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Feature Image by: Alisha Lovrich

Alisha Lovrich at Tokyo Olympics 2021, as an Athletics Photographer for Aotearoa

What it is like photographing at the Olympic Games?

This year, I attended the Tokyo Olympics 2021 and I have to say, the Olympics is just insane! Photographing at the pinnacle event of your sport is just an incredible experience. The athletes also peak for the Olympics, so you often see the most incredible performances! Even with no crowds in Tokyo, the atmosphere was incredible. They had a great DJ + Sound engineers to create the sound of a good atmosphere, and every athlete competing could have their support cheering them on!

My current International combo:

EOS 1D X Mark II + EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM + Optional 1.4x III Converter

EOS 5D Mark IV + EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM

• EOS 5D Mark III + EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

For international work in big stadiums such as World Championships, Commonwealth Games, and Olympic Games, access is limited. As my access is limited, my gear setup changes to suit this. I find the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM hits the sweet spot, it provides me with enough focal length to get the action from afar but also leaving me with some breathing room. The 1.4x converter is excellent, it feels just like using an EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM! When I need that extra bit of reach, I put on my 1.4x converter. Stadium lighting overseas is excellent so no need to worry about extra gear for it. I would recommend having the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM and a wide-angle lens to give you more options, especially when you have infield access for your athletes!

As much as I love working for these major events, it also has its challenges. At a regular international sports event, as I have mentioned before, your access is extremely limited as they cannot have a hundred photographers running around the infield! Generally, we are limited to the outer rim or as known as the ‘moat’ which is a space for photographers that goes around the track. This year, at the Olympics in Tokyo, they had a trench that you stood at for all the photographers. There was a rail above you for the track (so people didn’t fall in the moat) so you had to avoid the rail while you were shooting. There were also dedicated seats to photograph from as the moat only covered 300m of the track. There was also a head-on platform for the finish which gave you a top view of the finish. Then access to these three types of photo positions is hard. You often have to go back down into the underneath of the stadium and come back out again. One major challenge was accessing each section and the time it took to access each section, this affects your decisions on what shots you plan to take, seeing if you have time to get from A-B.

A lot is going on at Olympic Games, especially with Athletics. One thing you'll have to watch out for is, broadcasting, they have fixed and roaming cameras all over the track. At these games, they upped the number of cameras as they didn’t need to worry about blocking the spectators' view and to give more of an experience to those watching at home, however that meant more obstacles in our shots! It was a challenge for me as it forced me to think creatively and outside of what has worked in the past to get those shots!

Alisha Lovrich at the Tokyo Olympics 2021

Overall, it is one of the most incredible experiences, you get to be right there with the athletes and, often you get the best seats in the house, experiencing all the highs and lows, which I aim to reflect within my work - Encapsulating all the emotions I experienced within a frame.

Below are some of my favourite athletics images from the Tokyo Olympics 2021

Do you have any advice for people wanting to get into sports photography/athletics photography?

Athletics is a dangerous sport to photograph so I don’t recommend just rocking up to a track and walking infield to take photos. It is a fast way to get kicked out/banned, from experience, I would recommend networking, pick up conversations with organizers of an event and ask for permission. They might limit you to the outfield but that’s okay, that was where I was at for my first sessions, there are also meets and club nights which you can look out for! It’s always insightful to watch the sport a bit before going for a shoot, so you can anticipate how athletes move in the space, then start to think of compositions to follow! You are also more than welcome to reach out to me on social media: @alishalovrich

Alisha Lovrich at the Tokyo Olympics 2021

Alisha Lovrich
Sports and Athletics Photographer