Photographer Mark Edward Harris was one of the friends we made in the Closed Loop at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. We talked with him about his craft–and his several frostbitten fingers.
Learn more about Mark at his website and follow him on Insta.
Plus, Alison’s got a funky costume story from the Albertville 1992 Opening Ceremonies. We raved over the outfits worn by the country escorts during the Opening Ceremonies of Beijing. Alison’s got the details on those from 30 years ago:
We also have news from TKFLASTAN and our Team Keep the Flame Alive:
- Clare Egan – Listen to her with TKFLASTANI Tom Kelly on “Heartbeat.”
- Erin Jackson
- John Nabor
Plus, the Ice Cube is open to the public for tours, and the International Paralympic Committee had its Athletes’ Council runoff election!
Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!
Show photo courtesy of Mark Edward Harris.
Note: While we make efforts to ensure the accuracy of this transcript, know that it is machine-generated and may contain errors. Please use the audio recording as the record of note.
Jill: [00:00:00] This episode is sponsored by Winter\Victor Studio.
Opening credits: The greatest festival of our contemporary society, the Olympic games is about to begin. This is going to be closed.
Jill: Hello fans of TKFLASTAN and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive. The podcast for fans of the Olympics and Paralympics. I am your host. Jill Jaracz joined as always by my lovely co-host, Alison Brown. Alison, hello, how are you?
Alison: Hello, it is very springy here. It is very springy here.
Jill: It’s sunny out today. Got to get on my bike. It’s going to be really warm this weekend. Very excited. Yes.
Alison: So this has led to several accidents on my part. Everyone was so sweet on the Facebook page saying, oh, we’re so glad you’re back from Beijing safely. Who knew that getting me home and spring cleaning you know, revamping of things has caused so many injuries.
So, so far I have smacked my face with a car door. I have hammered my own thumb and I have dropped a table on my foot.
Jill: Do you need to volunteer to help you protect yourself?
Alison: Apparently I need a Shuey Rhon Rhon suit to wear, to protect me from myself or maybe even the Bing Dwen Dwen, ’cause he fell over like a Weeble Wobble and would just balance. I need a whole team to protect me from myself, clearly.
Jill: I need a team to protect me from you, because I just told you about a fantastic new iteration of a sport, and you wanted to hurt me for even mentioning it. I want to say this–
Alison: I did threaten to punch you and I, and I do apologize.
Jill: No, that’s okay. I understand. Cause I would’ve wanted to punch me too because the, and this doesn’t really fit anywhere except for the fact that we talk about weightlifting a fair amount, but the International Weightlifting Federation has introduced a new format called street weightlifting. It’s just like, the street trend. Get on it!
Alison: Okay. Wait, we can’t mention weightlifting
Jill: The weightlifting theme song?
Alison: It’s the weightlifting theme song. Here, just another way that you can dope. Get your drugs on the street.
Jill: Ooh, ouch, ouch. But basically they’re going to have apparently teams of two people from the same country will be lift weightlifting outdoors to showcase that weightlifting can be done in an urban setting, even though there’s plenty of gyms in cities. And I don’t get it, I really don’t get it. This to me is like, oh, urban, urban sport or street sports have jumped the shark.
Alison: Maybe they’ll weightlift each other. And that will urban quality that you, you, you can make do with what’s ever available on the street. Like they’ll lift trash cans and lift cars and lift other people.
Jill: See, that’s what I thought, but that’s called strong man. We already have that. And it’s its own fun. Do we need more street sports? This is like the 70-year-olds who are in charge of the associations are just like street, urban. We need to have that to get the kids. And so they’re just coming up with street whatever. Can we throw a balance beam out in the, and have street gymnastics
Alison: That’s parkour.
Jill: Well, yeah, but you know, they don’t stick the landings all the time.
Alison: If they don’t, they don’t have an ankle anymore, which apparently is the sport for me, since I continue to injure myself.
Jill: I want to know what listeners would think a good street sport would be like, what other versions of street sports are out there or, or could be out there? What, what sports can we turn into a street sport? Let us know. I would love to hear this.
We would like to thank our sponsor Winter\Victor Studio. Winter\Victor Studio believes that sport and beautiful design go hand in hand. And that a designer’s versatility is just as important as an athlete’s dexterity. Winter\Victor provides distinctive graphic design to clients in sport from logos to digital communications. Winter\Victor brings the same passion to design that our clients bring to the field of play. Add a responsive and versatile designer to your team at wintervictor.com. And I got to say, if you have not visited Wintervictor.com, you will have not seen the other lovely designs that they have produced.
Alison: We just go hang out and look at things.
Jill: That’s right. That’s what we do.
Speaking of looking at things, we can look at photos today. Today, we are talking with [00:05:00] Mark Edward Harris. Mark is a professional photographer whose work has taken him to over 100 countries.
He has a master’s degree in pictorial and documentary history from UCLA. And he started his professional photography career doing, and this is really important. This was very exciting to me doing stills for the Merv Griffin Show. And if you’re young and go, what was that? Oh, we’ll get into it.
Mark’s work has appeared in a number of leading publications, which you’ve probably seen. He’s been in Vanity Fair, Life, Conde Nast Traveler, Time ,and Newsweek, National Geographic Traveler, Forbes, New York Times and more.
He’s won a Clio award for advertising photography and Aurora Gold Award for commercial directing and an ACE award for directing and producing a video for television. He’s published a number of photography books and has spent a chunk of the last year photo taking pictures of the Olympics because he was in Tokyo and Beijing. We became buddies in Beijing and he sat down with us in the Main Media Center to talk with us about sports photography. Take a listen.
