Magazine Article


Assignment: Olympics

© Dave Burnett

© Lou Jones

© Serge Timacheff

© Rob Tringali

Since covering his first Summer Olympic Games in 1984 for Time, technology has changed dramatically. Calling himself "a cusp photographer working on the edge of technology," Burnett brought a Canon 10D and borrowed a Canon 1D Mark II. He also packed several Mamiyas, including the 645, and a '40s Speed Graphic.

Says Burnett, "The blessing of now being able to instantly review your work and make it better on the spot comes with the curse of being responsible for the editing, and uploading to the mothership. Trying to find those extra hours in the day is a challenge photographers are still struggling with. It was exhilarating and depressing to walk through the photo work area on midnight runs for coffee, seeing how many moments I had personally missed."

It was at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games that Burnett, not a sports photographer per se, captured one of his most memorable sports images. "Having decided to absent myself from the gaggle of photographers at the finish line, I was one of the few to make color images of the infamous Mary Decker fall, when she collided with South African runner Zola Budd."

SERGE TIMACHEFF, fencing photographer for the International Fencing Foundation, Escrime magazine and Corbis, had more competition in Athens than in other world championships. Fencing, often an afterthought for the U.S. press, took center stage this year. That's because U.S. woman Mariel Zagunis grabbed the gold in individual sabre—the first U.S. gold in fencing since 1904.

Fortunately, Timacheff was competing for position with generalist photographers whom he said were unaware of how the sport was scored, what lens would be optimal, and what lighting conditions to anticipate. "These photographers were typically covering champion athletes from a specific country who had won their way into the semi-finals or final matches. Their objective wasn't to get the most artistic or incredible action shot, but to make sure they got decent photos of the best moments of the match, the athlete's face in victory or defeat, and a general sense of environment and sport."

Timacheff, who shot with a Canon 1D Mark II, says to get the best photos, you must have a working knowledge of the sport. Also, no matter what country an athlete is from, great action shots can speak for themselves. His image of the flying fencer (p. 48) captures a move virtually never performed and even less frequently captured.

"When you have screaming, bleacher-stomping fans entering your viewfinder, it's easy to become frustrated," says Timacheff. "But patience pays off. Good photos often open up including many shots the fans never notice."

ROB TRINGALI, a freelance photographer hired by Kodak to cover the Games, had previously only covered the Winter Olympic Games, so his biggest challenge was knowing what to shoot. Time and logistics were other factors.

"Some of the most difficult challenges photographers face while shooting an event like the Olympics is how to cover three to five events a day," he says. "What equipment do I need to carry? How much time do I need to get from one venue to another? When will I eat and what?"

Tringali formulated a strategy for each day: make the best photograph possible. "It didn't have to be anyone or any country in particular; it just had to be a strong image that conveyed the emotion, elation, or dejection that embodies all Olympic Games. I was hoping to come away with at least one great image every day."

Tringali regularly uploaded his images to New York, where they were displayed on Kodak's marquee in Manhattan's Times Square. To capture these images, he used two Nikon D2Hs and a D1X with 12-24, 16, 17-35, 80-200, 85, 300, 400, and 600mm lenses; F4s, Bogen magic arms, Pocket Wizards, Lexar Media cards, and Photo Mechanic editing software.