Pyeongchang 2018: Up The Course

001_upthecourse_021118Matt Graham (AUS) during mens’ moguls freestyle skiing moguls qualification during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Phoenix Snow Park.

Prior to joining the ranks of Olympics photographers, I recall reading hallowed tales from other shooters about what a grind the schedule was. The Summer Olympics was said to be the creme de la creme of punishment and physical tumult in the name of storytelling and all things visual. If you enjoy getting more than two hours of sleep a night over a three week span, they warned, stay far and clear from wielding a camera there.

The Winter Olympics were painted as if a walk in the clouds, where anyone would surely attain photo nirvana so long as they brought along snow boots, hand warmers, and a few soft pillows from home for all the sleep they’d be getting (that is, after having time for sight-seeing, shopping, and the like).

I’m here to inform that masses that, after experiencing two prior Winter Olympics and one Summer Olympics, I have officially declared the Winter Olympics as the ultimate winner for taxing the body and mind – without question. Without this dispatch becoming a woe-is-me soliloquy (“Hey, Guy, you’re at the freakin’ Olympics! Suck it up, would ya?”), I will attempt to paint a brief picture of my physical activity day-to-day. In doing so, it will also shed some light on why this is just the first blog I’ve written from the Games three days in to competition.

An example of  a higher angle I sought out on the moguls course to clean up my background when photographing the final jump on the course (note the skiier taking a practice run near the center of the frame, and the small sliver of clean, white background I had to work with).

Along with photographers Kyle Terada and Jack Gruber, I’m anchoring the Phoenix Snow Park here in Pyeongchang. The park is host to all the extreme sports at the Games, including snowboarding, moguls skiing, snow cross, and the like. Each day, starting at 8am, the three amigos sit down and look at the day’s events and formulate a plan for our coverage. We decide who will shoot where on the course, making sure we’re not overlapping our spots to maximize our coverage of what are typically very large and long runs for the athletes. How long, you ask?

According to my trusty iPhone, I have been climbing an average of 42 stories per day to reach my shooting positions on the various courses. 42 stories sounds modestly impressive if we’re envisioning climbing a warm stairway in a high-rise building… only I’m not. I am climbing up snowy, slippery 28-degree slopes with 30 pounds of camera equipment in-tow. Those of you who’ve been following my Instagram stories have seen the crampons (anti-fall-and-embarass-yourself spikes the fit to the bottom of my boots) that are mandatory for making some of these treks. Factor in the heft of several layers of winter clothing to fight against the stinging -1°F wind chills along with generous boots below foot, and you’re left with what would be challenging even for someone in perfect shape and lacking a developing beer belly.

Jussi Penttala (FIN) makes his way down the moguls course.

004_upthecourse_021118Jung Hwa Seo (KOR) crashes during ladies’ moguls freestyle skiing moguls qualification.

005_upthecourse_021118Skis lined up in the snow at moguls qualification.

006_upthecourse_021118Jimi Salonen (FIN) crashes during mens’ moguls freestyle skiing moguls qualification.

Despite wondering if I should bring my own portable oxygen supply for future winter sports activities, these climbs up the course are almost always worth the rewards at the end of the day. You see, I always strive to put myself in a position that most of the other photographers aren’t in. When I realize I’m in a pack of ten or more photographers all using the same lens as me (meaning they’re all going to get the same photo, more or less), my visual fight-or-flight kicks in and I typically move. At the Games, this move typically takes me higher on those upward climbs. Struggles notwithstanding, I’ve found that being up on the course in the elements with the athletes–in their world–typically yields the images I’m most proud of from the Games. Having a more-than-front-row seat to the best winter athletes in the world is also incredibly rewarding, camera or not!

007_upthecourse_021118Detail shot of the goggles of Nicolas Huber (SUI) during men’s snowboarding slopestyle qualification.

008_upthecourse_021118Rene Rinnekangas (FIN) during men’s snowboarding slopestyle qualification.

009_upthecourse_021118Seppe Smits (BEL) crashes during men’s snowboarding slopestyle qualification.

010_upthecourse_021118Max Parrot (CAN) appears to peer into the windows of a high-rise building (coincidentally, where I am staying) during men’s snowboarding slopestyle qualification.

011_upthecourse_021118Jute mats sit atop the snow to form walkways during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Phoenix Snow Park.

Finally, in keeping with tradition with my previous two Olympics blogs, I will leave you with a language lesson from our host country.

Guy’s Korean Word of the Day is, 감사합니다, pronounced, “Kahm-sahm-nee-dah,” meaning, “Thank you,” as in, “감사합니다 for reading my first 2018 Winter Olympics blog!”

Posted in Photography, Photojournalism, Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Sports, Travel by Guy Rhodes on February 11th, 2018.

4 Responses to “Pyeongchang 2018: Up The Course”

  1. Lisa DeNeal says:

    Great photos! Thanks for sharing

  2. Debbie Hartka says:

    YEAH !!! Love your Olympics blogs. Great photos….kahm-sahm-nee-dah

  3. JILL Verbich says:

    AWESOME!!! I LOVE your detailed descriptions! Stay safe and ENJOY!!!

  4. Maestra Heredia's class says:

    Greetings, Guy from a fellow Region Rat by way of Ypsilanti, Michigan. My class is following your blog. Here are some class comments:
    We love how you take pictures of these cool athletes. It’s supercool how you can take these pictures at the exact moments with right timing. We like how you take pictures of the Olympians when sometimes you can’t get that picture close up on TV. We admire how you can carry 30 lbs of camera equipment up and down the equivalent the 42 flights of stairs. Why do you take so many pictures of them crashing and falling? You are very good at what you do.