The MIRACLE GAMES
Lens Magazine|September 2021
The Games of the XXXII Olympiad were historic even before tennis star Naomi Osaka lit the flame in the cauldron with her relay torch to commence them.
Mark Edward Harris

Fireworks light up the sky above Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium at the opening ceremonies after the Parade of Nations on July 23, 2021. I used a Nikon Z7II with a Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 with a 2 second exposure at f/11, 200 ISO.

The concept of bringing athletes from every corner of the earth together for competing in the middle of a global pandemic seemed absurd. Yet they did, and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were an incredible success by most accounts, including mine.

Tang Xijing of Team China performing a floor routine in front of judges on July 30 during the women’s individual all-around gymnastics final.

In advance of the Games, playbooks were created to guide athletes, support staff, and media - both writers and photographers - through all the protocols that were being set up to minimize the spread of COVID-19. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach pledged 85 percent of athletes would be vaccinated and isolated from the general public for the entirety of their stay in Japan. Members of the press, including myself, could use public transportation after two weeks as long as our daily health reports submitted through an app were cleared. A summer surge of covid cases did prevent the stands from being populated by spectators, so the television and still cameras became the sole eyes of the world to record the literally Olympian efforts of athletes.

A selfie with a Nikon D6 and a Nikkor 500mm f/5.6 above the Ariake Urban Sports Park skateboarding venue.

Before stepping on the plane in Los Angeles, I had to carefully consider what to put in my camera bag and what to leave at home. The Olympics and Paralympics offer a wide range of photo ops requiring an equally wide focal length, so I packed Nikkor lenses, giving me coverage from 14mm to 500mm.

Since my Nikkor 300mm is an f/4 and my Nikkor 500mm is an f/5.6 making them relatively small, they were able to fit along with two Nikon bodies and a number of other lenses into my Think Tank Airport International V3.0 Rolling Camera Bag.

Turkish gymnast Ibrahim Colak dismounts the rings in front of photographers during a qualifying round at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

If I needed even longer glass, I knew I could check a lens out from the Nikon booth set up for credentialed photographers at the International Media Center in Tokyo.

Brazil's Isaac Filho Souza in flight off of the 10-meter platform on August 6 at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

I then filled my Think Tank Airport Accelerator backpack with a set of StellaPro CLx10 continuous lights for athlete environmental portraits and the new StellaPro Reflex to do a stroboscopic gymnastics study with a promising young Japanese athlete in a neighborhood gym.

Urara Ashikawa of Japan performs in the finals of the women's balance beam in the Ariake Arena on August 3. Mark Edward Harris © All rights reserved.

These amazing demure lights can generate 20 flashes per second at full power from a battery handle and sync at my fastest shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second. From the battery handle, the Reflex has an output of 6000 lumens in the continuous mode and 9000 lumens when plugged into a 100W power supply. Bursts can be fired with Godox and Elinchrom triggers at 200 - 18000 lumens, the higher number essentially being twice the maximum power.

Countless gyms around the world are where Olympic dreams start to take form. Recent high school graduate Leo Koike training on the pummel horse in Saitama, Japan in a StellaPro Reflex stroboscopic study.

Still, photographers cannot use strobes of continuous lights to record the action on the field of play, nor can we use tripods except for small ones at non-competition events. An example of the latter is my image of fireworks over Tokyo's Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremonies recorded with a Nikon Z7II with a Nikkor Z 1424mm f/2.8 set to 2 seconds, f/11, ISO 200.

Cuban wrestler Reineris Salas Perez and Azerbaijan's Sharif Sharifov battle for the bronze medal in the 97-kilogram freestyle division in Makuhari Messe Hall. Salas took home the Olympic medal.

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