Mark, thank you so much for joining us. How long have you been in photography?
Mark Edward Harris: Well, I started my professional career with the Merv Griffin Show.
Jill: No way!
Mark Edward Harris: Which dates me back years. And so that, that was from ’83 to ’86. I did do some professional work before then, but that was really the career law launch.
Not necessarily in the direction that I really envisioned, but it was a great starting point that’s for sure. So I did two things at the same time I did the green room, so I took care of the guests. And then when they went out on stage, I would photograph them. And my roommate at the time actually said that how does it feel to be in fear of being replaced by a Coke machine?
You know, for, for working in a green room. Of course, you know, I mean, here, you know, we have the kitchen here, so you could see all the animation that’s being done that gets all the food to you without any contact. So if we had had that back into Merv Griffin Show days, I would have been out of a job.
Jill: I got so many questions on Merv Griffin. I hope you got time.
Mark Edward Harris: I’m here. I’ve been here since February 1st and staying through March 14th. And so time is something that I do have here, except for when I walk out on. You know, we’ve got to walk the yard where we can pace around. And then I returned to the big house.
Jill: What, what was it like working for Merv Griffin?
Mark Edward Harris: Merv was a great person to work for. And I actually learned a lot because I, besides shooting, I, I learned years ago to illustrate my own photo essays with words. And so that included interviewing a lot of other photographers and other people. And so I really learned a lot for Merv in terms of he really listened to the answers of the people instead of going down a list of, okay, here’s the next question, obviously what you guys do so well, he did that and I think I learned a lot from that process, but as a, as a human being, he was really a great guy.
It was a great three and a half years, but you know, toward the end, I think the show really became the cure for insomnia, and so the show just ended. And so for, for me, it was good because it was too good a gig to walk away from, but I really did want to move on. And when the show ended, I took off for Asia for four and a half months to build up a portfolio of what I really wanted to do, which was more, you know, documentary travel work, which I’ve been doing pretty much ever since.
Jill: So when you do documentary travel work, how do you make money? This is really what I wanted to ask. How do you make money on this?
Mark Edward Harris: Well, that’s an excellent question and it’s something I still really want to know. If we find anybody out there that that knows the answer. I’d love to hear it, .But uh no, it’s combination of things.
And it’s changed a lot. At one time, I did a lot of freelance work for magazines where let’s say the London Sunday Times magazine, it was a good day rate. And I would go out and shoot let’s say, the story in Hawaii, somebody would write it and then I would go illustrate it. So I had, you know, seven days at a pretty good fee per day. And so editorial rates you know, were pretty good and work was steady, and then also I would do commercial work. So I did an around the world campaign for Coca-Cola, where I did stuff on their outreach programs and for a huge mural at the World of Coke.
For Nobu. I don’t know if you guys know Nobu Matsuhisa Nobu, the famous chef, the restaurants, he worked with Robert DeNiro and they created a whole bunch of hotels. They took my Japanese hot spring series and he used it for all the suites in a couple of their hotels. And so those, you know, selling those prints really supported some other projects.
And the latest one that I’ve really been working on besides obviously, you know, the Olympics, Paralympics here was on orangutans. My latest book is called the People of the Forest. And that’s actually what the word Orangutan means. It breaks down as people of the forest, and you know, th those prints are selling, the book’s doing very well.
So it’s a combination of things. So that’s a long answer to a short question, but that’s pretty much so combination of, [00:10:00] of selling prints of edit editorial fees per day. For the Olympics and Paralympics here I’m working with Zuma Press. And so they put out the images, I get paid for the usage there, but it’s always a scramble and it’s changed a lot. You know, things have changed over the years.
You know, everybody has a camera now and, and, and even, you know, the iPhone creates enough pixels that they could be reproduced in a double page spread in a magazine where it used to be you know, only really the pros had the equipment for that size image. Now everybody can. And so, I’ve seen huge changes in th the income sources through photography, but it’s still out there, but you just have to be like a platypus and keep evolving and seeing which way to go.
And in a, for a while, that meant including video where all of a sudden you know, art directors were saying, Hey, could you shoot some video content while you’re out there? And it would be could mean the difference between getting a job and not getting a job. If you didn’t know how to produce video content, then they would just find somebody who could and do both at the same time.
Alison: How did you end up here in Beijing 2022?
Mark Edward Harris: Well, that came out of Tokyo 2020, which actually was in Tokyo 2021. I’m a big Asiaphile. And so I’ve done a lot of work in Japan. And so when the Olympics were going to be there, I really looked for an assignment that could get me there. And so one of the things that I got was to do a big feature for Newsweek on the Paralympics in Tokyo. And I speak Japanese pretty well, and so that helped me move around. So the Japanese hot spring book that I did brought me back and forth to Japan all the time. I covered the tsunami, which in Japan, they call 3/11 and did numerous stories for Vanity Fair, other magazines.
And actually there’s another one about to come out in Japan because we’re coming up on the anniversary. And so it made a logical fit that another story out of Japan would be the Olympics and Paralympics. And that also gave me a good excuse to stay there for two months and which I did. And then in between the two, I went back up to Fukushima where, where the tsunami hit and, and did the 10-year look at the area’s recovery.
Cause I had been there just after. And then two years after, five years after, 10 years after. It’s so weird that sort of, that platypus kind of thing again. So it’s a multiple stories you know, F from a trip. I mean, I think that’s the only way to survive these days. You have to generate a lot of stuff.
