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|| News Item: Posted 2009-07-27

Leading Off: Those Dog Days of Summer
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Saint Louis Athletica @ Los Angeles Sol --- CARSON, CA: Los Angeles' Marta heads the ball as she runs past the Saint Louis defense during 2nd half action at Home Depot Center. Saint Louis won 1 - 0.
July is the month when the temperature in So Cal creeps toward the triple digits, traffic seems to crawl along the 405 Freeway (provided it's moving at all) and sports just seems to sloooooow down.

The NBA season is finally over after 8-months (seemed like twice that) --- unless you're a local sports talk radio host where you fill your 4-hour slot with regurgitated rumors on why the Lakers' Lamar Odom has not resigned with the team for a paltry $10 million a season --- the only interest you have in baseball is what Albert Pujols did because he's on your fantasy league team and football is still 55 days away.

So this is what one Sports Shooter did during the Dog Days of July:

The Los Angeles Sol of the new Women's Professional League played its final regular home game of the season early in July against the Saint (not St.) Louis Athletica. It was a nooner, kid's day and home field advantage in the playoffs was at stake for both teams.

As with most games, I got to the stadium about 2 - hours ahead of the start, most of that time spent sitting in the upper level watching what was going on this early at Home Depot Center. I watched the grounds crew finishing up prepping the field, program vendors readying their little kiosks and listening to a singer rehearsing the National Anthem --- which at the conclusion, I was the lone person to applaud in the empty venue.

I am not a soccer fanatic by any stretch of the imagination and when I met up with Matt Brown later that day the first thing he said was "Why?"

Certainly there are many reasons to attend a professional soccer match, the Sol have Marta, considered the best woman player in the world and the action is different and often more emotional than other pro sports. What other sport do the players react so dramatically when they MISS a shot than make one?

But truth be told, I had covered the inaugural WPL game a few months prior and I felt it was not the best of games for me. This was a sort of "make up" game for me. Yes I had jubo from the first goal, the obligatory header shot here and there and a collision or two --- I just didn't feel great about my shoot.

So here I was, under high-noon sun, trying to make up for what I perceived were my shortcomings from my first game.

Did I do better? Slightly.

But watching Athletica goalkeeper Hope Solo make leaping save after leaping save and Marta sink to her knees in dejection after missing a game-tying shot late in the second half, I felt I was watching something fun… something special. Even though it was only women's soccer.

Despite being kid's day, the crowd was pretty sparse and it didn't do much to give me confidence on whether a new professional sports league would survive in LA, especially given the economic times and the competition for fans' attention and dollar. Maybe I'll have another opportunity next season to get a "make-good" assignment at a WPL match.

The Yankees. The Angels. A noon start. C.C. Sabathia vs. John Lackey. What could be a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

I ran into one of the Angels team photographers John Cordes in the parking lot after I arrived at the "Big A" (aka Angels Stadium) and I asked him how the previous two games between the teams had been. He replied, "It's been great. We've had good home plate (action) both games! But now that you're here, you'll jinx it…"

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Angels starter John Lackey throws in the 5th inning against the Yankees at Anaheim Stadium. High-noon sun, aka The Nasty Light, could have used Hanashiro's idea of an arm holding a TriGrip to bounce fill light under the ball cap.
(Jinx or not, I spent 40 minutes setting up and fretting over a remote behind the plate before getting out of the heat to get a quick lunch in the press box.)

While watching pre-game warm-ups and seeing the black holes under the caps of A-Rod, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira I came up with a great new product: A moveable arm a player wears around his waist that holds a small gold Lastolite TriGrip to bounce light up under his hat!

Years ago I drove from Fresno to the LAX Holiday Inn with my buddy Robert Durrell to hear Andy Hayt give a talk. One of the many things I took away from that talk was Andy's term The Sweet Light … directional, warm light that occurs for just a few minutes before the sunsets. On days like that Sunday at the Big A, the light was definitely not "sweet" --- and was what I call The Nasty Light.

But what can you do since players won't wear a reflector to fill in under the caps? (Hey, it could be another big endorsement thing!)

Well, one of the things I did do to lessen the "black hole effect" was simple: I put the 1.7 converter on the 600mm I was shooting with. Seemed to me the best way to deal with The Nasty Light was just to cut it out, so I spent several innings just shooting tight faces of players and then when the sun finally swung around, home plate was more backlit, and I shot tight on the batters.

(But nothing, save my Baseball Fill Light contraption, could have come close to preventing the horror that awaiting photographers shooting the pitchers from behind home plate. I don't think even Mr. Spock and Scotty could have saved me from the black hole under Sabathia's and Lackey's hats. Of course the story of the game was Lackey beating Sabathia…)

If anyone out there can figure out a way to build the Baseball Fill Light, please email me…we'd make a million!

(I guess I did jinx it… there was no home plate action at all during the game.)

With AVP stars and two-time Olympic gold medal winners Kerri Walsh and Misty May out (having a baby and nursing a torn knee ligament respectfully), beach volleyball has been pretty quiet this year. But the Manhattan Beach Open isn't called the "granddaddy of beach volleyball" for nothing and it is always exciting and fun to cover no matter the state of the tour.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

High schoolers Natalie Hagglund and Summer Ross slap hands during their opening round match against Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs, the AVP's #1 ranked women's team.
Fridays can be dull because the top teams play the bottom seeds and these matches are often sloppy and usually quick. The outer courts on Friday are where the play is more intense, rallies longer and the emotions amped up. Most matches involve teams more evenly matched, so play --- and photos --- can be much better.

