Gear : Winners, Losers & Victims

I posted a few times on gear before I left: here, here and here.  Now seems like a good time to talk about what worked, what was disappointing and a few “it wasn’t my fault” type failures.


  • ThinkTank Roller – This is a bag that is easily taken for granted.  I didn’t even mention it during my initial write-up, but the Airport was rock solid for the entire trip.  It was bounced up and down countless sets of stairs, raced for the bus, dragged through the snow, pushed through the mud, overstuffed and generally abused.  Never had a single issue.
  • Nikon D850 – If this is what the “new” Nikon is capable of delivering, sign me up for

    the mirrorless now.  Remarkably compact form factor, but attach the battery grip and it’s a legit sports camera.  It’s also worth noting that it’s tough.  The D850 took a couple of tumbles and never let me down.

  • RRS Mini-Tripod –  The perfect finish line remote base.  The head never drifted, the lever makes adjustment easy and it folds up tiny.  I saw a couple of other photographers eyeing it during the Olympics, I won’t be shocked if RRS has a run on them.
  • Craft Storm Pants – My “go to” each and every day of the trip.  Yes, they could be a little “warm” in the superheated press venues and on #saunabus, but they were absolutely perfect out on the course.


  • Glyph Blackbox Pro 8TB – What a colossal disappointment.  I spent weeks researching archival drives and clearly made the wrong choice.  It worked fine for a couple of days, but then just wouldn’t mount.  Olympic Tech Support finally got it back up, but it was painfully, painfully slow.  I brought over some old LaCie drives as redundancy — without those, I would have been toast.  This is my second Glyph drive to fail out of the box and — as the saying goes — “shame on me.”  (And pro tip — as a guy who knows a little bit about customer service — telling me that “Let’s have you follow up with a technician to see if you can prevent these errors in the future” isn’t a good idea.  I ONLY have problems with your drives.  Every other kind has been fine.)  My advice?  Avoid these folks like the plague.
  • Patagonia Galvanized Pants – I like these pants, but the suspenders are a pain.  They’d come unhooked at the worst times and were a hassle getting them reattached.  I tried going without the suspenders, but that almost turned into an international incident of its own.
  • Olympic_20180212_WPursuitBiathlon_14763
    Out of whack D5.  This one still bums me out.

    Nikon D5 – It hurts to put this one here, but I had a rough couple of days.  This camera went to Nikon USA for a full check-up just before leaving for Korea.  For the first portion of the games, it was perfection.  The rest you can read about here.  To be fair, I shot the rest of the games on a D5 borrowed from Nikon and it was fine.  But I’m still ticked about my overall experience and my personal camera failing so quickly.


  • Olympic_20180224_Men50k_77176
    Feathers.  Everywhere.

    L.L.Bean 850 Down Jacket — The miles of scaffolding at Pyeongchang were covered with screening and let’s just say that OSHA didn’t sign off on the wire used to attach it.  It scratched a number of photographers during the week and my jacket was one of the victims.  Feathers everywhere.  Luckily I brought a Patagonia Nano and used it as an “underlayer.

  • Warby Parker glasses & their two friends – I brought four pairs of glasses to Pyeongchang — My WarbyParker frames, two adequate drugstore readers and an “only in an emergency” pair.  I’ve been wearing the latter for the last five days.  It was definitely “hood” weather and putting the hoods on & off was tough on glasses.  They’d fall off and disappear in the snow.  And given the number of photographers, it was just a matter of time before someone stepped on them.

    Rest in peace, WarbyParker.

Equipment Failures aka “The Agony of Defeat”

I’m starting to feel a bit like this guy :

Irineu Esteve Altimiras (AND) with a broken pole in the Men’s Skiathlon

The Games are only a few days old and I’ve already had two major equipment failures.  Interestingly enough, they were items that I bought specifically for this trip.

The three people that read this blog might remember a post about buying an archive hard drive.  My workflow is fairly simple — download cards to the desktop, make a copy on site and then back-up at home.  Three copies at all times.  Well, my Glyph archive drive went DOA yesterday.  The drive would whirr, lights would flash, but I couldn’t get it to mount on the desktop.  (If you’re keeping score at home, this makes two Glyph drive failures out of two.)