But Tokyo led to coming here. Because of the success of my coverage of, of Tokyo, one of the agencies that I happened to meet when I was over in Tokyo, said, well, let’s why don’t we work together?
And I said, I would love to. And so that, brought me back here and I’ve always loved sports. So the combination of documenting you know, the greatest sports competition in the world, which will be Olympics and Paralympics is really um amazing. Though I learned the hard way that that Winter Olympics are much harder to cover.
Alison: So what was the experience at Tokyo?
Mark Edward Harris: Well, it’s, it’s funny because we thought we were living in a bubble there, but they don’t know what a bubble is. I mean, this is a bubble. I mean, we really are isolated here. There, once you went through the short quarantine period, you could get out, take public transportation, move around.
Of course they didn’t have Omicron then. So coming to Beijing was a direct result of the Tokyo Olympics and success there. And so working with Zuma Press got me here and we’re as all the other photographers, Zuma Press left after the Olympics. I wanted to stay on because the Paralympics ,I find just, just like with the Tokyo Paralympics ,my biggest stories for Newsweek was on the Paralympians and their backstories.
And so I purposely looked for something. Because as you guys know, there’s always, you have to look for a hook, what’s really strong. You just don’t want to do an overview all the time. And so I focused on three Paralympians that became Paralympians by acts of violence, but not wounded warriors. In other words, it was not from being in the military.
Haven Shepherd, her parents in Vietnam were not married to each other. They had an affair, had the kid, they were discovered. And so they thought if they could be together forever, if they killed themselves, and they tried to blow themselves up along with their daughter.
She survived, but lost her legs. Her biological parents died. She was adopted, brought to the U. S. That was one person.
Another person was an equestrian who was at the Brussels airport when they had a terrorist attack, and she became crippled by the blast. The third person was in a McDonald’s parking lot in Iowa and was shot by somebody with PTSD.
And so those were the, the, the hook and it were all three U.S. Olympians and also a group with a father with a pretty severe case of polio. And, but who was a great athlete anyway, even though he had one dangling arm and a curved spine. [00:15:00] So the whole concept is not unfamiliar to me at all.
And so I think that’s an extra hook that, that draws me to the competition here that we’re witnessing now with the Paralympics started.
Alison: What’s different about shooting sports versus shooting nature?
Mark Edward Harris: Well, there’s a certain amount of predictability. Well, I guess if you’re really an expert with, with wildlife, you can sort of predict the movements of the animals to a degree. With sports, you know, they’re set up at a certain time depending on what the sport is. If let’s say downhill, a slalom, you can, could pretty much focus on one of the gates and you know that the action is going to come through it. It really depends, but that said, it really depends on the sport.
Something like hockey, you don’t never know exactly where they’re gonna go. You can anticipate some degree shoot, shoot, and also shooting sports really depends. There’s a lot of speed involved. Nature, of course you do have instances, we’ll say with a a leopard running or something like that, but typically that’s not the case.
The animals are going about their business or whatever, or if you’re shooting nature shots, you might sit in one place for hours and wait for something to happen, the perfect light or whatever.
Some of the most important things to shoot in sports takes place in a fraction of a second and as a one-time thing. And, and it’s not good enough to just say, oh shoot, I just missed that. It’s if you missed it, you know, like, Shaun White’s, you know, last run and retiring, for the Olympics, you missed it. You can’t say to him, hey, would you mind doing that one more time? It just doesn’t work that way. And so, there is a lot of pressure in that there’s there’s as a famous National Geographic editor once said, we publish pictures, not excuses. And so you have to get the shot. So there’s a lot of pressure to get the shot.
But, you know, you try to get to a venue early when you can sort of scope out the angle. I mean, obviously at the Olympics Paralympics there’s there’s photo positions that you’re given. You can get what they call a field of play position, which is typically the desired position, but there’s very few of those positions.
So you have to get to the venue early or sign up online. And then you have to hope that the whatever’s happening, let’s say with ice skating, happens when you’re there. And then there’s the predictability of, you know, we had the Russian skater that, you know, supposedly was on an illegal substance.
And you know, she fell a couple of times. Well, I happened to get a shot of her falling right in front of the signage, you know, saying Beijing 2022, which really adds to it. If you just have a picture of somebody on the ice, it could be anywhere, but I’m constantly looking for signage to help give a sense of place.
And so a lot of photographers actually tend to shoot tighter than I do. I like to shoot a little wider and do more of environmental portraits and give you not just this could be anywhere. But when you look at newspapers and stuff, often the pictures are really tight shots. Magazine work tends to allow for a little more wide shots.
People tend to linger over a magazine photo longer than a newspaper shot. So there’s actually different approaches to it.
Alison: And how does that vary when you know it’s published online?
Mark Edward Harris: Well, online can be a little bit wider too because the person can sit and linger with that for awhile. You know, both can work.
I mean, coverage, you know, it used to be when I first started out, a lot of newspapers were still working in black and white. So often you would have to shoot black and white and color cause it was actually filmed. And then with digital, you know, everything happened so fast, but now a lot of people are shooting a little bit wider with one camera and tighter with another.
And of course, now we have zooms that are good. When I first started zooms were really not a great quality. And so you would always have to have two camera bodies with different focal lengths on, and you would shoot two different cameras. So you had different coverage, tight and wide. I try to stay a little simpler and just really get what I think is the key shot and not do tons and tons of tons of shots to make sure I’ve got coverage.
