Voice Photographer Tapped to Cover Winter Games

Voice photographer and Winnsboro attorney Ross Burton in his natural environment. Burton will head to Russia in 2014 to cover the Olympics.

You’ve seen his work, right here in these pages. Images from Westwood High School’s inaugural football and volleyball seasons crisp and sharp, the action frozen in time. Now, the man behind the camera on so many Redhawk sidelines will have a much bigger venue to cover, and in a much colder climate.

Ross Burton is going to Russia to cover the 2014 Winter Olympic Games–specifically, his beloved biathlon event.

For those not familiar with the event, the biathlon competition consists of a race in which contestants ski around a cross-country trail system, with the trail broken up by either two or four shooting rounds (half in the prone position, the other half standing). Depending on shooting performance, extra distance or time is added to the contestant’s total skiing distance or time. Skiers carry a small-bore rifle which uses .22 caliber ammunition. For each shooting round, the biathlete must hit five targets. Each target missed must be “atoned for” by either skiing a penalty loop, having one minute added to the skier’s total time or having to use an extra cartridge to finish off the target (only three extra cartridges are available for each round, and a penalty loop must be made for each of the targets left standing).

Burton knows the event well, and in the 1970s was a competitor on the U.S. team.

“But then I grew up and had to earn a living,” he said. “So I joined the Army.”

Burton, at 64, is a former “Army brat” himself, having been born in Boston and following his father across the country during the elder’s career.

“I don’t really have anywhere I can say I am from,” Burton said. “My father was in the Army, so we went where he went. Then I spent 20 years in the Army.”

During his time in the service, Burton was stationed in Michigan at the University of Detroit’s ROTC program. He took advantage of the free credit hours and began work on his law degree, which he continued at the New England School of Law while stationed in Burlington, Mass. during the Gulf War and finished several years later back in Detroit. One of his stops along his military career landed him at Fort Jackson in Columbia.

“South Carolina seemed a congenial place with a great climate and a low cost of living,” he said. “I decided this was where I wanted to be when I retired.”

Burton bought a house in Winnsboro in 1991 and when he hung up his uniform in 1995 made it his home. In 2001, he married his wife Betsy, who, he said, has been very tolerant of his biathlon mistress — because all that time, Burton never forgot his true love, even though it was virtually impossible to keep pace with it in America.

“It’s such a small sport in the U.S., there was really no way to keep up with it,” he said. “Then, in the early 1990s, the Internet changed everything. Suddenly, you could watch world news on biathlon events.”

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