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|| News Item: Posted 2006-10-04

Leading Off: Back To The Future
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Hanashiro's credential for the big game between Oaks Christian and St. Bonaventure at Larabee Stadium in Ventura, Calif.
A lot has changed in 17 years. And a lot has stayed the same.

The last time I was on the sidelines of a high school football game, it was October 1989, a couple of weeks before I made the big move from the San Joaquin Valley to Los Angeles for what everyone told me at the time was for "bigger and better things…"

Actually I had missed shooting prep football all these years, so when I saw the Oaks Christian - St. Bonaventure High game on a website a few months ago, I thought it would be a cool thing to shoot for the newspaper I work for now. Oaks QB Jimmy Clausen is being touted as the "next Elway" and tailback Marc Tyler as the next … Wendell Tyler (his dad).

Not to sound too cliché-ish but I sort of missed those funny little things all prep games have, like players running through a paper poster made by the cheerleaders, hyperactive parents, little kids (usually a child of a coach) running around the sidelines, 5' 6" offensive linemen and aging stadiums with lots of "character" (aka DARK).

Little did I know that my dream of returning to the sidelines of a prep football game would turn out to be covering what Sports Illustrated was calling "the game of the year." SI had both teams ranked in their Prep Top 10 and USA TODAY had both schools in its Super 25.

As The Game approached, all of those little things that I worried about while covering preps in my 10 years at the Visalia Times-Delta came back. What's the parking situation? Who is handling credentials? And most importantly … how bad is the light?

In the good old days Tri-X bumped to 1600 - 3200 was pretty normal and we avoided using flash like Mike Vick avoids a lumbering linebacker. I did some checking with friends and after a speaking at a class at Brooks Institute of Photography the day before The Game, I was relieved when a student showed me game action shot from the previous week at 1/400 @ 2.8 ASA1600. It wasn't great, but it certainly would work.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

This game was so big that Sports Illustrated's Peter Read Miller (center, in shorts) was there!
A friend at the local paper shocked me when he told me that their photographers were dropping off a car at the stadium at NOON on game day to insure they had a parking space close by. NOON! For a high school game! Never had to do that covering games around Fresno and Tulare Counties.

So when I pulled my car into the parking lot of Larrabee Stadium at 2pm on the afternoon of The Game, it wasn't surprising to see a large number of parents and fans milling around but it was surprising to see there were still lots of spaces left! I immediately called my colleague Dan MacMedan and SI's Peter Read Miller, who were both shooting The Game, to give them the news on the parking situation. Did I lie across a couple of parking spaces to save them for DMac and PRM? Naaa they were on their own, I needed to make some pre-game feature photos.

Inside the stadium a couple of hours before the kick-off, all of those fun memories of covering preps in Visalia came back: The annual "Cowhide Game" between Mt. Whitney and Redwood High, coach Roger Kelly screaming at refs, Times-Delta sports editor Mike "Bunky" Novin nervously eating sunflower seeds, me standing next to a coach who would tip me off to the plays they were running and especially the option offense. You could get a lot of great photos shooting with a 180mm lens with a team running the option.

But some things have changed in 17 years. Fox Sports didn't cover the Woodlake - Porterville game. There was no MaxPreps with a monster motor home parading around town. Photographers didn't have Eiffel Tower-looking devices holding their strobes above their cameras. Neither Oaks nor St. Bonaventure ran the option. And games didn't get national coverage.

The excitement and energy from the 8,000 people in Larrabee Stadium charged the air hours before the game, just like it had 17 years ago at Mineral King Bowl … and for that matter like it does when I'm on the sideline of a bowl game or the NFL playoffs…just on a smaller scale. The prep game's crowd is smaller for sure, but the vibe is something you don't experience at the Super Bowl. It has feeling. It has atmosphere. It still has some tradition… even if the field is crisscrossed by a tangle of wires from cable TV camera crews.

The field is still 100 yards --- though it sometimes felt smaller with Clausen and Tyler racking up about 500 yards between the two of them in just 3 quarters --- the routines by cheerleaders sounded the same and there were even a couple of smurf linemen.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Oaks Christian High quarterback Jimmy Clausen rolls out as he looks for an open receiver during 1st quarter action of the Tigers' 59-13 win over St. Bonaventure High at Larabee Stadium.
High school football is a bit like comfort food --- mac & cheese, fried chicken and SPAM musubi (for those Bruddahs who shoot football in Hawaii: --- it reminds you of your past and where you came from. It's something good and maybe I should shoot it again to keep me a little better centered.

But as long as I can shoot it without the Eiffel Tower on the top of my camera.

* * *

Canon, USA has confirmed that they will be involved in the upcoming Sports Shooter Academy III. Canon will be supplying technical and equipment support for this hands-on, shooting workshop that is held in conjunction with the NCAA Division I Big West Conference.

I want to use this space to thank and recognize Canon's and Dave Metz' dedication to photography and education. If not for Canon and Dave's help, I could not put on programs like The Academy.

Canon joins previously announced sponsors Think Tank Photo and Samy's Camera. So a big thanks to Doug Murdoch from Think Tank and Louis Feldman from Samy's as well.

While photography has been my life for many years, Sports Shooter and these educational programs are my passion and my inspiration. Believe it or not, I get so much out of putting on workshops like The Luau and The Academy, it is MORE than worth all of the free time I spend on it when not working at my "day job".

Thanks again to Canon, Think Tank and Samy's.

* * *

Sports Shooter v.95 features a thought-provoking article by Tim Clayton on plagiarism. USA TODAY's Jack Gruber gives us a peek inside what he takes on assignment to the World's garden spots like Iraq and Afghanistan … and more importantly how he gets it there in one piece.

It's the end of summer and the Sports Shooter Newsletter offers up our annual Intern Diaries with contributions from Pouya Dianat, Alyssa Schukar and Susánica Tam. Jordan Murph writes that a student's education isn't limited to just the classroom or an internship.

Hell has frozen over and The Raleigh News & Observer's Chuck Liddy tells us why. Regular Sports Shooter contributor Trent Nelson explains how he started a new blog at The Salt Lake Tribune and how he made it different. Patrick Murphy-Racey tells us about Canon's 1.6 teleconverter.

Brooks Institute of Photography's Paul Myers writes about Bryan Moss's new book Photosynthesis in his Preaching To The Choir column.

So sit back, adjust the contrast on your computer monitor, turn up the volume on Bob Dylan's new recording "Modern Times" … and enjoy Sports Shooter v.95!

As always, thanks to Special Advisors & Contributors: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Rick Rickman, Rod Mar, Vincent Laforet, Trent Nelson, Jason Burfield, Grover Sanschagrin, Joe Gosen, The Photodude, Reed Hoffmann, Anne Ryan, Darren Carroll and Bob Deutsch.

Thanks this month to: Tim Clayton, Jack Gruber, Chuck Liddy, Pouya Dianat, Alyssa Schukar, Susánica Tam, Jordan Murph, Patrick Murphy-Racey and Paul Myers.

I welcome any comments, corrections, suggestions and contributions. Please e-mail me at

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Opinions, rants, raves, insults and praise whether intend or not, are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sports Shooter and public sensibilities.
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