out and wave from the photo-pit in front of the podium – she waved back…and it gave everyone else who wasn’t cheering like an idiot a great million-dollar-smile shot looking right down the camera. So another shot missed by me. But she was smiling so much and looked so excited that i quickly blew the rest of the 16gig card on “jube” (jubilation shots, so Himbrechts tells me).

I finally managed to get up alongside the pipe – Himbrechts had left his pair of crampons lying around, which I naturally purloined and made the long hike up for the girls’ training and qualifications. Both Holly and Torah rode amazingly well, and went so big. It was awesome to watch up close. It’s hard along the pipe, as you aren’t given much chance to move around or get close to the lip for the regular fisheye shot. So I struggled to get some good shots, but think a couple turned out ok. And still I’m having trouble with my software processing the Canon EOS 1DMkIV RAW files to jpegs to put up on the web – but fear not, Evil Editor, the shots are there and there are some pretty nice ones – I’ll sort it out somehow. So again, all I have are the ones from my regular back-up 1DMkIIN and the candid pocket Sony Cybershot ones. And anyway the best of the Aussie shots I have to save for the mags: they won’t publish any shot that has been splashed around on the net before. So enjoy this small selection of action and behind the scenes.

21
Feb
10

SBX at Cypress

The first Monday of Vancouver 2010 was the beginning of a loooong four days (hence no more updates till now). After Sunday late-night drinks it was a 6am wakeup to try and get on the 7am Media bus from the MPC up to Cypress in order to get onto the actual SBX course. It was pitch dark when I woke…which made it all the harder to get out of bed, but it was a pretty spectacular sunrise across the water from Lionsgate Bridge.

 Annoyingly, the Cypress media/photo crew had been really restrictive about access to both the pipe and BX track, and about deadlines for access. But after jumping though a million hoops, I was finally strapped onto my board and riding down the side of the course. It felt so good to have the camera bag on the back and to be able to slide on snow again…although it had been only 6 days since I was last up at Northstar. It was great to see Chumpy destroy the course (well, the 2 or 3 turns i could see at a time) and hear about both his fastest time qualification runs. I was hoping to move from location to location between rounds in the afternoon finals, but the VANOC nazis were out in force. Fortuately, I was right near a CTV cameraman who let a few of us look over his shoulder at the live feed of all the action down the course. Without this, and not being able to hear the PA commentary so far away at the finish-line, I would have had no way of knowing who was progressing through each heat. It was a shame Chumpy and Damon couldn’t progress further, but they should both be proud of the gung-ho attacking nature of their riding.

VANOC had a huge ‘fail’ with the location of the Olympic Cauldron, which is nicely located on the water…but surrounded by an ugly, temporary-looking cyclone wire fence! Each morning there are thousands of tourists clogging the streets around the Main Press Centre (MPC) and International Broadcast Centre (IBC)  – right next to the Cauldron – who leave disappointed with the view and (lack-of) photo opportunity. It’s a shame they couldn’t get something so obvious right, amongst the other problems of the Games. I managed to check out the scene on the way to Womens SBX. It was rainy and cloudy down in Van, but much, much worse up the hill. But after a couple hours postponement and delay, the girls hit the track. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Steph Hickey with a bigger smile on her face than in the start gate for her first qualy run. I was feeling pretty beat by the time of the Womens finals, and stayed  in the warmth to watch the action on the media centre TVs. And with all the halfpipe practice scheduled for the evenings, with the early SBX starts and late partying nights I was pleased to discover that I wasn’t the only one tring to snatch some catch-up sleep wherever I could. After witnessing Lindsey Jacobellis’ brain fade on the second-last jump at Torino 2006, I was hoping she would find some redemption, but again a split-second escape cost her gold (and any medal this time). Boardercross is a pretty harsh sport.

I borrowed a brand-spanking-new Canon EOS 1D MkIV body to shoot some of the SBX, but for some reason my software won’t let me process the RAW files into jpegs. So here are just a few shots taken on my ‘back-up” 1D MkIIN (and pocket Sony Cybershot). I hope to get it sorted soon and put a greater variety of shots up…but checking out the local paper after the first day of snowboarding, clearly i’m doing it all wrong. Himbrechts has started doing agency/newspaper work so this must be what he’s aiming for: a ‘soft’ (due to super cropping) out-of-control “man-in-the-sky”. I must say, it was interesting to see how out of control the riders looked a lot of the time. But I guess with such a challenging, gnarly course and pushing for every bit of speed the aesthetics of your riding are furthest from your mind – the opposite of what we aim to achieve when shooting for one of the mags.

15
Feb
10

Sunny Cypress

Today the sun finally started to shine and my spirits shone, not least because it was the first day there was snowboard training up at nearby Cypress Mountain. There were some nice views from the Media bus, but it was a pretty dismal lack-of-snow sight to behold once up top. I managed to catch the bus with both Himbrechts and Matt “Elephantitis” Shirvington – he is one tall, good looking man. And pretty friendly and good to chat to. James Brayshaw was also on the bus, but was too-cool-for-school in his sunnies and avoided every Aussie and hid at the back of the bus…or maybe he was just super hungover this morning. If he’s anything like the substance abusing rest of The Footy Show members, I would reckon on the latter.

