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Southern California natives Phil Dalhauser, left, and Todd Rogers are photographed on the courts of East Beach Park, in Santa Barbara. The duo will be looking to repeat their gold-medal winning performance in Beijing at the London Olympic Games.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Sparks star Candace Parker, photographed at Stewart Street Park in Santa Monica, will look to capture second gold medal in women's basketball at the London Olympic Games.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Joseph Diaz Jr., seen here at South El Monte Boxing Club where he trains, will be representing the U.S. in the 123-pound bantam weight class in the London Olympic Games.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Former USC water polo goalie Tumua Anae, who looks at home in the dive pool on USC's campus, will be representing the United States at the London Olympic Games.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Tony Gunawan, left and Howard Bach, showing off their game faces at the San Gabriel Valley Badminton Club in Pomona, will be competing for double gold in team badminton at the London Games.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Kyla Ross, the youngest member of the U.S. women's gymnastics team at 15 years old, will be competing at the London Olympics, and is photographed at Gym-Max Gymnastics in Costa Mesa.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Archer Jake Kaminski, photographed at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista where he trains, will be shooting for gold at the 2012 London Olympics.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

San Jacinto's Sarah Robles hopes plenty of heavy lifting at her training gym in Mesa, Ariz., will make her a favorite for weightlifting gold at the London Olympic Games.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

BMX Supercross standout Connor Fields strikes a pose at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, where he trains in preparation for the London Olympic Games.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Arcadia's Erica Wu, 16, who will be competing in table tennis at London Olympic Games, is photographed inside the Gao Jun Table Tennis Club in El Monte.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

San Francisco native Alexander Massialas, seen here outside the Anaheim Convention Center, will compete in fencing at the London Olympics. Massialas's father, Greg, a two-time Olympian in fencing, will join him as a coach in London.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Kim Rhode, seen here Oak Tree Gun Club in Newhall, will try to become the first athlete to medal in five consecutive Olympics at the London Games.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

American rowers (from left to right) Scott Gault, Charlie Cole, Henrik Rummel and Glenn Ochal stand tall in front of Otay Lake at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. The team will look to win gold in the men's four rowing competition at the London Olympic Games.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

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2012 Olympians

By Jay L. Clendenin

For nearly four weeks in June and July, I drove around Southern California — with a quick jaunt to the Phoenix area — shooting portraits of  athletes who would be competing in the 2012 London Olympics. I photographed them not only in color with my digital SLR cameras, but also in black and white, using a 4-by-5-inch field camera and a 100-plus-year-old Petzval lens. Each black-and-white portrait was exposed onto black-and-white photographic paper, processed in a darkroom and scanned into a computer. You can see both sets of portraits here and in the Los Angeles Times’ 2012 London Olympics section.

The process was cumbersome and filled with experimentation. I brought 23 film holders to every shoot, in addition to a bulky camera and tripod and two digital cameras and lenses. But shooting the large-format film was a relaxing and, most important, creatively rejuvenating experience. With no motor drive to capture three frames every second (as with my Canon 5d Mark II cameras), I was forced to slow down and think about each frame.

I was reminded of the creative serendipity that comes with shooting film: I couldn’t look at the back of the camera and see what had just happened when I took that picture! It’s a habit we’ve all become accustomed to with digital photography, and though there are obvious downsides to not seeing if your timing and composition were precise, I enjoyed the challenge and reveled in the “mistakes” that happened along the way.

Once a shoot was completed, the processing work began at home, with the conversion of my bathroom into a darkroom. Trays for developer, stop, fix and wash were spread out around the sink, and I blacked out my window and door with garbage bags and tape. By the illumination of a small safelight, I was reminded of my high school days, when I first went into a darkroom and watched a black-and-white image slowly appear in the chemistry.

After drying all the pictures, I would take my favorites to the office and scan them into the computer. The scanner often added to the image, picking up lines and other unseen details in the paper negative.

In the end, some frames don’t have the best exposure, or are not the sharpest picture I’ve ever made, but there is always one that stands out and becomes my favorite because of its imperfections.

 

 

More Olympic Games photos: Olympic portraits | Opening Ceremony | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

A lens on the Olympics: First, find a good spot

Complete coverage

13 Comments

  1. July 26, 2012, 3:50 pm

    the finger prints on the negs are an artistic touch, right?

    By: Grace
  2. July 26, 2012, 9:48 pm

    ha! Grace, it is more the result of hand-processing the prints… i had small trays (5×7) and using tongs became a ridiculous idea in such a small space! some prints had fix stains, some had fingerprints… it was a very fun creative process!

    By: Jay L. Clendenin
  3. July 27, 2012, 5:43 am

    Kim Rhode wouldn't be the first athlete to medal in 5 consecutive olympics; Steve Redgrave (British rower) already did that from 1984-2000.

    By: Taylor
  4. July 29, 2012, 7:28 am

    These are amazing captures, both with the modern and ancient equipment ! Super job…!

    By: Aubry Canales
  5. July 31, 2012, 9:09 am

    […] You can see more of these portraits over at the Los Angeles Times. […]

  6. August 1, 2012, 10:17 am

    These are great! I miss shooting from a large format camera.

    By: Janice Sullivan
  7. August 1, 2012, 9:43 pm

    […] position of using remote controlled cameras for those hard to get shots. But one photographer has gone in a totally opposite direction, using an ancient piece of gear to capture breath-taking photographs of the Olympians. The LA […]

  8. August 2, 2012, 12:30 am

    […] son projesi ise 2012 Olimpiyatları. Bir grup atletle gerçekleştirdiği projede 4 x 5 inç alan makinesi ve 100 yıldan daha yaşlı […]

  9. August 2, 2012, 11:08 pm

    Wow, these are simply amazing, I mean look at the swirl on that Petzval!! And the vintage rendering contrasts beautifully with the strobes on the DSLR.

    Look forward to more fantastic work!

    By: BB
  10. August 6, 2012, 2:26 am

    Hi, we're using the same methods! :)

    Wooden view cameras and scanned paper negatives: http://www.zorkikat.com/portraits-with-the-wooden

    By: Jay
  11. August 8, 2012, 1:44 pm

    What photographic paper, f-stop, and shutter speeds were used>?

  12. August 9, 2012, 9:14 am

    Wonderful series. Really nice. I like how you put the old and new next to each other. It really shows how beautiful both analog and digital photography can be.

    By: marceleverts
  13. August 11, 2012, 9:05 am

    The "old" style pix are good, but don't look like actual older photos. The people just don't have the same kinds of bodies, postures and facial expressions. Nice series, though.

    By: Jerry

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