Sochi 2014: Aerial Enthusiasm

Travis Gerrits (CAN) competes in men’s freestyle skiing aerials during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

I woke up today to a text from my editor that said, “Go shoot some features if you get enthusiasm.” Translation: “Go shoot some features.” So, after grabbing a great pizza lunch with said editor and several other members of the team, myself and colleague J.D. Mercer headed out on the streets of Rosa Khutor to find some interesting subjects for photos.

No sooner than we turned the corner from the restaurant, we spotted two Russian officers decked out in full tactical gear, complete with assault rifles. People often ask me about security here, and whether I feel safe. Well, these guys are posted up on every other block, and I wouldn’t try anything with them around. They mean business, plain and simple. I can’t even begin to imagine what would happen to a troublemaker in their custody.

On day one, I wouldn’t have ever considered approaching these officers for an iPhone snap, let alone a carefully-executed portrait on 4×5 film! (Photo by J.D. Mercer)

As we strolled past, J.D. suggested that I do a portrait of them with my 4×5 camera. This is something I wouldn’t have even considered here on day one. After two weeks, however, we’ve learned that law enforcement here, while they mean business, are actually quite friendly and helpful. I approached the two and pointed to my DSLR first, simply asking, “Picture?” They nodded yes in approval, so I took out my Crown Graphic and showed it to them. Their eyes squinted at the relic in my hands, and I could tell the were interested.


This is roughly how I composed the 4×5 portrait. I can’t wait to develop it when I return home!

JD pulled up Google Translate on his phone and “explained” that they’d have to remain very still for me to compose and shoot the photograph, which they did. I think it will be a nice addition to my 4×5 black and whites I’ve been shooting throughout my trip.

A meat vendor serves lunch in Rosa Khutor.

Following our touristy stroll through the Rosa Khutor square, it was time for me to head up to the Extreme Park to shoot men’s aerials. Aerials is a fun event where competitors ski down a brief slope to a very steep ramp, which launches them over 40 feet into the air. During their trip through the sky, the athletes twist and flip, gaining style points with the judges.

My shooting position tonight from high on the aerials course.

I decided to shoot from high on the course, giving me a background of mountains and trees during the day, and a jet black slate at night. While the sport can be somewhat repetitive from this angle, it’s important to shoot every single athlete diligently, for you don’t know who’s going to win until its all said and done.

Ilya Burov (RUS) competes in men’s freestyle skiing aerials during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

They go really, really high.

I really enjoy capturing the snow that is kicked up off the launch ramp. It reminds me of smoke from rocket engines!


I think I’ve secretly become this guy’s nemesis. That microphone he’s holding? It can hear your thoughts. Somehow, at every event I’ve shot at Extreme Park, I always end up like 15 feet from this guy clacking away at ten frames per second with my cameras. And, while I know the microphone is very directional (meaning it only picks up what it’s pointed at), I’ve seen the operator give people hard looks for blowing their nose too loudly (I’m not joking) in his operating vicinity.

I thought this one looked like he was floating up there unscrewing one of the light bulbs?

Tonight’s shoot was the first time in two weeks where I’ve been somewhat uncomfortable from the cold, mainly because I’d gotten snow in my boots and gloves earlier in the evening while running a cable up the slope to my shooting position (which transmits photos to editors live as I shoot).

David Morris (AUS) on his first jump in the mens freestyle skiing aerials finals.

On the shuttle back to the venue press center, I noticed a little girl across the aisle from me with a cup of souvenir Olympics snow she’d scooped up from the course. “She’s taking it back to Moscow,” her mother (at right) told me in English, with a roll of her eyes.

Guy’s Russian Word of the Day is, “полиция,” pronounced, “Poleetzeh,” meaning, “Police,” as in, “Those scary looking полиция officers were actually very cooperative while having their portrait taken.”

Posted in Photography, Photojournalism, Sochi Winter Olympics, Sports, Travel by Guy Rhodes on February 17th, 2014.

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