There is fuck-all snow up at Cypress, and on the way we passed one of those Ericsson “Elvis” Air Cranes – in Australia they dump water on bushfires, in BC they pick up container-loads of snow to make a pipe, mogul course and BX track! And besides the lack of snow, the layout and organisation of Cypress is pretty poor. There are at least 6 stories of stairs everyone has to climb in order to get to the bottom of the pipe and track, and the organisers are super anal about lame rules: where you can and can’t stand, which way you have to walk, where the buses stop…and worst of all, enforcing us to wear mountaineering crampons to hike the pipe to shoot on the deck! I don’t own any, so have to try to buy some tomorrow, otherwise I will be seriously limited the photos I can get.

I shot 700 or so frames and 4.5 gigs worth, but I reckon only 2 to 2 and a half shots are worthy of publication (but whether the Evil Editor decides to use them is a whole different matter!) But that’s ok, it’s only practice day 1. The best shots I have to save for the exclusivity of the magazines, so these are just some fun ones from today. But I increased my chances for tomorrow when I dropped by Canon Professional Services in the MPC. They loan photo gear of all descriptions: $10,000 400mm 2.8L lens? Sure take that. Brand new $7000 Canon1D MkIV camera body? Do you want one or two? It is amazing – I’m like a (photo-nerdy) kid in a candy shop! I can’t wait to try out the gear tomorrow.

But back to Cypress – the pipe is in good shape, so the riders say, but with the fog and rain the snow is in rotten shape. Two hours into training the right wall had huge deep ruts and action was ceased an hour early. The Aussie SBX racers are stoked with their “Ninja Turtle” tops, and I think the pipe team’s uniform is great – nice and bright and excellent for photos (and much better than the sombre black they normally have). And I don’t the Japanese have a team uniform…just a general theme of looking like a clown. The Yanks have copped a little flak for their faded jeans and flannel uniforms, but in person they look awesome (although a bit too dark for good photos here). Some American commentators have called the get-up unpatriotic – I guess becuase it looks a bit messy and casual, but it really captures the good-ol-boy, truck driving yankees to a tee. And let me just say that Gretchen Bleiler looks amazing in jeans…

On that note I’ll leave you…I’m writing this in the bar underneath the backpackers I’m staying at, surrounded by drunk, shouting Canadians chanting at the replay of Dale begg-Smith losing Gold to the local boy. I think it’s about time to join them… 

13
Feb
10

Let the Games begin!

I had heard photo spots were limited for the Opening Ceremony, and as I think that the Olympics are about sport, not ballet I wasn’t overly fussed if I missed out. However, a couple hours before the kick-off, I strolled past the protesters downtown and into the MPC and asked about photo spots…and was handed a ticket! So that meant I had to race to BC Place to get there in time and get a position in the stand. It was a bit of a mission with all the traffic and crowds to get there…and out front was another sign of Vancouver’s “prosperity”: an old woman sitting in the rain collecting plastic bottles for recycling. What a welcome to the Opening Ceremony.

Once inside, the first person I saw was Himbrechts.

Now that the action has started, the games are on, and the niceties are over! Our two super-agencies, SRM and DHP have had a rivalry for ages, he’s Nikon and I’m Canon, and as he is the enemy I made sure I sat right in front of him. This was great, because just as I realised the snowboarder was going to frontside-air through the Olympic Rings and I didn’t have the right lens ready to capture it, I just sneakily bobbed my massive head in front of Himbrechts super-dooper long lens to also stop him getting the shot! Perfect. Unfortunately, you’ll see here that he still managed to get in a few shots from the night despite my best efforts.

The Opening Ceremony was great and I really enjoyed it.  They made everyone wear all these hospital-bibs so that it looked better on TV, which was pretty funny. You pay all this huge money to watch an event, then they employ your free labour for the world-wide TV production! The only lull was the innumerable teams that came out and paraded around. Those indian/native american/first nation/aboriginal/original tribes/indigenous/whatever-they-are-called-this-year dancers must have gotten so tired jumping up and down and spinning around and around during the parade!

Unfortunately, despite the massive status of SRM (and unfortunately also DHP) we were assigned pretty crap spots far away, and it was a challenge with a long lens and very dark interior (and only being able to shoot at max ISO 1600 on the Canon 1dMkIIN). The big guns at Reuters, Getty, AFP, AP and AAP get the prime spots, and the best shots. It was a challenge to get nice shots – we were both pretty happy with our work…until we checked what the uber-agencies managed to capture. Check-out Fairfax’s gallery here. Those guys have it so sorted – prime spots already assigned, they just fire away till a memory card is full, then hand it to a runner who takes it downstairs to a guy who edits the shots for him, then emails them on so they are online before the Ceremony is even over! So I’ll chalk my night down to a great learning experience and an awesome, fun, general Olympic experience…

12
Feb
10

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I was woken up Friday morning by the thunder of helicopters echoing off the buildings and rattling the window next to my bed – fortunately I wasn’t in some sort of Hunter S Thompson bad-acid Vietnam flashback (sorry, i’m currently reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to get in the right frame of mind for our Snowboard like a Rockstar magazine trip to LA in March). The Olympic flame was in town, and the choppers were catching all the action in downtown Van…and when I got out on the street it was packed, and the real Olympic spirit (not my manufactured, barstool one) had finally hit.

