Tag Archives: olympics

Sports photography: Great fun, great challenge

I love the Olympics. It’s the best time to view water polo and women’s sports. I marvel at the myriad body shapes and talents. I love the history of the events. I am an Olympics nerd, and this time every four years I watch a LOT of TV.

The beautiful HD video that streams into our homes every day masks the difficulty that is sports photography. Sports photography is the most challenging type of photography I’ve encountered. Subjects move quickly, and you can’t always get very close to them. For indoor events, available light is limited, strange in color, or multi-colored. The subject can approach quickly making depth-of-field an issue. My favorite sports, water sports, have a couple extra layers of difficulty: the camera dislikes water, and half the game happens under it. I’m still not as good at sports photography as I’d like to be.

Below are a few of my favorite sports images from over the years. Some are very old and maybe not as good as newer ones, but I remember the feeling I got capturing them. I remember how I fought for good images with my low-ISO camera and my poor-quality zoom. I spent hours in post-processing working to get what I could.

If you’re interested in sports photography, college events are great practice grounds. You can often get closer than at pro events and catch unusual sports too. Be aware of the camera policies in place, however. When I moved to Virginia, I was dismayed to find that the ACC allows no lenses over 3 inches in length, at least for football. If you can get close to the action, beware for your body and your camera. I developed a great reflex for shielding the camera from splashes during water polo games.

And without further ado, some of my favorite sports images.

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Art Deco Posters: Water Polo, the gentleman’s game

The Olympics are coming up! It’s that rare time when non-professional sports get to shine! As a lover and player of water polo, I get so inspired watching the amazing men and women of the world expressing their mutual disdain through grabbing, elbowing, and splashing in the big pool. Water polo is GREAT.

As I type this, I nurse a bruise from a deliberate kick in the back, some mystery bruises on my arm, and a sprained thumb. I can only hope I gave as good as I got. But really, one of the wonderful things about water polo is the intensity of the violence compared to the mildness of injury. You cannot fall down or run into a wall, and any underwater shenanigans are dissipated by the water. As I have often said, water polo enables to player to express all of the intent, but little of the impact. That’s perfect!

As I have demonstrated again and again, I love art deco design. I love old art deco Olympic posters; they’ve inspired my water polo art before. Water polo is a niche sport, and there isn’t a ton of art out there for it. Additionally, I enjoy contrasting the gentility of art deco design with the brutal public image of water polo. The soft civility of art deco posters in many way jives with how the game feels as a participant—it’s like a big tea party with all of my scantily-clad friends.

So, as we near these (hopefully sewage free but probably not) Olympics, I hope you’ll enjoy my water polo posters. I got inspired when the Olympic Trials were on TV a few months ago, so you can only imagine how much I’ll enjoy the Olympics.

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Writing prompt: Invent a pivotal historical person

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Invent a fictional person who played a pivotal but unknown role in history” [Note: For my historical event, I chose the marathon of the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, which as you can read here, went farcically badly. The whole Wikipedia page is actually worth a read, with gems like this one: “One of the most remarkable athletes was the American gymnast George Eyser, who won six medals even though his left leg was made of wood.”]

I might not be able to win the marathon. But I could ruin it. The damned heavy cast slowed my walking. The bone was nearly mended, but it was too late now. Even if I sawed it off, my leg would be weak, and I could never run so many miles.

It was so hot. I felt the sweat dribble down my leg, itchy and utterly inaccessible. I drove my car along the route while the runners ran. One looked very sweaty and red in the face.

“Sir, you’re only nine miles in,” I said. “If you’re struggling like this now, you’ll never make it.”

The man ignored me for a time, but his pace slowed. Finally he stopped. “Sir, I have no thanks to offer for your discouragement. But I’ve left my clothes in the stadium. Would you make up the injustice by driving me?”

He was right, and I told him to get in. Ten miles in, though, the car broke. I left it, hobbling slowly. Several angry dogs barked in a yard along the path. With my crutch, I unlatched it and kept on moving before the dogs noticed.

I set my crutches across the road now. In the dust, and with the fatigue of the athletes by this point, they might miss it. I laughed, and turned to the man for whom I’d provided a ride. He was gone. He’d started running again. Oh, well, perhaps a sham winner was better than any idea I could concoct.

Fun science: how does figure skating work?

How does figure skating work? In short, we don’t fully know. You may have learned in science class that the pressure of the blade causes the ice to melt. Water does have the unusual property that solid ice is less dense than liquid water, and ice will melt under sufficient pressure. The thing is, the weight of a human body on an ice skate isn’t enough pressure to induce that melting.

Phase diagram for water. At normal atmospheric pressure, water freezes (to ice I, or normal ice) at 32 F or 273 K. At higher pressures, the freezing point is suppressed, as shown by the solid black line between the blue and white regions at the bottom. (Figure credit, Wikimedia)

So, if not the weight of the skater, what allows the blade to slide along? Well, there is a layer of liquid at the interface of the blade which allows the skater to glide. Denizens of very cold climates know that at sufficiently cold temperatures, skates do start sticking and catching on the ice (source: my mom’s many winters in Wisconsin, and science). Our best guess right now is that the surface properties of ice differ from the properties of the bulk. Perhaps at the surface of ice, the pressure *is* sufficient to cause melting (at temperatures near enough to freezing).

The difference between bulk properties (the properties of a big chunk of something) and surface and scale-related properties is increasingly studied. Nano-scale gold exhibits a wide variety of properties depending upon particle size, as you can see in the image below. Such colloidal gold is used in a variety of medical applications such as tumor detection and drug delivery.

Solution colors change as the gold particle sizes change. (image source Wikimedia).

When things like water and figure skating are still mysterious, who says science doesn’t leave room for wonder? Given the relatively few forces interacting in such systems, I find the richness of variation we observe entrancing. This Olympics, I’ll watch the athletes skate and consider the angstrom-scale world on which our lives glide.