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Let the games begin!!

The media center opens at 11 AM for a start time of 4 PM.  Brazil was many fold larger than this event but Canada wins for level of disorganization.  In part, I expect that it is related to the number of photographers.  Over 600 for the men and about 200 for the women.  The layers that one has to go through to get on the field are many.  Credentialing for the overall event is the first step, then a specific game seat is required and you are not allowed to move except at half time.  Since I am not from Canada and do not shoot one of the teams playing I am in group three…not good.  Well, it turns out that given the lack of photographers, wasn’t a problem, got a good seat on the end-line.

 

Time to get camera bodies ready as we get to go on the pitch in 30 minutes, more later.

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The Glamor of the World Cup, haha

One of the things that I here repeatedly is how lucky I am to be shooting the World Cup.  That is certainly true, but it is not all peaches and cream.  Today was a great day to bring that home.  First, showed up at the media center for opening to check things out.  Learned a few things.  In Brazil there were about 700 credentialed photographers, Canada, 200.  But there are only 80 places for photographers on the field.  Why?  No good reason, just the way they did it.  So, some may not get seats on the field.  I am in group 3 which makes that more likely.  Checked with Canon Professional Services to see if they would be at the Women’s World Cup…of course we will.  They left out that they will be at the opener and then the semifinals on.  Not Winnipeg or Vancouver for this trip.  Oh well!  So much for the 600 mm lens I was going to use.

 

Here is the media center:

Big problem, although all of the photos will not be at this site, there are only seats for 80….need to get there early!!

 

Of course, they have an elevator to get us down to the media center and then down to the field.  Too bad, take the stairs, always fun when carrying a Pelican Case loaded to weigh 50+ pounds.  And, incredibly steep to boot!

 

It’s not all bad.  CPS was there today and I was able to get all 4 Canon 1DX bodies cleaned as well as having my 200-400, 70-200, 24-70 and 16-35 cleaned.  None were very dirty but learned that one body has a couple of scratches on the sensor.  A very expensive repair.  Good news is that it is unlikely to show up when shooting with my usual f stop.  Probably happened because a  bit of dirt got in and scratched the sensor.  Can’t wait to find out the cost of a replacement sensor.

 

Enough whining!  The good news is that tomorrow I get to shoot two matches to kick off the world cup.  When I started on this road the WC was one of my three goals.  I am here, I am psyched and I am ready to go.

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Edmonton

Made it to Edmonton, weather is cool and justifies the extra clothes I packed.  The stadium was about 2 miles from the hotel, a comfortable walk through Little Italy with a stop for a double espresso.  Very different from Brazil.  A much less populated city and a lot less going on around the stadium for the opener.  Credentials were easy…

blog  0016Of course after walking in and getting my credential, I had to get my photographers bib, the critical item that allows you on the pitch.  Unfortunately, not open until two hours later, oh well.  Found a seat in the stadium that I should not have been allowed to walk into.  Security is tight, very similar to Brazil, haha.

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Here it is, where the opening games of the Women’s World Cup will happen on Saturday.  Looks very empty now, but it will be rocking come Saturday.  On the far end, a stage where Sarah McLachlan and others will perform.  The exact size of the stadium is not known, but it exceeds 50,000.  Heading to the media room, I learned that Commonwealth Stadium is not photographer friendly…STAIRS..!!!  Stairs to the room and stairs to the pitch, no fun to carry a 50 lb Pelican case up or down multiple stairs.

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On arrival in the media room, I was first there.  Two photographers from China were also there wearing New England Patriots gear…yeah!!  No deflate gate in Bejing.  One was wearing a Brady shirt.  I had my choice of numbers and passed up number one to get lucky 13!!  That’s two world cups in a row.  Barring a shift away from Russia, probably the end of the streak.  Now hurry up and wait.  Downloading and preparing rosters, captions, etc.  That’s all for now folks.

