101 pins: Loaded with photo equipment and pins, Sports Editor Joel Reichenberger sets out for Olympics 2018
February 6, 2018
Steamboat Today Sports Editor Joel Reichenberger is covering the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. He left Steamboat Springs with 101 commemorative Steamboat Pilot & Today Olympic pins. He plans to use a column online at SteamboatToday.com and in print, “101 pins,” to track who he distributes them to and what he gets in return to help tell the story of life as a reporter and photographer covering one of sports biggest events.
The first pin went to my parents, because even though at 35 years old I have a wife and a child, that still seemed appropriate. The day I left Steamboat Springs to cover the 2018 Winter Olympics, I took a break from frantic packing to hustle into the downtown post office to send three copies of our "Inside the Olympics" newspaper special section, which I'd been talking about with for the better part of a year, and one Olympic pin, to my parents.
Starting at 101
The Steamboat Springs 2018 Winter Olympic pin wasn't exactly my idea. I certainly didn't invent the concept of Olympic pins, but I certainly did notice our distinct lack of a pin during my only previous trip to cover the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014. Having a pin was one of my top suggestions during our post-Russia debriefing.
The concept got a big boost in August 2016 when Swift Communications acquired the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Swift had its own experience producing commemorative pins, making them for the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2015 World Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek, so when Swift reached out to Steamboat Pilot & Today Publisher Suzanne Schlicht about a pin, she knew it was something we wanted and away we went.
Several hundred design changes later — hey, we're particular — we got what we wanted, a 2-inch pin featuring a dash of Asian architecture in a pagoda, a wisp of the mountains in blue and green peaks that cut across the piece and a face full of Steamboat in a massive ski jumper leaping off the pin.
The whole idea from my perspective — I don't worry about sales and marketing because I'd be awful at both — was to have pins to trade at the Olympics, and Suzanne saw to it I had 100 pins set aside from the paper's allotment.
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Each employee was given one personal pin once the shipment arrived, and I had my set — 101 pins ready to load into an overstuffed suitcase for the trip to Pyeongchang, South Korea, site of the Winter Olympics.
I'm not entirely sure what the pins are for.
I like them because they're uniquely Steamboat. Ski jumping is a rich part of the city's skiing tradition, especially as it relates to the Olympics. And, I'm a bit of a hoarder of such things.
I've bought a poster every year so far the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club has commissioned them for the annual Winter Carnival celebration, and I hang it in my cubical. Then I buy another and role it up to be framed and displayed someday in a home that has more wall space than the 850-square-foot, two-bedroom condo my wife and I share with our 6-month-old daughter.
But what do I do with the pins at the Olympics? Trade them, right? For what? Am I supposed to come home with 101 other pins or rewarding 101 favors?
I didn't know, so I sent one to my parents because they deserve one, or several because they're more than (roughly) 1-percent responsible for my career.
Both my parents have extensive journalism roots and have worked at multiple publications across the region, and my dad still writes and photographs for agricultural magazines. He sparked and drove my own interest in photography, and I largely blame him for the fact that it takes me two jam-packed suitcases and one about-to-pop backpack to actually make it to the Olympics.
See, his insistence that I learn how to take a photograph started the inevitable path to where I am. I was persistent but decidedly on the amateur side with regard to photography when I came to Steamboat 10 years ago.
Steamboat's a great place to be a photographer, so my interest grew. Before I left for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Nikon contacted me to join Nikon Professional Services and offered me the chance to borrow equipment from them to shoot the games.
It's hard to know how much to take them up on an offer like that. I have awesome equipment for what I do in Steamboat — a Nikon D810 and several pricey zoom lenses that allow me to get a good shot whether I'm covering a sunny soccer game at noon, a basketball game in a dim gym or a snowy Nordic combined event from the bottom of the jump.
But while many photographers will preach that it's about skill rather than equipment, I've seen very few willing to turn down new equipment, and there's better equipment than what I have for shooting sports.
So, this time I asked for and received on loan from Nikon two D5 cameras, capable of shooting 12 frames per second, and, most notably, a 400 millimeter f/2.8 lens, which, as far as I can tell, takes beautiful photos no matter what the dope behind the viewfinder does.
Nikon also offers the opportunity to check out lenses at the Olympics, basically going day to day rather than borrow for a month like I did. I like that idea. Borrowing the 8.4-pound, 400mm f/2.8 lens day-to-day would make my life a lot easier while traveling, but there's no guarantee there will always be one such lens waiting for me to borrow each day, and there's no guarantee I'll be able to make it to the check-out booth, likely at a different location than our condo, at reasonable hours.
I always thought "real" photographers were somewhat silly with the way they'd haul a big lens like that to the smallest of events. I got by just fine with lesser lenses. Did they really need to bring out the big gun EVERY time they shot anything?
Use a lens like that and you realize that yes, yes they do need it every time, and I wanted it available every time I would need it at the Olympics, so I borrowed it from Nikon and wedged it into a carry on bag with the two D5 cameras, padded them with socks and sweaters and lugged the combination onto my plane in Denver.
My 2018 Winter Olympics photography list officially consists of:
— 2 Nikon D5 camera bodies
— 1 Nikon D810 camera body
— 1 Nikon AF-S 400mm f/2.8E
— 1 Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8E
— 1 Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G
— 1 Nikon 85mm f/1.4D
— 1 Nikon AF-S TC-14E III (1.4x) Teleconverter
It adds up in a lot of ways, notably weight. The combination of one checked bag mostly filled with clothing, a lens-laden carry-on bag and my actual camera backpack, with laptop, other tech knicknacks like digital recorders, batteries and a pair of portable 4TB hard drives, weighs in about 120 pounds.
My dad thinks I'm crazy for hauling the big lens.
He's probably right, but it is, after all, his fault.
My mom's always been just as supportive and knows the names and storylines of most of the athletes I'm poised to cover in Korea.
So, they got three copies of the Olympic preview section, and they got my first Olympic pin.