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|| News Item: Posted 2001-02-26

Leading Off: I Love to Look at Good Photographs
By Robert Hanashiro

Photo by Myung J. Chun/LA Times

Photo by Myung J. Chun/LA Times
Anyone who knows me well has heard me rant about contests especially the judging of ones that have sports categories.

When I see the "winners" I yell, "What are these judges looking at?" and "What the hell does a P.I.B. (Ponytails In Black) know about sports photography?"

(This was evidenced a few years back when a photo of a kid riding a sawhorse won a sports award in a national contest. Feature photo? Maybe. But sports???!!! Were they smoking crack when they looked at this photo?)

So many of my friends have asked, "Why the hell do you sponsor a sports photography contest if you bitch so much about them?"

The answer is pretty simple I love to look at photographs, especially good sports photographs.

A secondary reason we have this contest is to have some fun with sports photography and (hopefully) promote some good work that's going on out there that maybe you haven't had a chance to see.

This is the third year of the Sports Shooter Contest and each year we've had increases: more entries, stronger and more diverse images and better prizes. (We've gone from monpod covers to giving away a Nikon CoolPix 990.)

This year we received nearly 800 images from 268 photographers.

Photo by Robbin Goddard/LA Times

Photo by Robbin Goddard/LA Times
BUT we had to disqualify many entries because photographers just didn't follow the rules.

Photographers are a strange lot we hate reading instruction manuals (maybe it's just a "guy-thing) and we certainly don't like following directions. But when you don't label an entry properly and/or don't even put in a caption (or byline for God's sake!), how are we to know who's friggin' photo it is?

Once I received an entry and it is stripped from the e-mail it's attached to, there is no way for us to know who took the photo or for that matter, what category it's to be entered into unless the photographer slugs and captions the file.

Over 85 images submitted did not have captions. Others had incomplete information, but I was able to piece enough together to at least figure out what category it was intended and who shot it.

If you handed in photos captioned as badly as these images you shouldn't be working for a newspaper or magazine!

Another problem with some of the images involved too much Photoshop. We found several images that had been OBVIOUSLY altered over saturated colors, too much sharpening and some heavy-handed burning and dodging.

Photo by Robbin Goddard/LA Times

Photo by Robbin Goddard/LA Times
One image from an LA Laker game had the color manipulated so much that the gold in the uniform looked like something out of a Van Gough painting copied onto Kodachrome 25. It certainly raised more than one eyebrow among the judges and brought out a chuckle or two.

But overall, the entries were fun to look at and all of the judges found the new Student Portfolio category worthwhile and promising. We will definitely keep it for next year.

Here are some excerpts from the video shot during the Sports Shooter Contest judging.

Peter Read Miller, Sports Illustrated:

"Overall I thought the quality of the images was a definite improvement over last year. We had some good, tough decisions to make over some of the pictures that were in there. I thought in the Student Portfolio (category) there was a pretty fair selection of pretty good work in there. I think (the entries are) improving every year."

Rick Rickman, Newsport:

"We had some discussion in that (Olympic) category the history and the importance of the moment verses the quality of the picture. My emphasis in competitions like this is to place the emphasis on the quality of the picture rather than the importance of the moment in history. It maybe a very important moment in history if the picture isn't as good as another image, then to me it's not as important of a picture. The quality of the picture is what we're judging not the contemporary nature of that moment in history."

Photo by Robbin Goddard/LA Times

Photo by Robbin Goddard/LA Times
Brad Mangin, freelance sports photographer:

"The type of thing I like looking at are the fun things you don't see a lot and faces. I've always been a big fan of pictures with great faces, great emotions. Something that brings the readers in. One picture we had was shot by a guy at a minor league baseball game somewhere in the Midwest it was shot with a long lens of fans going for a foul ball. And there were so many faces including one just incredible expression there was faces, there was ball, there was action, there was emotion and to me it was something I like to look for in a great picture. You can have the greatest photo in the world but if you can't see the face it doesn't draw you in. It was really fun, it wasn't a diving football picture or an overhead remote or a play at the plate and it is something that really separates the good pictures from great pictures."

Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times:

Photo by Robbin Goddard/LA Times

Photo by Robbin Goddard/LA Times
"There was some really creative photos. There were some photos that were not cropped properly and some of those would have risen to the top if they were cropped properly. Mostly too loose. I think when you crop you really got to crop in where the emotion is. If there is anything unnecessary in the photo that doesn't need to be there, crop it out. You really have to go for impact in a sports photo."

Robbin Goddard, Los Angeles Times:

"I was impressed to see the entries for student portfolio and I think I there is a lot of promise for greater sports shooters. Kojo Kinno in particular had an aesthetic eye, a more sophisticated eye than a lot of other student portfolios. (Riley) came up very well with some good action, actually wider not everything has to be tight with sports. Kino has a lot of promise has very strong portraiture (in his entries). This being my first (Sports Shooter) contest, I was pretty impressed in comparison with other contests I have chaired before."

Ronal Taniwaki, Nikon:

"One of the things that sets our contest apart is that we judge all the entries using computers. Everything is digital projection, using an Epson 710c to throw the image up on a screen. We don't use antiquated slide projectors and slide trays. This eliminates the worry of keeping track of all the slides and getting them back to their creators. The photographer doesn't have to hassle with making dupes and FedExing them to us."

I cannot thank the contest sponsors enough and if you get the opportunity to talk to or e-mail any of them, please extend your appreciation for helping keep Sports Shooter alive and providing our profession with a service that you can't get anywhere else.

Photo by Robbin Goddard/LA Times

Photo by Robbin Goddard/LA Times
Thanks go out to Ronal Taniwaki of Nikon, Jody Grober from Robert's Distributors; Jeff Snyder of Penn Camera; Louis Feldman from Samy's Camera; and John H.K. Riley from Lowepro. Also thanks to Fujifilms, Lexar, Minds@work and the Alta-Mira Group for their generous support.

The winning images can be viewed on the Sports Shooter Archive site hosted by Brad Mangin Photography @

* * *

Covering tragedy, whether it's a natural disaster or the death of a sports icon, is the toughest thing we do in this business. In the past month we had the unfortunate plane crash involving the Oklahoma State men's basketball team and death of race car legend Dale Earnhardt while racing at the Daytona 500.

In this issue, AP's J. Pat Carter writes a poignant piece on covering the OK State aftermath and the Orlando Sentinel's Gary Bogdon provides us a look at covering the tragedy at Daytona.

We also have the return of Mongo Johnson, who gives us the first of an on-going series on preparing to cover the upcoming Winter Olympics; Bryan Kelsen writes about big-time portraits on a small-time budget. We also have an exclusive look at the recent Photo Marketing Association trade show and Jon McNally explains his dabbling in the "Dark Side" of photography video.

And of course, we have much, much more.

So sit back, adjust the contrast on your monitor, turn down the volume on that Shelby Lynne album and enjoy Sports Shooter v. 28!

Robert Hanashiro.

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Old habits die hard, renewed my SS membership again! Renewed ::..