 

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The Women’s World Cup-Canada Bound!

Well, it all begins again.  Currently sitting in Dallas waiting for my connection.  I have been slow to blog since the World Cup last summer in Brazil, but today left for Edmonton, Alberta Canada to shoot at the WWC.  Two games for the opener on Saturday, Sunday to Winnipeg and then finish this stretch with the US team in Vancouver on the 16th.  Back to Charlotte the next day with a return to Vancouver on July 4th weekend for the finals which the US will hopefully be playing in.  As always, traveling light is not in my vocabulary.  I hope to borrow a 600, f4 for some of the matches from Canon Professional Services.  But if things go right, two remotes and also brought my trusty 300, 2.8, a great lens particularly if you are shooting with a 600.  Below, see my bags at the airport.  My travelpro has three Canon 1DX bodies, 200-400, 70-200, 24-70, 16-35, 14 and 85.  The backpack has another 1DX, two 5D Mark IIIs for remotes and a 300 mm lens.

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Of course the problem in a trip like this is that you can go light, but pocket wizards, battery chargers etc make for a lot of stuff.  Do you bring one macbook or also a backup.  This made for a lot of extra stuff as well as having to plan for weather that may go from a low of 50 to a high of near 90.  Clothing essentially makes up one of the stacked black bags.  Did have to bring extra stuff for two days of fishing going after Northern Pike and Walleye with my son David…excited.  All for now as I must get to my connecting flight to Edmonton

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Brazil

Sitting in the lounge at the airport.  In less than 12 hours I will be back in Charlotte….yeah.  Obviously when we travel to another country we see many things that are different than what we are used to.  Thought that I would share a few thoughts/observations.  Brazil is described as a third world country.  I stayed in a small town 45 minutes outside of Rio.  It appears that poverty is common.  Standard of living is low.  I showed pictures previously and described my “shower” and my “washing machine.”  Infrastructure is limited, the roads are totally inadequate.  Rio has a road system that would probably accommodate one million rather than the 7 million people that live there.  The sense is that there is a huge gap between the upper and the lower class.  There appears to be a very small middle class.  Like many places that have a lot of poverty, we (americans) are viewed as rich.  This only came up once where I had a guy who drive for me who tried to screw me in terms of paying him.  The worst part is that he didn’t think I saw what he was doing.  People in spite of this seem relatively happy and content.  Before going there was a lot of stuff about protests.  I don’t know where it went during the world cup, but I had no sense of a huge protest movement.  Nor did I have a sense of impending danger.  Virtually everyone I spoke to said be careful.  The place I stayed had a gate, there was security.  But I could walk the streets, day or night and it was fine.  We did drive to one area at night where we needed the lights on inside the car so that they could see who we were.  Apparently a gang that protects the residents will go after people they cannot identify.

 

The approach on the roads is remarkable.  People routinely cut each other off, merge aggressively and drive in ways that would never be acceptable in the US.  I saw multiple settings where behavior would have precipitated horrible road rage in the US.  Not one iota in Brazil.  Also, pedestrians have no right of way.  If they want to cross in a cross walk, let them wait.  Lastly is the unique method of speed control.  First, there are at times random speed bumps in places where you might be going fast.  Guess you better slow down or ruin your suspension.  They also have multiple electronic speed checks with cameras.  If you speed, they get a picture, you get a fine.  Sure are better than having the police going out to deal with this.

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The Nigerian with one arm!

Did I get your attention?  My last post described the process by which I ended up on the pitch for the finals.  Of course nothing is ever simple.  There are of course many little issues that come up in the course of trying to get great pics.  Not the least of this are the other photographers.  By and large, the photography community is a very tight knit group where for the most part we look out for each other.  The number of photographers that came up to me prior to my getting a ticket for the pitch to express their concern was touching.  But there are a small group of photographers who make everyones life miserable.  They can really be put into a number of groups.

