Unorthodox sports photography.... / by Neil Genower

Serena Williams at Wimbledon - London 2012 © David Burnett

Serena Williams at Wimbledon - London 2012 © David Burnett

American photographer David Burnett uses an interesting array of cameras, from Canon 5D's to Speed Graphic 4x5 with a 120 Holga thrown into the mix. He is a great exponent of film photography using his speed graphic and Holga to get the kind of pictures that digital can replicate, but never quite emulate.There is something about pictures taken with film, and I don't intend to make this a "film is better than...." piece, it's not anything about the look of film versus digital or the costs or how easy one is against the other. It's just more about tangibility and how the heart feels about ones work over the head. It's quite tricky to write about film and digital, without sounding like one is trying to face one off against the other, so I'll not even try.

What is very interesting though is the work of David Burnett and how the camera or the medium makes no difference, it's the moment and the frame, and in David's case, the depth of field.

If someone was to ask you to cover the Olympic games, in a generic style, not for any publication, but as a record of the event, you'd start to think about equipment, right?.......right! so, fast DSLR's a good range of lenses, preferably as fast as possible, couple of speedlights, lots of flash cards.

When David Burnett was requested to cover the London Olympics his choice of equipment was unorthodox to say the least. He choose to shoot most of the images on his old Pacemaker Speed Graphic 4x5 camera with a Kodak Aero Ekta f2.5 lens, more than 60 years old, often all hand held! The depth of field one gets from such fast large format lenses is very shallow indeed and required David to pre focus on a point and hope the action, or some of it, took place on his plane of focus. In my opinion his pictures are amazing, not just because of the unwieldiness of the camera but that he had to really concentrate on what he saw and as you can see from his website, they are so exceptionally different from  what one would expect of sports photography.

Everything has it's place and it's very inspiring to see the work of a wonderful photographer having the courage of his convictions to do something out of the ordinary.