It’s like really what Cartier-Bresson, you know, it was one of the great photographers said he always went for the decisive moment, and if you’re a met triad, if you’re a machine gunner, maybe that’s the best way to miss it. In other words, I’d rather really look and see something. then now, you know, with the new Z9, the Nikon Z9 that I have, that you can shoot 20 frames per second in raw.
But just imagine when you have a, two hour event and you can shoot 20 frames per second, and there’s a lot of stuff going on, that’s an insane amount of film. And I was guilty of that, depressing the shutter too much for the Olympics. I’m trying to adjust that approach now with the Paralympics.
Jill: When you press the shutter too much, like what kind of results do you get? Or is it on the backend when you have to go through and kind of process things and you [00:20:00] see the percentage that’s usable versus not usable?
Mark Edward Harris: The percentage goes way down and it does make sense.
Let’s say now that there’s like 3-D tracking on a camera, you purposely start the action before let’s say that decisive moment when they’re going around the gate. And so let’s say you start three seconds before, you get three seconds afterwards. so that’s, let’s say six, six seconds altogether.
That’s 120 frames. And you’re only going for that one shot. So it doesn’t mean that only one out of 120 frames is good or usable. But maybe there’s 10 frames in there. So one out of 12 might be good, but I also felt that I was shooting a lot of bad stuff from the first time around that I was, I was depressing it too much and not really looking enough.
And so, the adjusting to that, because when I’m out in nature, out in the world, shooting my documentary stuff, I mean, I’m still from the film days. Like when I went to North Korea, I’ve been there 10 times to do two books. Well, I actually switched to digital purposely to do that series because if I walked into North Korea, you know, with a hundred rolls of film, I would stand out too much.
And so that was my first really foray into the digital world. But I shot in the film style, meaning, you know, you have a roll of 36, you really were careful with that role of 36. And so that’s traditionally how I shoot. Sports just tends to be the exception to that approach.
Alison: Does having a knowledge of the sport or the event help you in, in getting that picture?
Mark Edward Harris: Oh, a hundred percent.
I mean, case in point, just like occasionally I shoot the Dodgers when I’m back in LA. And so I used to you know, in high school and American Legion, I pitched and as I was a pitcher and so to know the form, so you know that, okay, if he’s a left-handed pitcher you get over to the left side so his arm doesn’t block as he’s coming across.
This morning I was photographing para hockey and had a good sense of that.
I knew where the player was coming, where he was going to shoot. You know, you can’t be an expert on every sport. I didn’t know anything about curling at all. And I’ve come to actually like it and understand it a lot more since I’ve been here and actually see it in person. I really had no idea how tough it is and the way they just sort of slide along.
I mean, it’s really a surprise. And I didn’t really understand the whole thing about how they use uh a broom to maneuver the, the stone. And so there was a bit of a learning curve there to understand, and I thought, okay, wait a second. I got to pull a little more depth of field in order to get the person.
I mean, do you say sweeping?
Alison: Yeah. That is the word. That is the word.
Mark Edward Harris: Oh. So, so, so, you know, to, to get that person in focus and then also the person, what, what do you do? Push the stone? Is there a —
Jill: You throw it.
Mark Edward Harris: You throw it?
Jill: Yeah. I mean you do, it’s a push, you don’t lift the stone. You throw the, throw the rock.
Mark Edward Harris: Oh, wow. Wow. Okay. Well, some shots I got where I just really focused on the person throwing the stone, but I thought, well, there were a few shots that I had to throw out because I didn’t get, I thought, okay, this would have been better if I got the person brushing in front and the person throwing the stone, both sharp.
Where often in sports, you go in for very minimum depth of field to, well, actually in a lot of photography, especially people oriented, you’re often going for shallow depth of field to bring the viewer into the person and the emotion. But there’s certain times. And I think in a curling it’s one of them, where it’s nice to have not necessarily shoot a wider shot, but have more depth of field, so you see the actions of both people,
Jill: Right. And with such a long sheet of ice…
Mark Edward Harris: Exactly. And then you can have a long lens for the, and compress it. So you get that sense of, and also of course, you know, the Olympics you know, you have to shoot from a pretty good distance. So typically a shoot with a lot of longer lenses, but, but yeah.
Then the decision is, well, what depth of field do you want to have to achieve the desired results? And so I think that does vary from sport to sport.
Alison: How much does the emotion of an event affect you? So for example, you were at the figure skating. Jill was there. I watched that on TV. Emotion seemed very, very high.
So do you feel like as a photographer, it’s better to get that feeling from an event, or do you feel like you need to be more objective to get the shots that you want?
Mark Edward Harris: I think, I mean we’re still, it’s interesting because there have been photographers that have talked about, you know, covering war. There was Philip Jones Griffiths who did a book called Vietnam, Inc.
One of my best friends, Nick Ut, who did the picture of the little girl hit by napalm in Vietnam, both have talked about, especially Phillip Jones Griffith, if you get too sucked into the emotion of it as he said, you could almost just, you know, curl up into a ball and start crying.
I mean, the horrible things that he [00:25:00] saw that happened in Vietnam. And so he sort of stepped back and had a very Dr. Ish approach to shooting. Um nothing really rises to that emotional level in terms of the anguish or horrors, of course, in sports. And so I think it’s fairly easy to sort of allow yourself to get excited, you know, and sort of inside root for somebody.
You know, I did want to see Sean White, you know, take home a medal. Of course I can’t be yelling out, Hey, you know, come on, kid, go for it. I really did feel very bad for the 15-year-old Russian athlete who, fell twice and you almost felt sick to your stomach to once she felt very early on in a routine you could see the, the life sorta went out of her and she just wanted to get through that routine.
