This photo is from the 2012 U.S. Gymnastics Olympic Trials in San Jose, CA about a month before the London Olympics. I’d been shooting gymnastics since before the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and whenever possible I try to mount a remote camera above the balance beam. It’s a low percentage shot because the women are usually looking down at the beam, but this time we created magic.
I find that most of my good gymnastics shots come about because I watch the top girls warming up. In warm-ups, the gymnasts repeatedly run through their routines. This gives me the knowledge to know what they are going to do and when they will do it. Instead of thinking “that looks great” and then shoot, which means that fleeting moment has passed, I can think “OK, here comes the moment I want to capture.” In the case of Gabby, there was one moment when she threw her head back and looked straight up. I knew it was coming and I nailed it.
A word on remote cameras. Almost all modern arenas have a catwalk system in their ceilings. Some are nice and wide metal ramps with railings, some are a couple of 2 x 6s suspended from some wires. Of course, you must hope that there are accessible spots to mount the cameras above the apparatus you want to shoot.
Once you have your spot, the most important thing to consider is safety. You DO NOT want a camera falling out of the sky and landing on someone’s head. I use several attachments on the camera and a safety cable. The camera is fired with a remote trigger attached to the camera and one with me on the floor. Although this shot is with a 70-200mm lens, you can use 300mm and even 400mm lenses depending on the sport, the height of the building and the strength of your mounting gear.
Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mk IV
Lens: Canon EF 70-200 f2.8L IS USM
Exposure: f4 @ 1/1250, ISO 2000