 

The first is the professional who believes that he/she (usually a he) is the only one there.  The fact that there are other there is irrelevant.  We each have a space that is about 2 x 2 feet and it is easy to encroach on our neighbors.  In Belo Horizonte I had another photographer come to sit next to me at the half.  He decided that I should move over away from him to give him more space.  Why, because he said so.  I spent the next half with his lens constantly in my way.  With more experience I would have called an official to get help.

 

The boards are close to the field.  So when you are shooting down the line, a poorly placed lens can obstruct your view.  Most photographers are sensitive.  They take off their sun shade (if possible) to provide less obstruction and they do not put there equipment up against the boards in a way that they will obstruct.  One bad apple ruins everything.  Most understand this and most listen if they don’t. Operative word, most.

 

Some photographers show up without professional equipment.  Both Canon and Nikon set up booths where all photographers can borrow equipment.  These folks are the most dangerous.  They borrow most of what they use, the usually do not know how to use it.  They take up space, they cause problems because of ignorance and they often simply do not care.  At one match I had a photographer to my right repeatedly chastising the guy on his other side who he had decided was not a professional and was doing everything wrong…..ouch!

 

Now to the Nigerian.  When I showed up on the pitch for the finals there was a slight man on my right side.  I usually introduce myself to the photogs on either side of me and he told me that he was from Nigeria.  During the match, he repeatedly left his equipment in a position where it interfered with the line of sight for myself and the guy to my left.  I repeatedly asked him, initially nicely to be more careful and explained proper positioning to him.  I wondered after a while if he understood me but ultimately was certain that he did.  As this went on, I looked over and realized that he had a completely non-functional artificial right arm.  This didn’t affect his ability to shoot, but it was an additional thing that made the process more bizarre.  Now I was feeling sorry for him as he was doing things that made it impossible to get certain shots.  How do you perform a two handed process with only one.  When the match was over, he was very polite, nice and wished me well.  A bizarre event on a great day.

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Gooooooal!!!!!

Well the finals of the World Cup took place yesterday.  Unlike my experience to this point, things did not start off very smoothly.  Every credential I had applied for was approved.  But not so this time.  There are always three possibilities, “approved, not approved or rejected.”  “Not approved” means that you can get on a waiting list.  Although my parking pass was approved, my credential for the pitch (field) was “not approved.”  Understanding how this would be handled was very confusing so I went to the media center early the day before the finals.  After much discussion the waiting list would be constructed at 4 PM that day.  I left but had sent an e-mail to one of the FIFA guys.  Parenthetically, they were all nice and reasonable.  I had planned to shoot beach soccer that day and went to the Copacabana.  Thirty minutes after arriving I got an e-mail, “come now.”  Picked everything up, headed to the car and then, “don’t come now, wait until 4 PM.”  Oy!  We were already far enough along that we piled in the car and headed to our favorite lunch buffet near Maracana.  Lunch complete I headed to the media center only to find out that a line for the waiting list had been constructed and there were 40+ people ahead of me.  That good news lasted until the FIFA guy came out and said that they would decide priority based on where you were from and who you worked for and not where you were in the line.  Obviously, a photographer from the country of the finalists had top priority and the 50th photographer from a random country would be low on the totem pole.  They told us that we would likely all be accommodated in the tribune, an area at the top of the stadium that we could shoot from.  Distance is a huge issue from there so I prepared by securing a 600 mm lens from Canon Professional Services.

 

The next morning, headed to the media center, not really sure what to expect.  Arrive at 9:30 and find out that they would not hand out tickets until 2:45 one hour and fifteen minutes before the match.  So to use some time, I went out and shot fans and security around the stadium.  The security compared to any prior matches was increased, they were everywhere:

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I think the security presence actually affected the number of fans that were around, because there were few when I thought there would be many.  We all assembled at the ticket counter to wait for them to give us the info from the waiting list.  First they would announce the few people who would get pitch spots opened when some photographers actually did not show up.  I knew that I didn’t have any chance so I just wanted it to be over with.  They were going through the list, seemed like it was nearing the end….Limentani, Steven!!!  Holy Shit!!  That’s me, after doing thirteen double takes, pinching myself 25 times and almost tearing up, I was at the counter getting my ticket for the finals of the world cup.  I was on the sideline about 40 yards out, not ideal, but on the pitch just the same.