And, and um Jill, since you were there, you saw it, you know, she just sort of in disgust, just sort of waved her hand at the end. I really felt bad for her and there was a– there was a second athlete or there was the girl that skated for the Chinese team, but learned it in the U. S. Remember this whole bunch of controversy? And she fell as well.
And I actually said in one of the features that I put out you know, center stage could be the loneliest place on earth. And one of the photographs I shot, I think really conveyed that, how she just had to pick herself back out, back up on the ice. And it was really a hush, you know, in the, in the Capital Stadium. It doesn’t matter who you were rooting for, whatever, everybody felt it and felt bad.
That was more, I think, everybody had that human response. You know, these people are on the world stage. I just imagine, and I saw this of course, in, in Tokyo as well with the gymnastics– you know, how people are able to focus, you know, and like stay on a beam and flip over and jump and do things. And with just everything they’re doing is being scrutinized.
And so I definitely feel for them, for sure, but, but I have to be careful not to get too wrapped up because I really have to focus, you know, focus on, okay, where do I need to get this shot? What angle do I need? Is something merging with their head because I’m a big should I say focuser on on the design of a shot, really using my sensor as a canvas and trying to make sure that, that things as best as I can things line up with, it’s not, you know, the, the words on the boards you know, merging with their heads.
So if you see a number of my shots, like say for skating between Beijing 2022 is where I would like the skater to be. So I’ll purposely look for a seat to try to get that angle. And it’s amazing how, even though everybody’s doing different routines, they seem to end up and use the ice in the same way in ice skating.
Did you notice that at all?
Jill: Yeah, they, do tend to, I think part of the score is how well they use the ice. So there’s do tend to be patterns that skaters take.
Mark Edward Harris: But, but did you notice they tended to, to sort of go sort of in a counter clockwise?
Jill: Oh yeah. Now that you say that. Yeah.
Mark Edward Harris: Yeah. And so I started to notice that after a while.
And, but I also sort of took the lead from a lot of like amazing sports photographers that that’s all they do. And it’s just like, why are they all sitting right there? You know? But yeah, so, you know, positioning. So what you were talking about earlier with knowledge of sport yeah.
If, you know, as like, Hey, this is the direction they’re going, so they’re going to sort of play to this. Obviously they’re gonna play the judges. And so, so one approach is to sort of shoot as near the judges line of sight as you can, shooting out because you know that’s a big focus, but then if you go the exact opposite direction, then you get, you know, them performing for the judges and you get the judges in a shot, which is really interesting too.
Yes, so much goes on before they ever take the ice or head down the slopes. You know, and so much of what you decide to do will dictate everything else from there. And then it’s just the mechanics of making sure you’re in focus and all the technical things that go into making the shot for.
Jill: Do you stake out one spot during an event?
Or do you like to move around where you can?
Mark Edward Harris: It’s tough I might work a situation for a while and say, you know what, this just isn’t working. You know, maybe I should try another vantage point or I should, maybe it’s best if I just you know, stay here. Like this is really working because you might get the bronze medalist from a great position and think, okay, I’ve worked this place enough.
Now I’m going to try somewhere else. But then it’s really the gold medalist that’s going to be the shot that’s you really want or keep and see, you might as well stay in that same position, or just like the, you know, the opening and closing ceremonies. If you’re in position a– and literally it is position a– you have a high [00:30:00] vantage point and you get great overview shots, but the one thing that’s really missing is you really don’t get to see the fireworks so much. And so some photographers do set up a second remote camera down in position B with a super wide angle, like eight to 13 millimeter lens shooting up, and then you can get the fireworks. But my approach is going to be shoot from higher up for the opening ceremony and then low for the closing ceremony.
You know, and there is because of what’s going on in in the Ukraine now, you know, strange pale over stuff. And so the words we saw at the closing ceremony, remember that?
Jill: Oh yeah, the world one family?
Mark Edward Harris: You got, it
Really is going to feel very strange during the Paralympics because you can’t put an asterisk next to it.
And so actually that’s worked it’s way into my coverage now for the Paralympics to, to get some of the story about what’s going on. And you both were at the press conferences here about that. I don’t think anybody expected or wanted this to invade, and it’s a bad choice of words, but you know, the Paralympics but they, they have, and that’s just the reality of it.
Alison: So what has been the experience so far here in Beijing? We’ve talked about the cold, you’ve had a little tough time with the cold?
Mark Edward Harris: I did. And the thing is there really is such a thing as you know, when you live in a place that you get thinner blood. And so, you know, even though I know work in Japan and, you know, hiked in it you know, the Everest Trek and all that, but I really do have thinner blood.
And so it was minus 16 Celsius, which I think is about three degrees. And I was out for hours on the giant slalom and ended up with six fingers with frostbite, and that’s what it’s starting to peel away now, all the dead skin. And so I, I feel like within a few more days I’ll be back up in the mountains shooting, but it’s going to be a lot warmer.
Being in the bubble has been tough. I have great friends that live in Beijing. And so originally I was really looking to hanging out with them, especially between the Olympics and Paralympics. But instead I find myself, walking the yard, which is the park area allowed for us to, to do our um walks.
you know, we go out into the exercise yard for one hour a day, then we have to return to the big house, which is the MMC. So it’s, so it’s definitely different here, but you know, this is a great group of people here and we’re able to go to other hotels for the restaurants there.
