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.



Packing, Part #1

Wow, this is coming up fast.  With only 23 days before my plane leaves, I’ve got to start thinking about packing.

I’ll admit that my call with Dave Black earlier in the fall threw me off a bit.  I had initially planned to “go light” and borrow from the Nikon room when necessary.  But now that I’ve seen maps of the facilities, Dave’s advice to be self-reliant was right on.  There just won’t be time to go back to the main press center between events.

So here’s the camera gear I’m planning to bring.  With only a couple of exceptions, it’s my typical “kit” for a big event.


Three camera bodies :

  • Nikon D5
  • Nikon D850 : Is it a landscape camera? Yes.  Is is an action camera? You bet.  It’s the craziest, best thing that Nikon has come out with in a very long time – ESPECIALLY if you like buying hard drives.
  • Nikon D4s : I’ll use this one primarily as a fixed remote when needed.

Seven lenses :

  • Nikon 300mm, f2.8 : My favorite ski lens of all time.  Sharp as nails.
  • Nikon 70 – 200mm, f2.8 : Years ago when I was shooting my first World Cup, I heard one of the European photographers describe this as a “fighting” lens.  Great all the time, but when a mass start comes down to a fight for the finish, it’s the one that you absolutely want to have in your hands.
  • Nikon 14 – 24mm, f2.8 : A bit of a specialty lens, but another favorite.
  • Nikon 24 – 70mm, f2.8
  • Nikon 35mm, f2 :  If you remove the battery grip from the D850 and add this lens, it’s a remarkably compact package.
  • Nikon 1.4x teleconverter
  • Nikon 24 – 120mm, f4 : This one is new to me.  My hope is that it’ll be a great lens for a fixed remote.  And frankly, it’s been a permanent fixture on the front of my camera since I bought it.

Assorted :

  • Three Pocketwizard Multimax with custom IDs
  • Manfrotto Magic Arm with a Hejnar Arca-Swiss plate.
  • Really Right Stuff Pocket Pod & Micro-ball Head :  RRS’s price points hurt just a little, but this was worth it.  At most races, I’ll shoot with one camera and use another as a “walking” remote – I’ll move it to different spots during the race.  After trying a bunch of pocket tripods/heads over the years, I’ve found that this is the only one that doesn’t creep from the weight of the camera.
  • Nikon SB700 flash : I’ve got some team shots to take and will use this for a little fill.
  • Nikon SU800 flash commander – Allows the flash to be used remotely.  And the very talented Joel Marklund taught me a few tricks with this at last year’s World Junior / U23 Championships in Soldier Hollow.

If anyone has any suggestions, please send them along.  And if someone wants to buy me this new Nikon lens,  please know that I will be eternally grateful.  Email me for a shipping address.

USANA 2017 FIS Nordic Junior & U23 World Ski Championships
Here’s a “walking” remote shot from last year’s World Junior/U23 Championships in Soldier Hollow, UT.  Photographers weren’t allowed to stand in this area, but we could put cameras here.