 

Atmosphere…electric, fans decked out in there ultimate fan attire.  It actually becomes a game for them to see who can get their picture taken the most.  They approach this in many ways.   Some examples below:

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One of the nice things about having been at 15 matches is that you develop relationships with the other photographers.  I know that there were at least a dozen there who were cheering for me to get a good credential.  I had one guy from Italy tell me that he would give me a picture of the winner with the world cup since he knew that I wouldn’t get it from the position up above.  Below, a shot of myself with another photographer from Atlanta who has been shooting world cups for years.  He was at one time a FIFA photographer.  PS, he is two years younger then me!!

ME

So there I was, on the pitch.  Rushing to get things in order.  As i have described previously, many teams play it safe when a lot is at stake.  This makes for a boring game.  Not at this match, both teams were going for it.  Germany had the edge in possession, but Argentina had the edge in scoring chances.  Given their previous play, where Germany was dominant and Argentina squeaked by, I viewed Argentina as a team of destiny and figured that they would be the winner.  90 minutes into play the game was 0-0 and we went to two 15 minute periods of overtime.  I was already wondering which end they would have penalty kicks at and whether or not I was well positioned.  And then it happened, gooooooooooooal GERMANY in the 113th minute and my positioning to shoot it was perfect.  My favorite spots would not have been as good.

Mario Gotze

 

 

 

 

Mario Gotze

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mario Gotze

It would have been hard to be in a better position.  Almost 4000 shots during this game resulting in almost 400 keepers.  Much more to tell you about the day and the game.  But that’s all for now.

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There Can Be Only One!

With credit to the Highlander (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kq4SqgxIKM0) every four years with two years of qualifying matches, it comes down to 32 teams in the initial round and almost five weeks of matches to crown the champion.  The semi-finals were not a tremendous surprise.  Brazil, the host nation, the country with the most world cup championships (five) was expected to do well.  Netherlands, never a champion but often a runner up, was expected to be there.  Argentina, my pick for the champion prior to the tournament had been very ordinary through the initial rounds.  But with Lionel Messi my choice for the best player in the world they had managed to continue to play just well enough to get to the next round.  Germany, picked by many to be the champion has been up and down.  There victory over France was mixed.  Quick score and then very pedestrian while they sat on their 1-0 lead.  So this was the background for the two semifinal matches.

 

Brazilians approached the match against Germany with significant trepidation.  Unwilling to admit that their team was anything but the best, the loss of Neymar to a vertebral body fracture and the suspension of Silva for a second yellow card were big issues.  Silva, the anchor for their defense both physically and from his presence was probably the biggest.  We left Santa Cruz at 7 AM with a plan to arrive 5 hours prior to the match, surely plenty of time to get there.  One wrong turn later, and an arrival 4.5 hours prior to the match provided the first surprise.  All lockers were gone.  The line for credentials longer than for any match and the opportunity to get loaner equipment was minimal.

 

This gives me an opportunity to explain a few issues that come up at the world cup.  Photographers having equipment stolen has been a huge issue.  My first trip to Belo Horizonte I earned that an AP photographer had a Canon 1DX and a 400 mm, 2.8 lens stolen.  Value about $19,000.  In Brasilia I sat next to an AP photographer from the UK who listed for me the number of people who had things stolen.  Extremely upsetting and a cautionary note since it is very difficult to always have 100% control of your equipment if you are to do your job.  I don’t have the experience to know if this is usual or not, but I have never experienced anything like this before in my travels.  Having a locker allows better control of things since you can lock up a portion of your equipment while doing fan shots or setting up a remote.  The lack of a locker is huge.  The other issue which is just as big is that even though insurance covers equipment, if you have a long lens and body stolen, what do you shoot with?