You know, and so it’s, I, I feel this is just like in Tokyo as well. You know, since I spent so much time in Japan, I know Japan so well, but it it’s really unfortunate that the people that were in Japan could not experience Japan more. You know, instead we were in the press room and they were serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
If you guys remember that. Here you know, there’s so much in China, it’s amazing. But, but they don’t get to, you know, get out and see it. I mean, for those of us who travel a lot, we’re fortunate that we do get to see it. So it’s not as devastating for me because I know I’ll be back here.
I was here, two years ago, I’ll be here next year, I’m sure ,when things open up again. And so, yeah, it definitely has an effect, but you know, we’re still here for the sports and I think it’s amazing how they’ve pulled it off. And just like once again with Tokyo, I mean, in the middle of a pandemic you have you’re able to bring the world together to do sports.
That’s a pretty incredible thing. And so actually part of the thing I’m doing is combining my work from Tokyo and Beijing and under a heading “The Miracle Games”. And so I do envision the possibility of a book out of this with the hooks being that they both took place during the pandemic.
Alison: Do you have a favorite picture from Tokyo?
Mark Edward Harris: Well, favorite Paralympic one would be Haven Shepherd jumping into the pool and it really describes everything there because it’s either she’s in a bathing suit, and she doesn’t have her lower legs. And I think that’s a very powerful shot because you see the athleticism there.
And as I said, because having dad with polio or having had a dad with polio, I think I have extra connection to that. So that’s a strong shot. The opening ceremony in Tokyo with the fireworks is a strong shot, but there’s, there’s probably about a dozen. I would say that I really feel good about. In terms of from Beijing. You know, sometimes it’s hard to get a perspective from within something. And so maybe I need a little more time to really you know, know which one will rise above the others.
Jill: What kind of gear do you have?
Mark Edward Harris: Actually, this is the first time I’m shooting with mirrorless cameras, a serious assignment.
And so this is with a Nikon Z nine and I’ve got what they call the holy trinity of lenses, so that the 14 to 24, 24 to 70, 70 to 200. And then of course for sports, you need longer lenses. And so NPS the Nikon Professional Services loans us lenses. So even though back home, we might have really long glass, at events [00:35:00] they typically set something up so you can borrow for a day or two a long lens. And so often the 400 is really a go-to one for sports here.
Jill: So I’m the money person out of all of us and during the Olympics, every time I ride the bus and there’s a bunch of photographers on, I always think that there’s probably at minimum $50,000 worth of equipment on the bus
Mark Edward Harris: Oh, how many photographers?
Jill: Just a few, but like how much, how much does your gear, your gear stuff run?
Mark Edward Harris: I have a feeling you’re going to jump me after this.
Jill: I promise I won’t, I don’t have enough room in my suitcase. I have a lot of audio gear to pack
Mark Edward Harris: That’s true! You have really good stuff too, but I love your set up too
Well, it’s expensive. It’s expensive because just the camera body alone is almost $6,000. And so they have the lens and this is the lens that I’m going to borrow 400 millimeter, two eight cost, $13,000.
That’s just for one lens, but it’s a two way, but that’s when it, most people just borrow or rent, they don’t typically. Well, actually sports photographers might have that. Companies like Getty Images, you know, would have that. I don’t know how many individuals, somebody like Frans Lanting is a great niche photographer.
I’m sure has that as part of his in his arsenal, let’s say so. Yeah, I’ve got a pretty healthy amount of equipment here,
so I have, I carry a Think Tank roller bag and which is sort of counter intuitive. If you think with all the snow and ice, you really need a bag that’s just a backpack bag and no wheels.
But in reality, if you look at all the photographers here, almost all of them have rolling bags and many of them convert into backpacks. And so that’s what I have, but then I have a pure backpack, a Think Tank backpack as well. And so if I go up into the mountains for some coverage, I have that.
And then they have storage lockers at each place. But speaking of economics, so if you looked at everybody’s storage locker, it was probably about, at least, at least I would think $15,000 per person of equipment, I would say. And, and do we, do we need that stuff? Would we, for a reproduction in a newspaper?
I mean these, prints could go super huge, but it’s really more about the speed of focus. That’s really what you’re paying for with these higher end cameras, not just, you know, the sensor that produces, you know, that can produce a really big image, but the speed of focus because things are happening so fast.
And so that’s where these fast lenses like that 400 to eight or the Nikon Z nine with super fast 3d tracking. If you have, let’s say speed skating. For example, somebody is coming around an oval and they’re coming right at you. If you don’t have the state of the art equipment, the focus will drag site behind, slightly behind, and then you’ll miss the shot.
Jill: How much does all of that weigh?
Mark Edward Harris: No, that’s an excellent question. And people ask me that and I always say I I’ve got to weigh it to see and I never do. I don’t know if it’s like 30 pounds or something.
Jill: Does it feel heavy to you or no?
Mark Edward Harris: That’s the great thing about like the Think Tank backpack it’s made with back support, because I do have back issues that I have to be careful about. And so I choose the bags carefully because you don’t want to be– especially in winter really is much tougher.
Not only because I got frostbite, you know, from the giant slalom, but you have to get crampons in order to get to a photo position up the hill. And so that’s why I have tape. If you notice on both of my, I have my snow pants on today, cause we’re going to be sitting outside. But because my big crampons and once again, this is what I get for all these years living in California, I was walking up and I caught my pants with my crampons and I ripped my pants, fell down face first into the snow.
And I was just laying there thinking, what am I doing? My fingers are frozen. I’ve ripped my pants. I’m just laying here. And then you think, well, you know, I’m at the Olympics, this is pretty amazing. Well, was I really thinking that at minus 16? I might’ve been using some different words. I’m not sure, but at that instant, but I mean, I think once you defrost, you realize like how amazing it is.
