Thursday, September 12, 2013

World Cup Photography

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Before we begin our interview, we at the Blickbild want to wish Swedish racer Jens Byggmark a speedy and full recovery from the torn ACL that he incurred in training earlier this week. We will look forward to his comeback in the 2014/15 season. 

A lot of work goes into making a World Cup ski race enjoyable for the fans. There are those who prepare the courses and people who work, both paid and as volunteers, on race day as gate installers, gate judges, and course slippers. The photographers who take the pictures of the athletes that the fans see after the races also very industrious and intrepid, though of course not as intrepid as our reporters and research team. The Blickbild was privileged to talk with a certified World Cup photographer named Primoz. Let's find out what Primoz has to say about being a photographer for the FIS World Cup.

BB: Primoz, you are from Slovenia. I bet that you are relieved that the US invasion failed and you won't have to pay $1 million to Lindsey Vonn.
Primoz: Yes, I am very relieved. I am happy that Tina Maze is able to keep her globes, points, and records from last season. She is a national heroine and deserves her success.
BB: What does it take to be an official World Cup photographer besides technical knowledge of sports photography?
Primoz: First of all, you need to be very strong and know how to ski well. You have to ski down steep icy courses carrying 20 kilos (44 pounds for our US readers) of camera equipment.
BB: I assume you train in the off-season to prepare for carrying all of that equipment.
Primoz: Yes, I lift weights all year long to keep my strength.
BB: What else is a prerequisite to being a ski racing photographer?
Primoz: You either need a lot of warm clothing, or you must love being out in the cold. I often have to stand out in the snow all day. I'm setting up equipment, calibrating it, waiting for the racers, and then packing up my cameras after the race.
BB: Is there anything else an aspiring World Cup race photographer needs to know?
Primoz: Yes. You must know about Alpine skiing so that the cameras are placed in such a manner that they are out of the way of the racers but still get optimum lighting for great photos. You must also be flexible about changing conditions and light.
BB: When you talk about changing conditions, do you mean that the snow has changed to another shade of white?
Primoz: Well, the shadows on the snow change depending on the weather and if it's sunny or cloudy.
BB: That's not what I meant. Snow is obviously snow white and I imagine that's the ideal color for snow.
Primoz: Yes, snow is white.
BB: I don't think you understand the question. There are many shades of white. There's snow white, eggshell white, Navajo white, cream white, pearl white, bone white, ivory, and vanilla white just to name a few. Let's say at the start of a race the snow is snow white. But during the race it changes to pearl white. Do you have special filters to compensate for this color change?
Primoz: No. I don't require special filters except for fog and extremely bright or cloudy weather.
BB: Wouldn't the snow color changing from snow white to pearl white to eggshell white affect the quality of your photos?
Primoz: No. There really isn't a big enough difference for it to matter.
BB: What about when the snow looks blue, pink, green, yellow, or purple?
Primoz: As long my cameras are set up correctly for the lighting conditions, I will be able to get great photos. It doesn't matter what color the snow is.
BB: Do you have a personal favorite shade of white for snow?
Primoz: No. As long as the snow is white, everything is good.
BB: Some of the teams, notably Italy and Austria, have speed suits that are mostly white. What if the snow on race day is the same shade of white as those speed suits? Wouldn't the racers be invisible on film?
Primoz:  That has not been a problem for me so far. Anyway, the speed suits have enough color on them to make the racers visible. The racers also wear contrasting bibs and helmets, which make them easy to identify.
BB: Onto another subject. Your equipment is set up so that the athletes are breaking a photoelectric beam to trip the camera shutter. 
Primoz: That's right.
BB: When you set up your cameras, do you test that the beam is not too strong?
Primoz: The photoelectric eye is strong enough to work the camera shutter, but it is not detectable by the racers.
BB: Have you ever been worried that the beam would be too strong and injure a skier or even cut him in half?
Primoz: No. I'm working with a photoelectric cell, not a laser beam or space alien stun gun!
BB: Think of the TV ratings if the racers had to get down the course as quickly as possible while dodging laser beams emanating from your cameras and those of the other photographers.
Primoz:  I don't think that too many athletes would want to become pro racers if they got hit by laser beams, although Bode Miller would be the perfect person to dodge them with his wild style.
BB: Have any racers figured out where your cameras are and stopped to make funny faces in front of them?
Primoz: No. They are concentrating on winning the race or earning World Cup points.
BB: Nobody has stopped in front of the cameras to sing or do a little dance?
Primoz: No. The Norwegians do dance routines in their speed suits and boots, but only during summer or fall training.
BB: Has Tina Maze ever done a cartwheel in front of one of your race course cameras in the middle of a run?
Primoz: No! She only does them in the finish area when she wins a race. You are certainly asking some ridiculous questions. Anyway, I know I am doing my job properly when my cameras and I are invisible to the racers.
BB: My questions are not ridiculous! They are the questions that nobody else dares to ask. Our readers want to know what it is like be a real World Cup photographer. You never know who will be inspired to become one after reading this interview. 
Primoz: The World Cup could use more photographers. Many people want to do it but only a few meet all of the qualifications.
BB: Let me see if I have this correct. You lug around heavy camera equipment and have frostbitten body parts because you're in the snow all day.  Then you don't even seem to care about subtle variations in the whiteness of the snow. You don't even have laser beams or stun guns coming out of your cameras!  No wonder very few people are qualified to do your job!
Primoz: It really is very exciting. It's a job where I can work outside in the fresh air. I get to know the skiers on a personal level and am part of the race crew. And the less people who are qualified to do my job, the more work I have and the more money I earn.
BB: You have a point. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I want to thank you for your insight about being an official World Cup photographer. We are looking forward to seeing your race photos this coming season. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview. 

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Say, "Cheese" and  watch out for those stray laser beams.

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