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|| News Item: Posted 2005-05-30

Leading Off: The Sound of Memorial Day and the new 'Animal'
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Nadia McCaffrey (left) and Karen Meredith (right) share a moment together as they kneels in front of crosses with the names of their sons at the Arlington West Memorial in Santa Barbara.
Every Sunday morning as the sun begins to fill the sky over West Beach in Santa Barbara they begin unloading a beat up white van overflowing with bundles of white crosses.

Three hours later (or four depending on how many others are on hand to help out) a group of volunteers from Veterans For Peace have placed crosses, flags, flowers and name tags on the sand, the number now approaching 1,600 U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq.

I had been waiting for over a year to photograph the memorial that has come to be known as Arlington West and with Memorial Day approaching, it was a perfect little project to take on.

Since Arlington West's first Sunday most of the local newspapers and TV stations as well as the subject of a documentary video had covered it. "We've also had just about every photojournalism student at Brooks out here," Steve Sherrill, creator of the memorial told me with a chuckle on my first visit.

The beach, the early morning sun, the crosses and flags in the sand, family and friends of the fallen soldiers visiting ... what else could a photographer want?

I have been carrying a small mini-disk recorder with me for a couple of years and have actually used it from time to time for interviews and audio notes that needed more than the recording feature on the digital cameras could give me. And USA TODAY has used a few of them when the stories have made it onto our .com.

Letting the people that created and lovingly put up Arlington West every Sunday and the others it touches tell their stories in their own words was not just fitting ... it was a must. Reading quotes is one thing, but hearing the words and the feelings in the voices is quite a different thing and extremely touching as I would find out.

The other thing going into this assignment with "audio on my mind": Conducting the interviews and taking in the ambient sounds on the beach made me MORE of a journalist ... and what I learned through this gave me added insight into the subjects and my photographs.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Volunteer Nancy Tunnell, 56, of Santa Barbara, places a name tag on a cross in the Arlington West memorial. The Santa Barbara Chapter of the Veterans For Peace places a cross for every soldier killed in Iraq on the beach every Sunday.
Or course recorder-toting photographers are nothing new and there are countless that do this every day and much better than I. But my point here is that embracing another technology or method can and will help you as a photographer and most assuredly will make you a better journalist. Learning and listening is what this is all about.

But then there is the age-old debate: How do you balance being a photographer and interviewer/audio technician?

Basically you can't. One media suffers and should be the audio.

What I have learned in my limited experience is that you work as you normally do as a photographer and try to keep the audio end of this a simple as possible.

I've seen other photographers working with audio, using digital records, shotgun mics, boom mics and Sony pro studio headphones but my method has been ...Keep It Simple Stupid. You do not need all of that hardware!

I do use a Sony mini-disk player --- which I still am not 100% sure which controls do what but I do know where the "record" button is. However the key for me is a small mic and small ear buds to monitor the recording ... if I even do that.

I use a tiny T-Mic (thanks Trent Nelson for the advice on that!) and while audio techs will probably turn their noses up at it, the sound is very good and most of all, the entire recorder/mic combo is small and can be held in one hand.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Diane Layfield, 54 of Fremont, CA, Tiffany Hicks, 32, of Newark, CA, and Trayvon Hicks, 7, sit at the cross of Travis Layfield at Arlington West, a memorial to U.S. casualties on a beach in Santa Barbara, CA.
As I interviewed Steve Sherrill, Arlington West's originator and volunteers like Michael Cervantes and Nancy Tunnell as they worked, I would stop shooting because I didn't want the sound of my cameras on the recording. But all the while I was learning a lot about the memorial and these people I missed photos! So I just gave up and would shoot even as I was recording.

This assignment was not without some controversy, which also surrounds Arlington West itself. Is this a memorial? Or is this some kind of anti-war protest?

But again, the interviews helped me with this as well. From Sherrill telling me that the group goes out of its way to "de-politicize" Arlington West to Karen Meredith, whose son Kenneth Ballard was killed in Iraq Memorial Day weekend in 2004, telling me that she and most family members believe Arlington West is something that honors the soldiers.

In their own voices these word are powerful and persuasive.

On their own my photographs from four trips to Arlington West are good, solid reporting, including a couple of very touching and emotional moments.

But combined with the voices of those in the photos, telling their own stories and hearing the emotions in the tones of their voice is what story telling and now journalism in the Internet era is all about.

Thanks to's Denny Gainer, Ron Coddington and Dave Teeuwen for all of the hard work on getting the Internet version of the Arlington West story together.

* * *
Is it the return of "Animal" from the old Lou Grant TV series?

Word out of Chicago is that comedian Drew Carey has been "covering" various sports events from boxing to the recent USA - England soccer match at Soldier Field.

Photo by Anne Ryan / NewSport

Photo by Anne Ryan / NewSport

Drew Carey shooting the United States vs. England in a friendly match at Soldier Field in Chicago on May 28, 2005.
For those that are too young to remember "Animal" he was a staff photographer on the fictional staff of the LA Tribune (how about deja vu on that???). Unshaven, dressed in jeans and generally sloppy, he was the poster child --- unfortunately --- for newspaper photographers. "Animal", played by actor Daryl Anderson, even graced the cover of the 4-initial-organization's monthly magazine.

(I always thought that the SF Chron's John Storey --- a card carrying SAG member at one time because of his Snickers commercial --- would have been a better person filling the role. At least he would have been realistic ... a helluva a photographer, dressed well and good looking.)

Now don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Drew Carey and even made his portrait once, posing him with "Bob" in front of Bob's Big Boy hamburgers in Burbank. He was friendly, funny, full of questions and needless to say, easy to photograph.

Looking at a photo that Anne Ryan recently emailed me, Carey, bulging out of his "photographer's bib" is holding a camera with an 70-200 zoom lens on the sidelines of a soccer match. Thank God he doesn't have a monopod sticking out of the bottom of that zoom!

I hope to heck that this isn't "research" Carey is doing, for some upcoming sitcom on the life and times of a sports photographer. If it is, it's going to spoil my script for a similar show … but mine is going to star Robert Beck and his trusty sidekick Kojo …

Hey Brad and Grover! Maybe we ought to be contacting Carey's agent and get him a membership to

* * *

This Memorial Day we lead off the newsletter with a poignant piece by Trent Nelson writing about his experiences covering families and events involved with the war in Iraq.

Also in this issue we have insights into the All Mighty Jube photo from Bob Deutsch, Robert Beck, Toni Sandys and Bob Leverone. Reed Hoffmann gives us some tips on buying a point and shoot camera. Andrew Tucker of the Augusta Chronicle writes a hands-on review of the Nikon D2X.

And we have the return of The Dude!

So sit back, adjust the volume on that Martha Davis & The Motels CD ... and enjoy Sports Shooter v.79.

As always, thanks to Special Advisors & Contributors: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Anne Ryan, Rick Rickman, Joe Gosen, Peter Read Miller, Rod Mar, Vincent Laforet, Trent Nelson, Jason Burfield, Grover Sanschagrin, Photodude, Scott Sommerdorf, Reed Hoffmann, Bob Deutsch and Mongo Johnson.

Thanks this month to: Robert Beck, Robert Leverone, Toni Sandys and Andrew Tucker.

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

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