Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Peter Read Miller - Let The Games Begin...
The 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens saw the Games return to Greece and marked the first time digital cameras captured the bulk of the action
There was a chain reaction that led to these previously impossible images. First, the lighting at the events was good, and the digital cameras had the ability to go up to ISO 1000 or even 1200 and still maintain image quality. Those factors gave Miller the freedom to use broad-range zoom lenses with slower ƒ-stop ranges, and the zooms allowed him to adjust composition on the fly. For example, Miller shot men's water polo from beginning to end. When shooting in the indoor venue, he was allowed to go into the rafters, but only with a single body and lens (the organizers rightly decided that would reduce the chances of dropping a lens onto an unsuspecting player's head during a game). Miller used the Canon 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 from the lofty perch. Although it's not a fast lens, the zoom range gave him versatility and the camera's ability in low light made it all work.
Miller also was the lead SI photographer for gymnastics in Athens. That meant he was on the floor in prime position for just about every event. If you watched any of the gymnastics coverage on TV, you would have seen Miller on the sidelines of the action (once he even wore a bright green shirt to give his mother something to look for as she watched the Games from home; that didn't go over as well with SI as it did with his mother, though).Says Miller, “I used the 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 zoom for a lot of the gymnastics work. It was so nice to have the freedom of framing that the zoom gave me. I never could have done that with film because I would have needed an ƒ/2 lens to make up for the low light. In low light, digital is a world of difference from film.”
Even when you're one of the best in the business, covering the Olympics is a stressful endeavor. When Miller was shooting film, there always was a question of whether he really got the shot. Miller contrasts that with an account of one of the biggest events of the Games, the men's 100-meter sprint in track and field.
“All 10 of our photographers were there for the 100,” he recounts. “I was in what we call the react position around the second turn. That position gives me a great vantage point for the runners reacting to the results, but it doesn't give me much of a perspective for the race or finish. This time around, no one really knew who was going to come away with the gold, so we were all on our toes. When the race finished and I got my reaction photographs, I was able to review them right away to see if I got it. There was no waiting around to hear about it later after film was processed.”
All in all, the Athens Games were a rewarding experience for Miller. “While there was a lot of talk leading up to the opening ceremonies about whether or not the Greeks would be ready, I found that they did a fantastic job,” says Miller. “Every event has a main photography coordinator who both keeps the photographers in line and helps with any problems we might have. For some of the main events, the Athens organizers brought in the coordinators who had done the Games in Sydney. They were great. They had experience and they took care of everything, down to cutting out railings to help us get the right pictures. I'm sure Beijing will do a great job, but I can't imagine them being as flexible or accommodating as the Athens organizers.”
To see more of Peter Read Miller's photography, visit his website at www.peterreadmiller.com.