 

The math is relatively simple.  When I was credentialed for the world cup, that gave me the opportunity to apply for credentials for individual matches.  Granted a credential for an individual match, I then have to get in line (first come first serve) to get one of the tickets for a chair to shoot from.  This process is very different from many settings in other sports and in the states.  My chair which is associated with a ticket provides me with a two foot wide space with electrical outlets and a high speed internet connection.  If you are unlucky, there is a support structure for the boards taking up some of the space in front of you.  Furthermore, your neighbor and how much they try to encroach on your space can also be an issue.  Photographers are divided into four categories.  Category 1 is for photographers from the countries of the teams playing.  Category 2 is for the host country.  Category 3 is for photographers whose team is still involved in play and category 4 is for everyone else.  As time goes on there are less categories.  For the semi-final match I was in Category 2 but in spite of arriving early, I was number 73 in that category, bad news for getting a prime spot to shoot from.

 

There are many theories about the optimal place to shoot from.  First choice is end-line or side-line.  End-line provides you with a better opportunity to shoot vertical runs that are coming towards you.  It also provides you with an opportunity to shoot players at very short distances often with contact between two of them.  To be able to cover most of the front of the goal, you must not be to close to the middle.  At least outside of where the box of the 18 yard box hits the end line (soccer folks will understand this).  The sacrifice is that you do not get good shots of the goalie.  Side line 18-20 yards out is optimal.  This gives you good coverage of the goalie, midfield play and diagonal runs.  If you are too far out then there is a greater likelihood of having players obstructing your view of the front of the goal.

 

FIFA provides you with two shooting options.  Pitch is around the field on both ends and the sideline opposite where the team benches are.  There is also “photo tribune” which is high up in the stadium.  Since I haven’t been there, I can’t tell you what this is like.  Under optimal circumstances there are about 250 photographer positions on the pitch.  For the semifinal match between Brazil and Germany, by the time they reached my number, all end line spots were gone and the best I could do was a sideline position about 40 yards out…not optimal.  All of this is a prelude to the actual match.  The environment was electric.  I have had the opportunity in the US to see lakers-celtics playoff games during the Bird/Johnson era.  Bruins/Montreal playoff games in Hockey.  These do not come even close to the atmosphere at this match.  And of course, before the match, both teams can win!

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The start of the match was exciting.  End to end, crisp passing, if anything, advantage Brazil.  Most informed people who were not biased felt that Germany was a likely 1-0 or 2-0 winner.  Then it happened, 11th minute, Thomas Muller scores a goal for Germany.  Interestingly, in the match against France, Germany moved to a more defensive style after scoring and the rest of the match was a real sleeper.  Here, Germany did not clamp things down and it was game on in every way.  Brazil attacked, tempo increased and we were looking forward to a very exciting match.  This came to a crashing halt 12 minutes later when Miroslav Klose scored the second German goal.

Miroslav Klose

 

 

Miroslav Klose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I went to my first international match in Rome in 1966.  Since then, I have watched countless matches in different countries and I have never watched anything close to what happened here.  Germany scored in the 24th, 26th and 29th minute.  Four goals in 6 minutes.  Final score 7-1.  What is a comparison?  How about a Super Bowl that is 80-0 at the half and final score 110-7.  How about a basketball game that is 50-10 at the half and 90-18 at the finish.  The demolition of Brazil was complete and it was devastating.  Sitting there, I saw a Brazilian team that after the second goal appeared to give up.  As I watched I simply started to feel sorry for them.  The impact of this event on the Brazilian people is hard to explain.  This was so complete that there are no excuses, there is no explanation.  Being a fan of Italy who won the WC eight years ago and has failed to make it out of the first round for the last two WCs, I understand, sort of.  But in Brazil, this event has simply lost it’s luster!  A little bit of the utter devastation shown here.

