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| p.1 #5 · SI "Greatest 100 Sports Photos of All Time" |
I'm with ACNY, as I can't imagine shooting without auto focus and burst mode and at low ISO speeds comparable to their film.
Auto focus is certainly relatively new (at least useable autofocus), but bursts have been around a LONG time. By the late 60s, any top tier sports photographer was using a 5 fps motor drive on a Nikon F. John G. Zimmerman (who has a handful of photos in the series) was using very specialized high frame rate cameras.
I'm just in awe of the high ISO of current cameras. Of course, cameras with ISO settings are new to me. It used to be you had to load film with whatever ISO, rather than changing on the fly (or better yet, auto ISO). Of course there was some amazing push processing going on. Kodak would push Ektrachrome 160 to 400, but specialty labs in NYC could do some amazing work at higher ISO. Still nothing like today's adjustable sensors.
But, where you didn't have unreal ISO film to work with, people like Neil Leifer were blazing the trail with strobes in arenas. When I was studying the work of Zimmerman, Leifer, and Iooss, I was blown away by the amount of light they would bring to bear in large venues. Leifer really put remote cameras on the map in sports, although he built on some of the work of Zimmerman and others. He just did it so much better than anybody else at the time and even years later.
Back to focusing... Before autofocus, the thing that separated the men from the boys (and the real pros from the amateurs) was learning to follow-focus with long lenses. A real art that took practice. But... (and this may make me unpopular with some), the reason some people are able to make money with their camera shooting sports today is autofocus. Remember that next time you (generally, not the person I'm quoting per se) complain about the PWC. Your camera and lens makes certain things easier, so you have to work harder to distinguish yourself from the PWC. Not doing so and then complaining is just lazy IMHO.