You don’t see too many people toting large format cameras around nowadays, much less to monumental events such as the Olympics. Working with a team in conjunction with the I.O.C. (International Olympic Committee) allowed photographer David Burnett to document the Olympics in the style that he wanted to. This meant using a 19040s Speed Graphic Camera with a 1943 Aerial reconnaissance lens.
It’s not that common for photographers to cover the Olympics using film because there’s always that risk of missing the money shot. Shooting digital also makes it a little easier to share data with editors, unlike before when they would have someone designated to fly the films back and forth just to make the morning paper. Developing and scanning film can take a while. In fact, last we heard, Burnett has only scanned about a third out of the 350 black-and-white 4×5 sheets he used up during the event.
Shooting with a Speed Graphic means dealing with certain challenges.“As you can imagine, shooting sports (you only get ONE frame… there is no such thing as “FPS”… its more like “FPM”) with a Speed Graphic is challenging in and of itself. Focus is always an issue. Loading the film in a timely manner and getting yourself where you need to be, while schlepping around two different systems is a constant challenge,” Burnett says.
“That said, what I hoped to do was to create a set of pictures which kind of lets the viewer know what it was like being there, more so than necessarily getting any strictly “amazing action” pictures. It’s about trying to set the tone of what it’s like, and just how you “see” the events with a fairly “normal” lens (7″ on 4×5.
Aside from the Speed Graphic, he also brought along Leica M9 and a Canon 5D Mark III. “I have included the 4×5 work in my repertoire since 2004, when I started shooting on the political campaigns for President,” he says. He followed politics for 35 years because of the look he was getting from the big cameras.
In the early digital days, we were all shooting with more or less the same camera body, the same couple of zoom lenses, and the chance to come up with a different “look” was something I found worth the extra work.”
Here are some of Burnett’s snaps from the Olympics:
You can view the rest of his pictures here.