Alison: I had a question about your hands and how the frostbite affected your ability to work.
Mark Edward Harris: Here’s the thing. You know, hand warmers are great invention.
What you really need are finger warmers. Hands are pretty easy to keep warm, right. But, but finger warmers are the key and when I really had the, the really serious frostbite, I, I actually started using my middle finger to depress the shutter. So I think when other photographers would, would come up and say, Hey, could I, sort of share this position with you?
And then I would use my middle finger to take a picture. It’s like, well, gee, all you have to say is no, [00:40:00] but no, I really did use my middle finger. I had a sw–. I could not use my index finger to shoot. It was tough. And also now, because everything is so digitized and, and I’m not talking about using the you know, the touch screen stuff. I disabled that. I don’t like using the touch screen anyway, but I really did struggle with in the freezing cold to try to work with some of the settings now. We’re the old mechanical days.
Alison: What are you looking forward to for Paralympics?
Mark Edward Harris: Well, definitely I want to focus more on slalom and downhill ski stuff. Looking back at the Olympics, I think, and partially, maybe because I had injured my fingers, I spent a lot more time photographing the indoor sports.
I mean, of course, figure skating, singles, couples and all that, just so amazing. Anyway. But I did it in parts, been more time indoors because of the fingers. So now I want to spend more time out because it is gonna be warmer up there. And I think a lot of excitement of the Olympics and Paralympics are the downhill ski races.
And so that’s what I’m really looking forward to getting out and trying to capture. And of course the added amazement of seeing people. That might only have you know, one leg or, or, using a special apparatus to get down the mountain, but it, these incredible speeds just adds to the, excitement and power of the potential, you know, image. So I would say that’s a top of my list right now, for sure.
Jill: Excellent. Excellent. Well, Mark, thank you so much for being on the show. We really appreciate it.
Well, thank you so much, Mark. It has been great talking with you.
Mark Edward Harris: I appreciate it. Thank you, Alison. I appreciate it.
Jill: Thank you so much, Mark. You can learn more about Mark at markedwardharris.com and follow him on Instagram at MarkEdwardHarrisPhoto. We will have links to both of those in the show notes. He’s got a bunch of books he’s published that are very cool looking. He’s done some projects in North Korea. It’s absolutely fascinating, the work that he’s done in North Korea, I think.
Alison: And he was working with Merv Griffin.
Jill: That’s right. He was fun. I kept run– after the interview. I mean, we had seen each other several times and talked a lot and then I like ran into him almost every day. Oh! Mark and I snuck into first class on the bullet train. That was exciting. Cause he figured out that once you get on the train, because there was nobody riding it, basically, they didn’t really care where you sat. So he’s like, let’s go to first class. Oh, those seats were nice. I will say that.
Got a lot of work done that day
Jill: That’s a nice sound to hear again. That is the sound that means it’s time for our history moment and all throughout 2022, we are focusing on Albertville 1992, which is the Winter Olympics in France. Today is your turn for a story. So what do you got for me?
Alison: Okay. So we’re at the Opening Ceremonies. We talked so much about the beautiful costumes we saw in Beijing of the women who escorted the teams in of the Parade of Nations.
I was watching the Opening Ceremonies, and this is a winner. They were human snow globes in Albertville, and we’ve got to put a picture up and I’ll put some video of this up in motion, but it is a full-blown plastic ball. The woman stands in the center and that snow moves around.
Jill: Oh, okay.
Alison: So it was designed by Philippe Guillotel. He has since gone on to design things for movies and Broadway. He also did the costumes for the band New Order for a video called “True Faith.” And if you see them, if you go back and watch it, you’ll say, oh, I remember this. So the coolest thing about this costume is that it looks like there is no way these women can walk.
But this was so brilliantly designed the bubble of the snow globe stops above the knees and that whole black piece at the bottom looks like it’s stiff. It isn’t, it moves. So when you watch these women walk, they have a perfectly normal stride.
Jill: Interesting. Because for a second, I thought they were unwieldy.
And I’m still hopeful that they are wearing clothes underneath the snow.
Alison: Okay. So underneath the snow, they have a skin colored body suit because here’s the best part. The plastic bowl does not touch them. The snow doesn’t touch their skin. There is an inner tube that they stand in and then their arms are in the snowglobe and they switched their arms around and that makes the snow fly within the [00:45:00] cylinder.
Jill: Oh my goodness.
Alison: So in motion, this is gorgeous. In a still photo, a photograph, it looks ridiculous. Ridiculous. And then the bottom black portion looks like it’s very stiff, but it wasn’t. It was a tube that actually made it very easy to walk. So when you look at the still photograph, then go back and look at the thing in motion.
But the coolest part is different women did different arm movements, so different countries had different snow effects. So of course, the woman who had the France snowglobe, she was going crazy. Swaziland, she just like was flicking her hand and the snow barely moved. So they were definitely trained on how to properly move the snow within their snow globe.
And it was a great effect. It is so early nineties. It is fantastic. And I bet these are incredibly lightweight.
Jill: Well, I will take your word. I’m going to go back and look at this because yes, when I saw this in a still photo, I went, oh boy, it looks like it should be in like the Milla Jovovich Fifth Element movie, especially the bottom part, because that is very, like you said, very early nineties with these rings of fabric that are kind of rubbery looking as well,
Alison: But they moved
Jill: text, I think they were latex.
