It takes focus to capture the action at the 2018 Olympic games. If you like playing with expensive camera equipment, working in high-pressure environments where you need to get the perfect shot, and capturing the biggest moments in sports history, then working as a photographer or camera operator at the Olympics might be your dream job. Here’s what else it takes to be a camera operator, photographer, or producer behind the scenes of the Olympic games.
The best equipment
According to Shutterbug, Canon has sent 60 tech reps and service representatives to the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Hailing from 10 different countries and speaking 10 languages, these camera experts are tasked with cleaning, checking, and calibrating cameras and lenses.
PetaPixel also reports that Canon has provided 1,359 different items, including 205 cameras and 520 lenses. 100 of those cameras are 1D X Mark 11 DSLRs. To make sure every camera operator can capture all the historic Olympic moments, they also have access to 700 different spare parts. It’s not just Canon—Nikon has also sent thousands of cameras and pieces of equipment to the 2018 Olympics, worth millions of dollars.
Here’s a sneak peek into one of these camera rooms from the Olympics in Rio:
You don’t necessarily need to work for a big network to get a job working amid the action of the Winter Olympics. Jeff Hopson from Point Pleasant, West Virginia, is an independent contractor who gets hired as a freelancer by networks.
“Most of my work comes from NBC Sports,” he explains. His background might surprise you – he hasn’t always been covering figure skating – or even sports.
“I’ve always enjoyed photography and sports and being able to combine the two together is great,” he says. “I never imagined that almost 30 years ago while covering city council meetings that I would someday be traveling the world and covering some of the biggest sporting events there are. I’m very blessed.”
If you work as a camera operator for a media outlet, you’ll be responsible for carrying your heavy equipment around in the frigid weather. “Michel has to travel with around 68 kilograms of gear everywhere he goes. There’s a camera, lighting kit, extra batteries, tripod and a Dejero transmitting unit,” Larsen blogs about her camera operator.
“With no access to a car, Michel spends much of his day hauling the kit on and off buses, up and down stairs and between venues,” she continues. “All this in the bitter Pyeongchang cold. In between, he shoots great pictures.”
Several photographers and camera operators have been blogging about their experiences at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang at the Nikon Professional Services blog.
“For Day 3 of the Winter Olympics I was assigned to cover the Luge,” writes Quinn Rooney, a Getty Images photographer from Australia. “The competition involved each competitor having two runs on the course. For the first run I choose to get a stock picture of each athlete as they raced past the PyeongChang signage. I chose an elevated spot in the stands so I could silhouette the crowd in front of the action and capture the interaction between the fans and the competitors.”
“The lugers travel at very high speeds, sometimes up to 150km/hr. so to freeze the action I am shooting at 6400th of a second,” he continues. “I would prefocus on the track and frame up the image to the edge of the rings. Then it was about listening to the noise of the luge as it made its way down the track and then timing the shot as the athletes raced past the sign.”
Rooney then did a more creative panning shot for the second run, using a gap in the trees he found while scanning the area during practice. “ I was shooting at 1/30th of a second to get the movement,” he says.
Reina Kitamura, a photographer from Asahi Shimbun, a newspaper in Japan, also says she had to be creative in planning ahead of time. To get the best view of the spectacle of the Olympic Games’ opening ceremony, she and her team began looking for the right position a year ago. But when their desired position didn’t work out, they had to find another one last month.
“We climbed every high rise around, looking for a vantage point, where we have a clear view of the stadium and perhaps the ski jumping ramp in far back,” she says. They finally found the perfect hotel just two weeks before the event began.
Working in media at the 2018 Winter Games also means getting close to people you’ve just met. Karin Larsen of the CBC writes about her Olympic colleagues, “None of us had ever met before we arrived in Pyeongchang, but after an intense first few days, you’d never know it.”
Larsen also writes about some of the duties of a longtime producer: “Her job in Pyeongchang is to coordinate the shooting and transmitting of interviews, reporter on-cameras and athlete footage from cross-country skiing, biathlon, ski jumping and big air — both for CBC and Radio Canada. It can be a thankless and pressure-packed job.” Larsen notes that since the producer works for both CBC and Radio Canada, she also needs to know two languages, English and French.
As the world gathers to watch the winter Olympic games every four years, only a lucky few get to experience the action live. For everyone else, they rely on the professionals to capture the magic of the Olympic games. The stakes are just as high for the people who record the games as they are for the athletes.