Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘David Burnett’:

David Burnett Has Switched from Canon to Sony, and Will Remain a Great Photographer

A major piece of news rocked the Internet this week (and best of all, it didn’t involve Donald Trump). Our dear friend David Burnett announced that he was trading in his Canon gear for Sony. Hear it in his own words:

CanonToSony 1 from David Burnett on Vimeo.

To “change horses” after 40 years is notable for any photographer, whether professional or amateur. Naturally, there were detractors who claimed Sony paid him off for the endorsement. I suppose they parked a dump truck full of money in his driveway, per standard operating procedure. Kidding aside, the fact remains that David continues to earn his living as he always has – by the images his hardware turns out (with some small contribution from the 8-9 inches of “bio-ware” right behind it.) It seems clear to me that David mentioned the switch for the same reason any of us might post a status update on his blog – he’s excited about what it means for the future, and he wants to share that feeling with us.

Over the years there have been posts right here on our blog about this same topic: Raj Tavadia, our technology director, posted two widely-read guest blogs describing his experience switching from Canon to Fuji, and I posted my own impressions later that year when I traded in my oldest Nikons for a Fuji X-E2. Where, may I ask, were those dump trucks full of money, then?

Rather than standardizing on one system, I have preferred to choose what feels like the “right” camera or lens for the day, whether a Nikon D series, Fuji X, Canon G, Sony RX, or Apple iPhone. Just a different way of working; you could make a strident defense of either method. And if that interests you, you’ve come to the right place – the Internet, it turns out, is better suited for almost nothing more in Creation than holding vigorous, pointless arguments with total strangers. (Thank goodness for cute cat pictures, which seem to be the only thing everyone can still get behind.)

Now I’m not going to speak for David – who has continued to turn out world-class work as much as he ever has – but I wonder if his decision was influenced by the notion that it can be healthy for one’s creativity to change his tools after a certain amount of time. It doesn’t hurt that so much of the recent progress in photography has come out of Sony, both in terms of design and manufacturing. Their sensors have powered all of the Nikon D800 series, for instance, as well as many iPhones. It stands to reason that they’d hold some of their best stuff back for their own-brand cameras. Meanwhile, Canon admits that they’re not innovating as quickly as they should.

Aside from his new adventures in Sony land, I do hope that he’ll continue to use that big, beautiful Speed Graphic as well as anything, large or small, that lets him keep creating images that stun us, inspire us, and make us laugh.

Joshua Paul – Capturing the Soul of F1 Racing

Anyone who knows me will confirm I’ve always had a fondness for cars. Given the slightest prompting, I’ll wax poetic about the bygone era when I lived in New York City and parked my Alfa Romeo on the street overnight (with the top down!!) And whenever the opportunity presents itself, I make it a point to go out and appreciate the fine details of classic cars – most of them also of a bygone era.

So I’m delighted to discover and share with you the work of Joshua Paul, who’s recently received attention across the blogosphere for his images which seem to have emerged from [all together, now!] a bygone era. Josh could be considered the driving force behind Lollipop GP, a photography magazine dedicated to the thrill of Formula 1. Have a look at Josh’s Instagram feed, and I’m sure you’ll agree he succeeds at finding the essence of the sport. There’s nothing better, short of actually being there to experience the roar, the heat, the smell, and the dazzle with your own senses.

Part of Josh’s style is his use of a classic camera, the Graflex 4×5 – a chimney-style SLR now over 100 years old. Based on the quality of his other images, it’s clearly a stylistic choice, not a gimmick. I was instantly reminded of one of my longest-known friends, David Burnett, who, if you haven’t seen previous mentions on this blog, you may recognize as “that one guy who used a Speed Graphic to cover the Olympics… and the Vietnam war… and presidential campaigns since JFK’s… and coups d’etat, famines, revolutions, and the various other things you come across during a 50-year career“. David happily makes use of modern equipment – he regularly carried two Canon 5D bodies, in that camera’s heyday, and has made striking images on everything from a Mamiya to a Holga. But he found his muse in the Pacemaker Speed Graphic 4×5, which he often mated to the 1943 Kodak Aero-Ektar, a 178mm f/2.5 lens originally used on World War 2 spy planes.

Now, to be clear – I’m sure that every other photographer in the images above worked very hard to get where they are and to come away from the gig with great images. The days are long, the bags are heavy (especially with those 400mm lenses), and the business side is more competitive than ever. And let’s not even get into how miserable it is to fly, these days…

Nevertheless, in the age of 20 fps motor drives and multi-lens cellphones, there’s just something wonderful about watching Josh and David use their imaginations to push their ancient technologies of choice in new directions. As Ansel Adams famously said, “the single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”

As I write this, issue #4 of Lollipop should be shipping soon; issue #3 still shows limited quantities available and can be ordered on Lollipop-GP.com. Coming in at 228 pages, it looks absolutely beautiful – not just in terms of images, but also graphic design. As for David, two of his books are currently available on Amazon: one, a chronicle of Bob Marley and the other reggae icons he encountered on tour in the late 70s, and the other documenting the fall of the Shah of Iran, the rise of the Ayatollah, and the ensuing hostage crisis.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Alex "A-Rod" Rodriguez, handsomely photographed by Nick Laham and processed by Instagram

In a way, nothing… in another way, everything. Here’s the front page of last Sunday’s New York Times, with major above-the-fold prominence for a beautifully framed, lit and posed portrait of A-Rod. Look at the credit, to Nick Laham (via Getty Images). The first words in the credit line are “Instagram Photo.” Nick Laham is a very gifted photographer, and this image, taken in the bathroom of the Yankees’ training facility in Florida, was made with an iPhone.

It really is remarkable that we’ve reached this point in the art and craft of photography that photographers are willing to yield to a free app to (arguably) enhance their creativity. It’s sort of like the trend in typography a number of years ago when advertising headlines looked like they were set  by five-year-olds in kindergarten and then run over  by the muddy tires of a truck.

As I look at a whole generation of iPhone photography,  it’s ironic to see that my great friend of many years, David Burnett, has chosen a very opposite path – he uses a vintage Speed Graphic 4×5 to make many of his great series of pictures, including at the Olympics. A number of years ago, the dream assignment was one where a client said yes to first-class travel, multiple assistants, and as much gear as you wanted to carry, to wherever you wanted to shoot. No secret that those days are gone, but I always thought that a credo of ‘one camera, one lens’ would be a good way to define oneself as a photographer. A twin-lens Rollei, or a Leica M-series with a 35mm optic, was the choice of many. But no one ever suggested using a post-production technique to diminish the original quality of the original image.

Finally, it seems to say a lot that The New York Times feels the need to tells its readers that it embraces Instagram. Coming soon (perhaps): an all-Instagram edition of the NYT.