Naperville skater Evan Lysacek appeared here previously in a collection of other portraits of Olympic hopefuls, but I didn’t make any comment about his photo. Now that he rocked the Olympics by being the first U.S. man to win a gold medal in skating since 1988, I thought I’d post some specifics. In that post, I described some technical details on how the photos were supposed to look, but the look he was creating was one of focused intensity. I’m not exaggerating or lassoing a star when I say that of the seventy-some athletes I shot during those three days, Lysacek was the one whose intensity stood out. I was actually a bit startled by it. Maybe it was his eyebrows and tightly clenched jaw, or his dark eyes and quite demeanor – or all of that. As you look at his photo, especially the one at left, remember that he’s facing me and a crazy crowd of activity behind me – photographers, agents, athletes, etc.. all bumping into each other and creating a raucous roar. Some athletes handled that by being funny or irreverent. Some appeared a bit tired or distracted. Lysacek stood in and quickly stared at me with such concentration, I knew he was focusing more on the picture than I was.
On a previous post you saw the scene where I photographed quickie portraits of Olympic hopefuls in Chicago at the Palmer House in a room crowded with athletes and other photographers. These were some of the more interesting photos from the bunch. I shot all of them in a vertical format with a tilt-shift lens while using a ringflash. Just a little cumbersome, especially when you only have a couple minutes of shooting time. I also wanted to create a cyan-bluish tone to the images, to create a sense of winter cold. To do so, I used a cyan colored background. The reason it appears white in the photos is because I overexposed it. The white then dissolved into a cyan as the light fell off the subjects – creating a cold edge. It’s a slight effect. You can see that more in the images of athletes wearing dark colors, or in the duo at bottom. All in all, I enjoyed the process. I was really struck at how the personas of the athletes tended to come out in their pictures, especially among those who have participated in previous Olympics. I also could see how those personas might possibly outlive their Olympic experiences and endear them to millions around the world.
©2009 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia
What is it like photographing 75 Olympic athletes in 2 and-a-half days? Something of a cross between speed-dating and a three-ring circus. I was assigned to a room with six other photographers this past week at the Palmer House for the media preview of the United States Olympic Committee. Representing various wire services and newspapers, we were given a few minutes each to shoot portraits of athletes of the 2010 Winter Olympics. It was the first time I had ever done something like this. During the cavalcade I was literally bumping my behind against a UPI photographer’s as we avoided trampling each other’s cords and equipment. Because of the loud din, I found myself shouting directions at the athletes who were remarkably good sports about it – given that I was blasting them with a ringflash and four other lights. Of course, in the middle of all this, television stations from across the country came through filming us as we photographed the athletes. No, that wasn’t chaotic. Because athletes were herded into the room in droves, there were some quiet moments in between where the photographers engaged in the topics of conversation you would expect among a group of guys holed up in a room for days – duct tape, hermaphrodites and the Die Hard movie where some guy gets stabbed with an icicle. All told, it was fun and inspiring to be around such athletic overachievers. I know this coming Olympics will have added meaning as I will recognize some names and faces. Here is a photo gallery of some of the Olympic hopefuls.