USA TODAY Staff Photographer Robert Hanashiro: “The Rio Games are my 14th Olympics for USA TODAY and in that time I have learned that you cannot survive and cannot cover this massive event without teamwork. And that was certainly the case with my image of the USA’s Simone Biles flying through the air past the Olympics rings while competing on the beam during the Women’s Gymnastics All-Around finals.
My USA TODAY colleague Robert Deutsch came up with a plan for the both of us, knowing that many of the photo positions in the Olympic Arena would be jammed packed. We have a saying at the sports photography workshop I conduct: “If you’re on time, you’re late!” Bob arrived at the arena several hours before the start of the competition and was the first photographer in the floor photo positions, holding a spot that could potentially line up the Olympic rings with Simone as she performed on the beam.
Both Bob and I had watched and photographed Simone several times before the All-Around Final – Bob during the preliminary rounds in Rio and me during the U.S. Team Trials last month – so we were both very familiar with Simone’s routine.
Within an hour that photo position became more and more crowded and by the time Simone’s group marched to the beam, I had two photographers shooting over my head, another over my left shoulder and one trying to squeeze under my right elbow! I mentioned to some friends later that it was like photographing gymnastics in a Tokyo subway car!
I used a D5 with a Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens; ISO4000, 1/2000 @ f/2.8. The day before I had a conversation with Nikon Professional Services’ Mark Suban about auto-focus modes and he wondered why many of us don’t use the “Auto-AF” mode. I told Mark that I think that more than anything else, it’s our lack of knowledge of it and old habits. I told him I’d give it a try. I did on several gymnasts before Simone’s performance – and I was impressed, so impressed I left it in that mode when she hopped onto the beam. In the situation I was shooting in – a single athlete and a clean background – it was the perfect AF setting. I don’t think I had one out of focus frame!
I think the lesson here is that planning and team work are key … and learning and knowing what the tools you use can do for you are equally key.”