After years of planning – or, perhaps, years of doing nothing, followed by a sudden panic and getting the work done in a fraction of the allotted time but still well enough that no-one really noticed, which is how I get a lot of my work done when I have a deadline – the 2012 Olympic Games are so very nearly upon us. They start tomorrow with the opening ceremony, which promises to be impressive if the attendees of the dress rehearsal earlier this week are to be believed (although there is still the possibility that the whole thing is a ruse).
At some point during the ceremony tomorrow, the Olympic Flame will be lit, marking the end of the 70-day Olympic Torch Relay, which has seen the Olympic Flame carried all over the country by numerous Torch Bearers, in an event which is one of the few Nazi traditions that persists to this day (another, of course, is persecuting homosexuals).
On Tuesday, day 67 of the Relay, it was finally my turn to have the torch pass through my part of the country. Although it didn’t pass through Twickenham itself, it did pass through Richmond, only a couple of miles from my flat. So, I booked the day off, and cycled down to Richmond to try to get some decent shots as the torch came by.
The torch relay had much of a carnival atmosphere about it. The principal sponsors each had a float come past first, before the bus full of the day’s future torchbearers and then, finally, the current torchbearer themself. And, of course, all of the attendant support vehicles and police you’d expect for such an event.
I arrived at Richmond about 45 minutes before the torch, and picked my spot, looking up the length of the High Street. I figured this would give me a decent heads up of when the torchbearer was coming, and would hopefully give me ample time to get some shots as they got closer. I selected my 70-300mm telephoto and switched the camera to AI Servo mode, allowing the camera to constantly be focussing on whatever I was pointing the camera at. Whilst waiting, I warmed up by grabbing some snaps of the crowd; some of them were good enough to make the cut.
I soon discovered that I had apparently chosen one of the changeover points to stand at. The changeover points are about as interesting as it gets at the Torch Relay; it’s where one torchbearer passes the flame on the the next guy. As a photographer, it’s where you want to be. Great, I thought.
Once all of the sponsor vehicles had gone past, the torchbearer bus stopped about ten metres ahead of me and dropped the next runner off, a bit further away than I had been led to believe. Then the flame came into sight, with a camera van ahead of it. The two runners came together to exchange the flame and – the camera truck completely blocked my view. It was only after the new carrier had the flame lit that I got a chance to see the Olympic Flame.
I’m pretty sure the flame was chosen for its photogenic qualities. It is a deep orange, easily captured by camera without too much exposure compensation, and it gave off the most wonderful heat shimmer.
Just like that, however, the torch went past and was gone.
Slightly disappointed I’d missed the changeover, I decided to jump on my bike and ride along the Thames, in an attempt to head the torch off at the pass and beat it to Kew Bridge, a bit further along the route. The torch had the shortest route, but I’d have speed on my side, so I went for it.
As it turned out, I didn’t need to put any rush into it, as the flame spent a bit of time faffing around in Kew Gardens before making its way across the bridge, so I was again over half an hour early. Oh well.[tweet https://twitter.com/StrandAV/status/227703421329887233 align=’center’]
This time, I decided to use my standard 18-135mm lens for some wider angle shots of it all, as I would likely be closer to the flame and didn’t have quite as good a vantage point to see it coming. Did I mention I finally managed to get the polarising filter off of that lens? Well, I did. It took a filter wrench to do it, but finally it’s off, and the pictures I took with the lens after removing it looked a lot sharper to me. I’m beginning to think the filter was a significant contributing factor to the creative funk I’ve been in lately, as I have been tending to exclusively use the 18-135mm and the filter appears to have been causing some quality issues.
Whilst I was waiting for the torch to arrive, the torchbearer bus came along… and this time dropped the next torchbearer virtually at my feet. What luck! this time, I made sure I surrounded the poor guy with everyone else and took his photo. It was amazing to see this man – a nobody in the world of celebrity and movie stars – surrounded and respected because he’d been selected to carry a flammable staff made out of gold and treat him like he was Brad Pitt. Apart from licking his face, obviously. (he was, in fact, the first Asian to join the Metropolitan Police)
I also had the chance to get some decent closeups of the torch, like the one that opened this post. Before long the current torch was in sight, and the flame changed hands again. This time, I saw it all.
Then just as quickly as before, it was all over. So I decided to head back along the Thames on my bike and take some of the pictures I’d ignored on the way down. Those will have to wait for another post.
Tomorrow, the torch sails up the Thames on its way to the Olympic Stadium. I’m going to try to grab some shots of it, so we’ll see.
Unfortunately, for some reason the images in the gallery below aren’t displaying the EXIF data automatically. I’m not sure if this is something I’ve done wrong or a bug with this relatively new WordPress feature, but I’m looking into it. Sorry about that one!