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|| News Item: Posted 2009-04-23

Sports Shooter Academy VI: A Continuation
Hannah Foslien says the Sports Shooter Academy is a great opportunity to step outside your comfort zone.

By Hannah Foslien

Photo by Hannah Foslien

Photo by Hannah Foslien

Brittany Hochevar posses for a portrait on the UCLB campus in Long Beach, Calif., on Satday, April 11, 2009.
To say the moment I experienced one week ago was surreal would be an understatement. I stood at the front of a crowded conference room at the Crowne Plaza in Irvine, California after I had just learned I won the photo of the day for an image I made at a local boxing gym the day before. A round of applause came from my peers - the photographers I look up to as the future of the industry.

I would be the first person to tell you I did not shoot well during Sports Shooter Academy VI. I tried new things and it was…disastrous. But that is what's great about the Sports Shooter Academies, being able to learn through trial and error. I would tell the faculty and assistants I didn't feel like I shot well and they would respond, "Yes, but did you learn something?" It felt a little like coming home from school and having my mother and father ask me what I learned that day.

There is another piece of advice that I remembered from my piano lessons, basketball practice and college photography courses that "Practice makes perfect." If that was the only thing that I took away from Sports Shooter Academy VI, it was well worth the money that was originally saved to buy a second camera body. I remembered it when Rod Mar talked about how "If you can't make a good photo at a junior college or high school game, how are you supposed to make a great photo at an NBA Game?" And I remembered it when Robert Hanashiro spoke about how he used to practice lighting with his friends and getting lighting ideas from movies, TV shows and music videos (remember those things they used to play on MTV before the Real World?).

I am my own worst enemy. I critique my images ruthlessly and obsess over only covering a few events each month. I know I have thought and probably said, "But how am I supposed to learn and improve if I am not getting work?" The answer is so simple and was right in front of me the whole time; YOU PRACTICE!!!!!

In the five days since returning from California to Sunny Minnesota, I have set goals for myself that are not just "I want to go to the Olympics one day," because, guess what? 99.8% of us do. Here are a few of my short-term goals and how I plan to achieve them:

Goal 1: I will learn how to shoot amazing portraits
• I will pick up not only Sports Illustrated, ESPN the Mag and Sporting News, but also Elle, Cosmo and Vogue and tear out pages with lighting I want to duplicate. I will put these images in a book with notes about how I think they were lit.
• I plan on hosting a regular "Facebook Photo Night" for my friends. They get a portrait session and I get experience.
• I will spend much of my free time next week making speed light grids out of straws and gaffers tape thanks to what I learned at the Academy from Dave Honl.
• I will put together a list of local portrait and industrial photographers to contact about the possibility of me assisting them.

Photo by Hannah Foslien

Photo by Hannah Foslien

A female runner in the 200 meter race during the Coast Classic Track and Field Invitational at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Friday, April 9, 2009.
Goal 2: I will improve my action images capabilities
• I will read the sports section to see which high school teams are having a good season, which are having a terrible one, and when the rivals play. I will assign myself games to cover.
• I will contact the home teams' Athletic Directors to make sure I can photograph them and use their event work on my portfolio.
• I will do the same with the local Division III schools and their Sports Information Directors.

Goal 3: I will continue working on my details project
• Most days, I forget I have a long-term project I started in 2006 until someone like Scott Takushi of the Pioneer Press asks me about it. I will have an answer for Scott next time, because I will use the additional assignments I create for myself to look for great details.
• While working, I will look for detail images during downtimes, such as timeouts and pitching changes.
• I will not get discouraged if these images do not work out the first time or fifth time as long as I am learning from my mistakes.

Goal 4: I will ask for help!
• I know everything and I can do everything myself…or not.
• If for some reason my lighting isn't quite right or my timing is off or my remotes are not firing or I have decided I can not find anything in my archive, I am going to ask local photographers for help. And if they are unable help me, I am going to consult the contacts I have made from attending Sports Shooter Academy V & VI (faculty, assistants and participants, alike) or my former instructors at Brooks.
• If I am still not getting my questions answered, guess what Brad Mangin, Walter Iooss, Jr. and Peter Read Miller, if I think you have the answer, you are getting an email.
• If I see something interesting on your website or in a magazine or a newspaper that you shot, I'm probably going to ask you more about it.

Goal 5: I will do what makes me happy
• On the back of my business cards it simply says, "Love what you do; Do what you love." If I take away the pressures of photo editors, the irritation of referees always being in my way, and my questions about how I'm going to pay next month's rent, I have to ask, "Am I happy with the camera in my hand?" The minute the answer is no, I'll be making a career change. May be it will be time to practice my Zamboni driving.

Those are my goals as of right now. Hopefully, if I continue to work at them, someone might just say, "Hey, Hannah Foslien would be a great person for us to send to the Olympics!"

For those of you who think Sports Shooter Academy is not worth time away from work, school or life, or even that it isn't worth the cost, my experience last week would cause me to severely disagree. I missed an opportunity to work and gave up the purchase of a Nikon D700 with a vertical grip to spend five days getting an education and making friends that in ten to twenty years I will still value. Sports Shooter Academy is a great opportunity to step outside your comfort zone, to shoot images that you would not normally shoot, to learn from some of the best in our industry and, above all, it is a great opportunity to practice.


(Hannah Foslien is a freelance photographer based in Minneapolis, MN. You can view her work on her member page: and at her personal website:

Related Links:
Hannah's member page

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