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Winter Sports 2018 Blog

Behind the Camera: “Ballet Dancers on Ice” by Cui Nan

Israeli skaters, Paige Conners and Evgeni Krasnopolski in the Team Event Pair Skating Short Program Nikon D5 | AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II | ISO 50 (Lo 1) | 1/40 s | f/3.5

Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea - Cui Nan, photographer for the China News Service: “When shooting figure skating, the camera position determines what kind of photos you can take. At the Winter Olympics, there are many restrictions of your positions. But there is one simple rule ‘the higher you sit, the clearer your pictures will be’.

It was a pleasure for me to take a series of figure skating pictures for the China News Service at the Winter Games. When shooting figure skating, I don't like using high shutter speeds such as a few thousandths of a second to freeze a moment. I think figure skating's most beautiful moments are not during jumping or being lifted. I want to capture skaters when they are moving across the ice in fluid motion. At this Olympics, I deliberately used a tele lens to shoot from the 2nd floor at Gangneung Ice Arena. Shooting from this position with the 300mm lens, I was able to effectively capture the skaters on the ice with the Olympic rings in the background.

Italian skaters Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte in the Team Event Ice Dance Short Dance Nikon D5 | AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II | ISO 50 (Lo 1) | 1/30 s | f/4.0

In order to create a dreamy atmosphere and to show the movement, I slowed down the shutter speed to tenths of a second. I tried to close the aperture and reduce the ISO sensitivity, and selected Continuous Autofocus mode. Using a monopod enables me to follow the subjects, capturing the images above and below.

Japanese skaters, Miu Suzaki and Ryuichi Kihara in the Team Event Pair Skating Short Program Nikon D5 | AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II | ISO 50 (Lo 1) | 1/20 s | f/5.0

Since reflection from the ice surface when shooting figure skating will cause the camera light metering value to be darker than with normal exposure, I choose the manual exposure mode to adjust the shutter speed, or use Aperture priority mode with average metering and increase exposure compensation by one stop for shooting. These two methods work well and I have got great pictures finally.

American skaters, Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim in the Team Event Pair Skating Short Program Nikon D5 | AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II | ISO 50 (Lo 1) | 1/20 s | f/4.0
Chinese skaters, Zhang Hao and Yu Xiaoyu in the Team Event Pair Skating Short Program Nikon D5 | AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II | ISO 50 (Lo 1) | 1/30 s | f/4.5

At the Olympic Games, the logo of the Olympics is a very effective element for composition. I tried to integrate the Five Rings logo into the composition of the picture when I shot the Chinese figure skating team.

Canadian skater, Kaetlyn Osmond in the Team Event Ladies Single Skating Short Program Nikon D5 | AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II | ISO 50 (Lo 1) | 1/15 s | f/5.0

I also take many pictures of single figure skating. Compared to pair skating that focuses more on the relationship between the two athletes, I need to focus more on the spectacular moves made by individual athlete. This is Canadian skater Kaetlyn Osmond in the Team Event Ladies Single Skating Short Program. This time, Canada has won the gold medal in the figure skating team event of the Pyeongchang Olympic Games”.

Russian skater Evgenia Medvedeva eventually topped the Team Event Ladies Single Skating Short Program Nikon D5 | AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II | ISO 50 (Lo 1) | 1/25 s | f/4.0