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  • Making a connection: Sending Olympic moments from Rio all over the world (part 1 of 2)

  • Nikon Pro spoke to two of the world’s most respected sports photographers about transferring images in the field. In this first blog, we start with multi-award winning sports photographer and advisor to the Olympic Organising Committee, Bob Martin.


    Imagine a killer shot of Usain Bolt crossing the finish line of the 100 metre sprint at London 2012? How about an ecstatic Serena Williams jumping for joy as she secured her gold medal?


    Behind every great sporting moment at the Olympics is a great sports photographer capturing it. But have you ever wondered how these iconic images make it to news organisations around the world almost instantaneously?


    With 1,400 pro photographers set to descend on Rio, Bob Martin shares how the latest development s in large scale Ethernet connections have changed the landscape for photographers sending their shots out.


    wide angle, Roger Federer, Bob Martin, sport photography, French Open, tennis, 2011, Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED,
    Bob Martin’s famous image of Roger Federer at the French Open in 2011 with dark skies and bright sunshine. D3, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 200, 1/1600 sec at f/3.5 © Bob Martin


    Then and now


    ‘There has been a big leap forward in the way photographers are sending images. The main difference between now and four years ago is the fact that, at the London games for instance, everybody was still transmitting via a laptop and most photographers were not transmitting direct from camera. Now of course it’s almost become standard practice for many photographers working in news or sport to move their pictures straight from camera, either via WT-6 wireless transmitters or similar devices or by plugging directly into the net via Ethernet.’


    ‘At the last Olympics, all the big agencies like AFP, Getty, Reuters etc, were plugging in either their laptops or cameras to their own dedicated networks. Now in Rio for the first time, the standard rate card delivery that the attending photographers get is available directly from your photo position, so as you’re allocated your place trackside or wherever, you can plug your camera in right there and transmit directly back to your newspaper or even to your own web site without moving. This is also now available for all the photographers instead of just a few.’


    Connections at Rio 2016: what to expect


    ‘As a photographer arriving in Rio, you’ll pay a set fee and that will give you broadband availability in every workroom and every single major photo position you go to. You just plug in and it’s delivered as an 8meg up, 8meg down shared service. It does vary in quality but it’s still very fast.’


    ‘At the swimming alone there are 250 Ethernet ports just for the photographers, at archery there are 30 – even the underwater and the robotic cameras will be connected. In addition, all the major agencies have a personalised network that they call a VLAN, but it’s more of a private network that the agencies can use. Someone like Getty will have 50 to 60 switches all across the Olympic city which they share with the other major agencies – if you imagine the complexity of it – 50 to 60 large CISCO switches to deliver the internet to the 9 biggest organisations that come in for the games – like Associated Press, Reuters, AFP, Getty, Chinwa from China, Kyodo from Japan, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and EPA – and that’s on top of the standard delivery to the accredited. It’s pretty amazing.’


    Wi-Fi: Pros and cons


    You may well question why Wi-Fi isn’t the top choice at the event. If you’ve ever tried to post a selfie at a football match, you’ll know why.


    ‘Wireless is fantastic, until lots of people start using it’, Bob explains. In an empty stadium, Wi-Fi can be lightning quick, but when photographers are sending large files and everyone’s trying to access Wi-Fi, it becomes very slow.


    Bob recalls when this was a problem in the Twickenham Stadium in London. ‘During the Rugby World Cup they sent all of their tech heads down there to make sure that Wi-Fi and 4G worked. They put in every repeater known to man and when it was an empty stadium it was unbelievable – the pictures uploaded in seconds. At half time however you couldn’t send a picture on Wi-Fi or on 4G because everyone was tweeting and sending pictures of themselves watching the rugby. That’s why the standard expectancy at any large sporting event is now Ethernet.’



    The future of sports photography  


    One of the other big sporting events of the summer, the UEFA Euro 2016 Championship, will also have Ethernet as a standard service.


    Bob hopes every stadium will follow their lead. ‘Really every stadium worldwide must now think this way, as pictures are expected to be delivered instantly’.


    Talking about the future of sports photography, Bob’s only wish is that good quality images will still be valued. As he explained, ‘In an evolving world, I can only hope that pictures delivered at speed to newsfeeds and social media will drive the user to the site where the better quality images are and sales will be driven that way.’

    If you want to find out more about the life of a sports photographer, you can follow Bob’s blog or check out more his work.


    Stay tuned for part to in making a connection from the field, albeit from a very different angle. Are you a sports photographer? What are your experiences in making a connection from the field, share your thoughts with us below!


    Nikon Pro The original article appeared in the Summer 2015 edition of the Nikon Pro magazine. Interested in similar articles? Get the mag here or download the Nikon Pro app, available from the App Store here and through Google Play here