The best camera for the Olympics is a 4×5 plate camera!

Browsing the web I came accross this interesting picture.

This picture looks past a Russian gymnast at the London Olympics and to the background you can clearly see a Photographer with a 4×5 large format camera. The photographers name is David Burnet and he has photographed seven summer Olympic games as well as among other things the Apollo 11 launch and Bob Marley. Burnet is responsible for shooting one of the most icon sport images at his first Olympic games in Los Angeles.

Mary Decker failing the 3000m at the Los Angeles lympics ’84.

David Burnett doesn’t believe that there will be another Olympic games like the ’84 games in Los Angeles. This was his first games and for the week before taking the shot he had been shooting high and low on the athletics track. The last Saturday of the games had been hyped as the biggest day of the Olympics and espcailly the 3000m track race. Mary Decker had been denied Gold 4 years previously at the Moscow games in Russia, when America boycotted the games and she was set to win this time round. Another big story of this race was Zola Budd. Zola budd who would be running, barefoot, and was not allowed to run for South Africa because they were banned from intrenational competition.

Burnett was tired of being at the finish line surrounded by guys with 11 cameras attached to tripods and cable relases linked to cameras with 400mm lenses. Needing a break Daivd packed up his kit and walked down the track.

The 3000m race came up and he set himself up at the forth turn. The 3000m race is a 7 lap race and in the fifth lap Zola started to make her move. On the turn Burnett piked up his camera with a 400mm lens and started shooting, then picked up his 85mm as they passed him by. Zola tried to pass Mary Decker and Decker came down hard, tripped and fell off the edge of the track. With all the comotion on the track Burnett didn’t see what happened, he continued to shoot away expecting them to pass but Decker didn’t pass. When he finished shooting he saw Mary lying on the side of the track. He quickly picked up his 400mm lensed camera and took a moment to say to himself “Make sure its sharp.” and shot 8 frames. A nurse came over and Mary Decker was sort of lying there and that is the final frame.

Burnet admits it was a lucky shot and is happy he didn’t screw it up

Between Olympics David Burnett doesn’t shoot much sport. For him it is more than a sports event and tries to make some bigger contextual view of it. The way David shoots has evolved. At the ’96 and ’00 Olympics he was shooting medium format, taking pictures where he had one chance to capture the shot and press the button. in 2004 he was using, a 4×5 speed graphic plate camera.

Shooting with the 4×5 camera one of the hardest things according to Burnett is remebering to do everything. First focusing and then closing and cocking the shutter, putting the film in, pulling the dark slide out and hoping that you havent used that film before. After pressing the trigger putting the darkslide in the right way round making sure the black side is on the right side to remind you not to use the film again.

With all his work David Burnett is trying see things in a different way and for him new hardware (even if its old) helps him do that. Burnet says, he wants to come up with a timeless classic picture.

He enjoys shooting with this Holga and of course his 4×5 speed graphic. But the most difficult thing David says, no matter the gear you have is to see things slightly differently. Never go to the finish line, go to the third turn where nothing usually happens and make your picture there.

In London David Burnett will be shooting for the International Olympic Committee. He likes to remind people that every four years is the Olympics for photographers.You have the best photographers in the world in one place all shooting the same thing. The biggest day is the final Saturday for photographers, because after the last track and field event the photographers put down there equipment and run a lap around the track.

A lot of people would ask why shoot the Olympics with a 4×5 camera? For David Burnett he says he does it, to try and make make his pictures a bit more special for himself.

Korea defeated Cuba 7-4 in the baseball preliminaries. Beijing ’08. by David Bunett

by David Burnett

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