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|| News Item: Posted 2000-07-28

Going Retro: shooting film
By Paul Morse, Los Angeles Times

Photo by Robert Hansashiro

Photo by Robert Hansashiro
At the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials I decided to try something new with my photography. I wanted to go retro, to return to the olden days of newspaper sports photography when the fastest humans where captured by the fastest cameras on that old medium called film. I wanted to capture all the decisive moments, especially those in between my digital camera's 3.5 frames a second motor drive.

My colleague Wally Skalij and I used the Trials as a warm up for the Olympics. In Sydney we would be able to shoot film on the nighttime events because we had already blown our deadline for the next day's paper.

Since NBC didn't change the event times to accommodate American prime time viewing slots a majority of the days biggest events will happen around 4 am Pacific Standard time. This would give us enough time to have our film run at the MPC and still make deadline the next day. This was one time when NBC may actually help us get better photos unlike at the Trials.

I'm no stranger to shooting digital and I believe it is the most amazing tool for newspaper and wire photographers. I'm not afraid to shoot the Olympics on digital. I have covered the Super Bowl, the NCAA basketball tournament and the entire Lakers NBA Championship run on digital. I have learned to deal with that "delay" and in a have re-learned to shoot peak action moments again instead of blasting the motor drive. In the scheme of covering a large event digital is the most convenient way to go.

Photo by Paul Morse/LA Times

Photo by Paul Morse/LA Times
Using the film cameras was great! I loved the large bright viewfinder that gave the impression of looking through a large picture frame rather than down a tunnel. Also the camera fit perfectly into my hand rather than the digital camera which felt like holding a brick.

Having so many shots to choose from made things fun again. The reactions of Marion Jones after winning the womens100 meter dash, Gail Devers clearing the hurdles and the face of Adam Nelson as his throw leaves his fingertips in the shot put. On the flip side that was the biggest problem having burned a whole roll in a few seconds. Many times I'd get so caught up in shooting that I'd fail to notice that I would only have a 10 frames left to go. 10 frames aren't enough when the camera shoots nine in a second. I found my self-countering the motor drive by just shooting a frame at a time just like the digital camera.

It's strange; when switching form the digital to the film cameras I didn't automatically start pressing the back of the camera looking for the image on the screen. Instead I was looking at the frame counter and wondering if I should make one more run to the car to get more film.

We didn't shoot the whole event on film. There were times when making deadline by driving the film to the local one-hour photo store was impossible. Under deadline waiting for film to be processed is torture compared to "chimping" the digital cameras and sending the images right after shooting them.

After the delay of waiting to see my images I was very pleased with my decision to use the film cameras. That "delay" that I have been dealing with was quite real. While editing the too many rolls I shot over the 8-day event I found all moments that I remember shooting, captured just when I wanted them. Seeing the crisp, saturated images appear on my computer screen after the film scanner finished it's buzzing was worth the wait. Dealing with film's delays was frustrating but the rush from seeing the images was exhilarating at the same time. It felt like I was discovering sports photography over again.

(Paul Morse is a staff photographer with the Los Angeles Times. He will be covering the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.)

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