I tweeted Glyph and got a quick “We’ll help any way we can” reply, but I’ve been too busy to follow-up.  (And besides, do I really want to carry two of these boat anchors home?)  Bottom line, thank goodness I brought my trusty LaCie hard drives.  Without them, I’d be toast.

But more significantly, I’ve had camera problems over the last 48 hours.  I bought a used Nikon D5 earlier this year.  Sent it to Nikon Professional Services for a cleaning & check-up prior to this trip just to be safe.

The camera was fantastic during the early part of the trip.  Sharp, laser focus, just about perfect for a less than perfect photographer.   Here’s an example :

Erik Bjornsen (USA) in the Men’s 15×15 Skiathlon

But during last night’s biathlon, my images looked a little “odd.”  Kinda of smeary and out of focus.  The good news?  Nikon has an equipment depot here at the Olympics.  It’s got nearly every Nikon product you’d want to borrow and is fully staffed with technicians.  So I visited after the biathlon and asked for a clean & check.

That’s when things got weird.

I stopped by to pick up the camera the next morning.  The desk person said that the techs had checked and everything was fine.  But when I looked on the camera, there was an “odd blob” on the back LCD.  I first thought it might an internal Nikon repair message that wasn’t erased.  Showed it to the desk person and she asked me to come back in a bit.

An hour later — the blob was gone.  And the tech assured me that they had checked the focus calibration.  Awesome!  I headed out to the Planet Hoth Biathlon Stadium.

Here’s the result :

Uhhhh…this isn’t supposed to happen.  Laura Dahlmeier (GER) is blurry, but that sign off in the distance is razor sharp.  D5 with 400mm f2.8

The entire Women’s Biathlon Pursuit is out of focus.  The camera seems to be “back focusing” by about five feet.  The problem is worse today than yesterday.  And while I checked the viewfinder a couple of times, my fingers aren’t always working here in the cold and I didn’t catch it.  Besides, Nikon said that they had just calibrated the camera.

Absolutely.  Frickin’.  Heartbreaking.

Just to be sure it was the camera and not me, I grabbed my spare and mounted it to the same lens for the Men’s biathlon.  Here’s Martin Fourcade of France winning the Men’s Biathlon Pursuit :

Backup camera and same lens as above.   The focus is spot on.

Bottom line — I’ve got a camera problem and Nikon’s “repair” seemed to make it worse.  Hopefully, they’ll be able to figure it out tonight.



“The more storage you have, the more stuff you’ll accumulate.” – Alexis Stewart

The advice from past Olympic shooters seems to follow a function of 2 :

  • Plan on the simplest tasks taking 2x longer than usual.
  • You’ll get half the sleep you need.  And with every biathlon race in PyeongChang starting after 8:00pm, that’ll be especially true at these Olympics.
  • Whatever you think you need for storage, multiply that by 2x.

That last one has me worried.  I’m committed to shooting twenty-six (!) races in x-c skiing, biathlon and nordic combined.  I’d really like to shoot at least one alpine event and hopefully some jumping.  Add in Opening and Closing ceremonies.  It’s a lot of images.

On the camera side, my D5 pushes out 20mb files.  And depending on settings, this new D850 has monster file sizes between 30mb and 52mb(!).

storage box

Bottom line — I’m going to need a bigger boat.  And after looking at every option under the sun and talking to the folks at B&H, I’ve settled on the Glyph Blackbox Pro.  8tb, 7200 drive and USB-C.  This obviously won’t be the only drive I bring to PyeongChang, but this will be my “central storage unit.”

It’s worth noting that I already have a Glyph Nano.  It’s also worth noting that it crashed last year after a particularly hard weekend of shooting.  But it was how Glyph got me back up & running that led to the Blackbox Pro.

Stuff breaks.  It happens.  But its how companies deal with those failures that build customer loyalty.