Alison: So. The key was the ball hit you above the knee. So you could do a normal stride and it, and there are supports. So I bet this thing was even lighter than those dresses that we saw in Beijing because the dresses in Beijing had light up elements. They had beading, those were probably incredibly heavy dresses.
This is just, you know, plastic and latex and flip your arms round and make a snow globe.
Jill: Far out, but it is very Olympic. I will say that it does make a definite statement.
Alison: Welcome to tKFLASTAN.
Yes, it is time to journey over to the country TKFLASTAN where our members of Team Keep the Flame Alive reside. Those are people who have been on the show in the past and they now represent Team Keep The Flame Alive. And our country TKFLASTAN . So, the U.S. Biathlon had its national championships and biathlete Clare Egan won the sprint and pursuit competitions, which is a very nice way to end your biathlon career.
She and her teammates, Susan Dunklee were on the U S biathlon podcast Heartbeat with host TKFLASTANI Tom Kelly.
When TKFLASTANIS collide!. I love it. And a gold medal winning speed skater. Erin Jackson was honored to be named as the Olympic Female Athlete of the Year at Utah’s State of Sport Awards.
Jill: John Nabor has been approved to serve an additional four year term on theUSOPCC board of directors. So he is very excited about continuing his work with them
You’re getting to play that twice in one show.
Alison: That is not a good sound to play twice in one show.
Jill: No. So we have a definitive, do we, we talked about this before with the Team GB the men’s four by 100 relay team for athletics. One of the members got hit with a doping violation.
They have officially been ordered to give back the medals and pins and certificates and everything they got as part of winning that award. So, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Chijindu Ujah took a banned substance in a statement released through United Kingdom Athletics. They accepted the decision.
He said he never knowingly took any banned substance blaming his positive test results on a contaminated. So it’s a sad that the whole team has to now give up their awards. And it’s interesting because Ujah also raced in the men’s 100 meters, but he didn’t get out of the heat. So whatever had, it’s always curious to know what, what happens here, but a sad day for Team gB.
That means that —
Alison: Canada moves up to silver and China moves into the bronze.
Jill: Speaking of China.
There’s an article from the Global Times, a Chinese publication saying that the Ice Cube has been opened to the public and 2000 Beijingers visited it on the first day. And very cool. It was basically kind of an open house come and see what the curling venue was like. They said they kept the authentic scenes of the Winter Olympics, including the competition area, media stands, mixing area, athletes locker [00:50:00] room, and podium, providing a full scene experience of the Winter Olympics atmosphere.
Alison: I wonder if they had a little paper cut out of me getting mobbed by our fans.
Jill: I wonder if they were still there. Did they bring them back? I was just like, hello. I meant when I read this, I really missed all the volunteers very much.
Alison: And that was one of the venues with Snickers bars. So I hope everybody who came got a Snickers bar,
Jill: But it looked like a fun event. I also think that it was preserved because they’re just tired. They’re still, they’re still taking down other venues and they’re just like, oh, you get a day off your house, take a week.
You deserve it. But very exciting. The they’re going to keep it as a dual venue, it sounds like. So they’ll transform it to a swimming pool for summer, and then back to the Ice Cube for winter.
Alison: Interesting. Be interesting to see how long, because that’s an expensive conversion. How they’re, how long they’re going to keep that up.
Jill: Well, okay. Let’s do the math. That’s 31,000 bucks. 30,000. So it would take, they said they’ve, They’ve gotten that conversion down a little bit, because they said that the quote is, At present our technology of water, ice conversion is very mature and they estimated it takes like $30,000 us to transform the pool into the queue.
I bet as they learn how to do that. It gets more and more efficient,
Alison: But that’s still $60,000 a year. Right. But you got to turn it back.
Jill: It depends on how much, how many people were using the pool in the winter. I mean, it’s an indoor pool and it’s, it looks like a, still looks like a lovely, lovely facility.
So I wonder how many people decided to go swimming in the winter. Would they do better by having more curling?
Alison: I hope those 2000 people’s found the bathrooms easier than I did
Jill: In the future the water ice conversion of the main pitch is expected to take place once a year. Maybe it’s cheaper to drain it. We’ll keep an eye on it.
And we have a little bit of follow-up from the International Paralympic Committee .When Beijing 2022 was on the athletes, got to vote for different Athletes’ Council seats. There had been a tie between Rico, Roman and Mitchell Gorley for the third seat. And so the tie has now been broken.
There has been another election and the Australian Mitchell Gourley, who is a skier will be the third member of the Athletes’ Council.
So, very excited to see what the IPC Athletes’ Council does in the future. And I think that’s going to do it. I mean, we’ve just come off of vacation week, so there’s, we’re still catching up on news.
Alison: And jelly beans. Oh, that’s right. Was the Easter bunny good to you?
Easter bunny was very good to me.
Jill: That’s good.
Alison: Brought me injuries
Jill: Next year. The Easter bunny will bring you a nice little volunteer to help you.
Alison: And if you have suggestions for getting me healed up, we love to hear from you and get in touch with us. You can email email@example.com. Call or text us at (208) 352-6348. That’s 2 0 8. Our social handle is at flame alive pod, and be sure to join the Keep the Flame Alive Podcast group on Facebook.
Jill: Next week, we will have the return of one of our TKFLASTANI authors. David Davis is going to be back on the show. He’s got a book that’s been out for a while called a Waterman about Duke Kahanamoku, the swimmer and surfing legend. But it’s being turned into a documentary that will be on PBS. So we’re going to have David on to chat about the book and the movie project.
So we will look forward to that conversation next week. Thank you so much for listening and until then, keep the flame alive.