Thursday had been a great first day in town, checking out the massive MPC (Main Press Centre) and picking up my free kit, as well as running into Dan Himbrechts. Check his blog here for some more shots of pre-Olympic Vancouver. It was a busy night, first up with a ritzy reception by the AOC to introduce the Australian Team, and announce Torah as the flag-bearer. Well done, Torah! I knew how these things go, so while everyone was dressed in their semi-formal attire and on best behaviour, I, in my t-shirt and jeans headed straight for the bar and the food buffet to get the most of my tax dollars. Some snowboarders may scoff at the idea of being an Olympian, but I couldn’t help but get a real sense of excitement and pride from the “athletes” representing Australia. More than any other moment, I wanted to be up there with them, part of the Team. Maybe it seems more attainable when you see guys and girls you’ve known for years up on stage? I don’t think I’ve ever seen the last member to sneak into the snowboard team, Steph Hickey, with a bigger smile on her face!

The party was surprisingly full of sports and Channel 9 famous faces, and some out of place swimmers like Grant Hackett and Gian Rooney. The most important man in Australia gave a speech and intoduction, and even K-Rudd sent a video message perpetuating the myth that Australia “punches above its weight” on the world sporting stage – what a crock. If it weren’t for an old High Court interpretation of the Constitution that allows Australia to use taxpayer money to fund communist-styled institutional sporting programs for the “good of the country” we wouldn’t “perform” so well every 4 years. I’m all for public spending on sport, but now that the rest of the western world has cottoned on to taxpayer-funded sports programmes (except the USA, which is privately funded – ie sponsorship) don’t just expect and demand medals, Kevin. And remember, this is the same Labor that wants to cut sport spending unless a sport can guarantee medals (which affects all the marginal winter sports, except snowboarding and freestyle skiing).

After the AOC gig Dan and I then caught a cab to the aquarium where Canon and Nikon were jointly hosting a party – more open bars and hot buffets – for all the 1200 photographers. We just wanted to go along so we could pick up our gift, a limited edition Lowepro Flipside 500 camera backpack, which you can’t buy but would be worth about $300 in Oz. Score! But it was a bad idea to have a photog party at a place with some many bright and shiny things and so many enquiring eyes – I don’t think the jellyfish were allowed to float alone once…I even couldn’t help but get in on the paparazzit act, no matter how hard i tried to resist the obvious. It was a surreal, sort of nerdy party – but fun nevertheless. I got discussing Van’s shitty weather with a Canon Professional Services woman who commented that you don’t need to worry about white balance here – with all the clouds it’s always 18% grey. Haha. Photo humour.

Speaking of weather…it’s been pretty much raining the whole time i’ve been here, and doesn’t look like stopping. And I must say, i’m trying to love this city…but just can’t. What makes a city beautiful? Is it the people, the landscape, the structures or all three, plus that little bit of something else you can’t put your finger on? Van certainly gets a tick for its beautiful women, but a cross for all the pasty, splotchy-half-bearded hockey jocks. Without the advantage of makeup, fake tan or mineral bronzer, all the guys are so pale and weird looking – I swear I saw Edward Cullen yesterday. I understand why they filmed up here – the sun never shines on his glittery skin. And Van should get another tick for the theoretically snow-capped mountains across the bay, but with all this cloud, you can’t see them. The city itself is nothing special, in terms of structures, but where it really lets itself down is it’s slums right on the CBD doorstep. As the warmest city in Canada, Vancouver is mecca for the country’s homeless. They are everywhere, and then there’s all the druggies: I’ve been asked for spare change by cocky mother-fucker losers in the line for McDonalds and Pita Pit! I was walking just a couple hundred metres from the MPC and came across a homeless food shelter (I felt too intrusive to take photos) and on East Hastings there are shops selling everything to make your homeless life comfortable. There are even tourist information signs in front of the old Woodwards building that celebrate the descent into depravity that East Van has become. What’s next, Rio de Janeiro-style motorbike tours of the slums (favelas) to laugh and point at the downtrodden? Even Reno is less visibly sketchy than this place. I’ve never been to Detroit, Philly or the Bronx, but they can’t be much worse than Vancouver, except that in US slums I would be judged by the colour of my skin, and not by the content of my character, and targeted accordingly. It’s mostly white homeless here in Vancouver, which can make it hard to work out if that guy in tatty black clothes is a drug addled drifter, or just an urban hipster/emo punkster…until they get up close and you look at their eyes and skin.

Anyway, enough negativity. The Games are on, and there’s a great festive spirit all around…and I can’t wait till the weather clears (a little) and they can schedule some snowboard practice up at Cypress.