But an interesting story developed for the first match of the day at 8am in the stadium court on that Friday in Manhattan Beach. Top seed Nicole Branagh and Eliane Youngs took on the #64 and bottom seeded team of Natalie Hagglund and Summer Ross, a team that had to work its way through Thursday's qualifier.

Ordinarily this match would be just a quick exercise for a #1 seed, but Hagglund and Ross took a 3 - 0 lead in the first game. Not bad for the youngest team to ever qualify for the main draw in an AVP tournament. Hagglund is 17 and Ross 16.

The stadium court was 90 percent empty that early in the morning, but the 10 percent of the seats that were filled were cheering for the high schoolers from Carlsbad, CA.

They played with smiles on their faces throughout the 39 minutes they spent on the stadium court sand, battling a team that had played in last summer's Beijing Olympics. The excitement and joy these two kids exhibited was fun to watch and a 21-12, 21-8 loss was really secondary.

After shaking hands with "my idols" as Hagglund called them after the match, Youngs spent several minutes chatting with the pair at the net and then giving them a big thumbs up.

This was definitely a case where nobody really lost on stadium court.

(For a look at the "granddaddy of beach volleyball" you can view an audio gallery from the AVP Manhattan Beach Open at this link: )

Ordinarily leaving the house on a Friday at 5am is not something I look forward to …especially after a long night of editing and on my day off. But I got talked into heading to Huntington Beach for the U.S. Open of Surfing by my buddies Wally Skalij of the LA Times and Roberto Beck of Sports lllustrated.

I had never shot competitive surfing before and after seeing the gallery of photographs that appeared in the Times the past few evenings, I was looking forward to it, sleep-deprivation and traffic aside. Another factor: Because of winds blowing in from Tahiti, the surf was expected to be the highest in several years.

It was cool and overcast when I arrived, the marine layer turning the sky a muddy gray and the water an ugly green. I wandered around the seemingly endless line of commercial booths and the huge stadium bowl until a familiar voice from above --- not God but Robert Beck --- grabbed my attention.

It was still about 40 minutes until the first surfers hit the water, but Robert was in the elevated press box, looking at the way the waves were breaking and where the wind was coming from.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Peter Brouillet (left) and Robert Beck reminisce about the beach, surfing and volleyball.
He talked about "breaking left" and the "waves peaking" at a certain point … it sounded like the Robert Duvall scene in Apocalypse Now where his character Col. Killgore talks about the conditions of the surf while mortars and machine gun fire go off around him.

The throw was long, so we decided to hightail it over to the pier to get closer to the action, Robert telling stories about his return trip from the Beijing Olympics and beach all the way. I tried to send email and call Wally, but AT&T service on my iPhone was non-existent.

By the time we reached the pier, the first heat was well underway, the best spots to shoot were already jammed. I did find an open area hidden behind the lifeguard building and we settled in but not before running into Peter Brouillet, photographer and beach legend in his own right.

The marine layer never did lift and 9-time world champ Kelly Slater seemed halfway to Tahiti in my viewfinder --- despite a 600mm and converter.

Despite the overcast conditions and long throw to the competitors, listening to Robert and Peter tell tales about surfing and beach volleyball for 90 minutes made the 4:45am wake up and enduring backed up traffic worth it.

* * *

This issue of the Sports Shooter Newsletter features a wide range of stories, starting off with a provocative piece by David Eulitt of the Kansas City Star answering why it's important for staffers to cover the home team on the road.

The Sports Shooter Cool Gig for this issue was written by Martin McNeil who traveled nearly 5,500 miles to cover Ultimate Fighting Challenge 100. Craig Mitchelldyer gives us a short course on going into the wedding photography business. Todd Bigelow writes about the joys of having his son assist him on shoots for the summer.

Michael McNamara is so over covering sports and tells us why; Robert Cohen takes us behind the scenes with the staff of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as they produced their widely acclaimed Cardinal Culture multimedia project. Josh Lehrer's It's In The Details explains the advantages of working with Gradient Masks. Traveling to Tahiti is this issue's Destinations feature, written by David Honl. Vasiliy Baziuk gives us a peek into his camera bag in the latest installment of In The Bag.

The FourSquare, a new, cool small strobe lighting control device from Lightware Direct has more to it than meets the eye, and in Photographers Toy Box Doug Murdoch tells us what's in freelancer Deanne Fitzmaurice's car trunk in his regular Travel Smart column.

* * *

My July Worth A Look is a cool and fascinating documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil --- a film directed by Sacha Gervasi that was 2-years in the making ostensibly about the heavy metal band Anvil. But it is really a soul-searching, touching film about friendship, determination and survival:

This month's reading includes: The Road to Woodstock by Michael Lang with Holly George-Warren and Rain Gods by my favorite author James Lee Burke.
Heavy on the playlist include two new releases celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair: Sly & The Family Stone: The Woodstock Experience and Janis Joplin: The Woodstock Experience (thanks for the recommendation Roberto!).

As always, thanks to Special Advisors & Contributors: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Rod Mar, Trent Nelson, Jason Burfield, Grover Sanschagrin, Joe Gosen, Paul Myers, Myung J. Chun, Jared Dort and Bob Deutsch.

Thanks this month to: David Eulitt, Martin McNeil, Michael McNamara, Craig Mitchelldyer, Todd Bigelow, Josh Lehrer, David Honl, Robert Cohen and Vasiliy Baziuk.

The comments, opinions and other nutty statements that the writers may have expressed, implied, imagined or made up are theirs and theirs alone. Sports Shooter, Inc. and published these articles in good faith with the purpose of education and inspiration.

Permission in writing must be obtained from Sports Shooter, Inc. and the author of the article before being reprinted.

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

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