David Burnett: Capturing the new world in old school fashion

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SOCHI — David Burnett is one of the world's great photographers. He won't tell you that — but we will.

Here with the IOC at his tenth Olympics, Burnett roams the venues like a hunter, armed with an intriguing mix of gear — new and old.

"I get a lot of inspiration out of just trying to match what some great cigar chomping sports photographer did with an old speed graphic," Burnett said. "I'd love to make pictures that are that good."

Taking a page from the past, Burnett uses a 40s-era box camera to create timeless images.

But one of his most memorable photographs came from Los Angeles in 1984 — as runner Mary Decker tumbled to the track in agony.

"Nowadays every angle is covered three different ways," Burnett said. "High definition televisions everywhere, I'm not sure that you're ever gonna see again a still picture having that kind of life on its own."

Another of his favorites? Legendary Chinese diver Fu Mingxia in Barcelona.

"She's absolutely at that moment of just straight parallel like she's levitation and floating and I suppose I would say that's my kind of picture," Burnett said.

And he loves the otherworldly ski jumpers.

"They look like the next stage of whatever humanity is going to be in 20,000 years," Burnett said. "You hear the whooshing sound, that's what I really love. There aren't that many things that you can do as a person and make a whooshing noise. It's really cool."

And while he'd hate to part with any of his cameras, he does have a favorite.

"I can always get another digital, but it's like Sydney Greenstreet said, you can always get another son, but there's only one Maltese Falcon," Burnett said.

And all you selfie takers out there? There's value in those, too.

"Could anyone have predicted what the iPhone has done to change photography," Burnett said. "It's democratized it in a way that we're just starting to see."

Burnett won't know until he processes all his film if he got that iconic shot he's looking for in Sochi — but it's a safe bet he did.

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