Today's Awesome Guest Blogger: Jeff Cable

I recently returned home from Sochi, Russia where I photographed my 4th Olympic games, and while I was there, I was happy to see an email from Rick asking me to contribute to his amazing blog. I consider that an honor, almost as much as shooting the Olympics for Team USA.

Since getting home, the number one question I get is, “How was Russia?” and the second most asked question is, “What was your biggest challenge there?” Russia had its challenges, with less than ideal lodging and food, but we made the best of it and enjoyed the Games. The biggest challenge when shooting almost any Olympics, is trying to capture photographs that are different from the other 1000 photographers who surround me.

I took the opening photograph in this post from a high position using a Canon 1DX and the new Canon 200-400mm lens.

I love shooting with a camera that can capture 12 photos per second. With so much fast action happening around me, it gives me a better chance of freezing that exact moment which tells a story. Now that memory cards are so inexpensive and high capacity, anybody can shoot a lot of photos and keep only the ones that show the best action.

 When photographing portraits, most of time we concentrate on the subject’s eyes. And this is also true when I photograph sports. If you look at almost all of the photos on this page, you will see that the athlete’s eyes are critical to the success of the shot. Having sharp focus on the eyes helps draw the viewer into the image and shows the intensity of the athlete.

It is really nice to have some of the best athletes in the world as my subjects.

For the majority of the photos I am taking at the Olympics, I am shooting at a very fast shutter speed. I am usually in the range of  1/1000 to 1/1250 sec. If you are shooting sports, you should adjust your ISO and aperture to get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action.

As the ski jumpers were flying through the air, I was tracking them with the Canon 70-200mm lens. I really love the way that this jumper was backlit by the flood lights.

I always say that a good photographer should be able to shoot photos in any environment. At the Olympics, we are shooting during the day and at night, which poses different challenges, but also provides some fun images. We know how to change the settings of the camera without even looking at the buttons or menus. Many times, we are forced to make split second decisions of shutter speed, aperture, or composition, and need to make changes instantly. There is no time to consult a manual or try to remember how to make these adjustments.

Even though I could have photographed at f/2.8, I chose to shoot at f/3.5 to get a little more of the athletes in focus.

My primary assignment was shooting for USA Hockey, and I captured every men’s and women’s game played. In order to get the best photos, it was imperative for me to stay aware of the game and be ready for any action on my side of the ice. When I shoot an NHL game, we can shoot through holes in the glass, but the Olympic Committee does not allow holes, so we are forced to shoot through Plexiglas. This makes it even tougher to shoot good hockey photos. Most of the time, I would get to the arena two hours before the game started, so that I could find the best location with the cleanest plexiglas (with the least amount of marks from sticks and pucks). Then, I would tape my business card to the wall indicating that was my reserved spot.

My goal is to capture the peak of action at a variety of different sports, and try to do so in a unique way. This might be taken from a different vantage point, a different shutter speed, and with a unique choice of lens.  As you can see from the photo above, this photo was taken from the ice level, where I could see the athlete’s eyes. I also shot photos from the stands, and they are both strong photos, but have a completely different feel to them.

Due to the crazy fast speeds of these sleighs, I actually captured these photos between 1/4000 sec and 1/6000 sec to freeze them.

People ask me all the time, “What is your favorite thing to photograph?” and my answer is usually, “Anything new and different”. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I don’t get many opportunities to photograph bob sleigh. So I had a great time shooting these guys shooting flying past me on the ice. I walked most of this venue to see the track before the competition started. I wanted to find a good turn with the Olympic logo showing. Like other Winter Olympics, there were only a handful of the turns, which had the logo. Having this background helps to tell the story of where I took the photo.

The great news is anyone can take great sports photos, and they don’t need to be at the Olympics. Using good techniques and being aware of your backgrounds will help to get sports photos anyone can be proud of.

You can see my free training classes on my web site
follow along on my blog.

Thanks again, Rick. Always fun hanin' with you - even if it's on the internet.