Oscar is comforted after the match

 

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Of course, we have to move on.  A couple of my favorites from that match below:

Paulinho, Benedikt Howedes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hulk, Thomas Muller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dante

So we moved on the next day to Netherlands vs Argentina.  Netherlands had played very well, particularly in their opening match when they spanked the last WC winner, Spain.  Their last match was against Costa Rica, decided on penalty kicks.  So which team would show up?  Argentina, my pre-WC favorite for the finals and victory had been way less than impressive in their prior matches.  This match in many ways the epitome of what can be wrong in a tournament like this.  Both teams playing not to lose.  Very conservative.  Minimal action.  Very glad I did not try to go to S Paolo to shoot in the rain!  This match also decided on penalty kicks in favor of Argentina.

 

So I sit here today waiting.  I have applied for credentials for the final.  Hopefully I will get them.  That would be match 15 for me.  Either way truly amazing.  Is anybody betting against Germany?  I am!  To me, even though Germany is best on paper, Argentina seems like the team of destiny.  This would stick in the throats of Brazilians.  But Sunday evening we will know.

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On to the Semi Finals

Thirteen matches, 29,915 images, seventy hours in cars and one trip that ended up in an accident, we are now down to four teams, three matches and a world champion!  My quarter finals began on July 4th with the Germany vs France match in Rio.  Two teams considered pre-WC favorites to make it to the finals now meeting in a quarter finals match at Maracana in Rio.  Germany scores very early in the match.  I have had a love-hate relationship with remote setups.  They can be difficult, sometimes they simply do not work and you do the best that you can do.  Prior to coming to Brazil I struggled with whether or not to hard wire all of my remotes.  Although they work perfectly there are many downsides including the bulk of the equipment and its weight.  At the end of the day, I decided, no can do.  Remote cameras can be triggered with pocket wizards which work with an RF signal.  One problem is that there is so much potential interfering RF in the stadium that your pocket wizard can be interfered with.  One approach that can help with this and the possibility that another photographer may be on the same channel is to have pocket wizard create unique channels to give less likelihood of interference.  At the end of the day, you need a certain amount of luck which includes being at the right goal at the right time.

Hugo Lloris

 

Hugo Lloris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here, things worked out perfectly from the shots to the exposure.  I wish that the game were as good.  After the goal, Germany played to protect there lead…boring!

 

Next day was to Brasilia for Argentina vs Belgium.  My fourth Argentina match of the tournament.  7 AM flight to Brasilia, 4:30 AM wake up.  Made it to Brasilia, got to the match, made it back today.

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Divock Origi, Martin Demichelis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above, shots from yesterdays Argentina v Belgium match.  Argentina was clearly the best team but Belgium put up a great fight.  Not the best game ever, but not a bad match.

 

So we move onward, credentials for the semi-final match between Germany and Brazil.  Brazil will be playing without Neymar (injury) and Silva (cards) have to believe that Germany is the favorite in spite of home court.  Argentina v Netherlands the next day, my bet is on Netherlands and a Germany vs Netherlands final.

 

MORE TO COME!!

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Corcovado

As a tourist in Rio de Janeiro there are a few sites that are considered must sees.  One of these is Corcovado the name of a mountain and the location of Christ the Redeemer.IMG_0198

The statue was created in the 1920s and is about 100 feet tall.  It is probably one of the most viewed images of Rio.  We wanted to see it and of course, during the WC, it was very hard to get to.  Our driver Marcio was very helpful in getting us the express tour and easy access to get to the top.  Here is one of the views of Rio from the statue:

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All in all a great place to visit, great views of the city and a beautifully done statue:

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Have you ever thought about how they make repairs to the statue.  Well, when we were there, there was a worker at the top of the statue:

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