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|| News Item: Posted 2005-09-06

Leading Off: What's Your Motivation?
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by
The descriptions were horrific.

Death, destruction and a new concept for all of us: Refugees in America.

As journalists we feel an urge to be a part of the coverage of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Documenting the pain and suffering of the people of the Gulf Coast, the heroic acts of the rescue workers and even the violence that has been reported to have broken out in the area is "what we do."

But when I read several emails and the bold statements on various journalism message boards about "dropping everything and just go" it made me take a step back. I began to ponder not just the events of the past week in Louisiana and Mississippi but also the motivation of certain segments of "the media" and of individuals as they charge off into the region with cameras in hand.

Motivated by what?

Students and young journalists charging off to war zones and scenes of natural disasters is nothing new … I remember 20 years ago getting calls from students that I knew as they were jumping into cars heading off to Mexico to "shoot like hell at the earthquake".

But I'll ask now what I asked then: Why are you going?

If you're like many of my friends and colleagues from various newspapers and agencies they are there because they are actually working --- on assignment ---and maybe more importantly they are prepared.

They have specific assignments. They have responsibilities to their publications. They've done this before and they know the dangers and also how to stay safe.

Several notes to me asking for advice --- before they pile into cars with a trunk full of bottled water and a case cup-o-noodles --- told me in not so many words what their motivation for going to the Katrina is: "Shoot something for my portfolio." Or worse yet … "I want a clip contest winner."

I won't pile on and blast these so-called "portfolio whores" like many respondents on message boards and mailing lists have already done. This is not unlike the dozens of students and other photographers that ask me about getting into: 1) The Super Bowl; 2) The Olympic Games; 3) The Final Four; 4) Any BIG-TIME sports event just for getting a portfolio photo.

Yes it's a "Catch 22". Photographers want experience and photos inn their portfolios from "big-time" events. But clowns like Bert tell you "Stay home!"

I don't want to get too philosophical or critical because I am not in Louisiana. But what I want to do is ask everyone to take a look at why you're doing this story or shooting that photograph. Any story or photograph not just in the wake of Katrina.

Being journalists means we're story tellers and big news events and big-time sports events are easily recognizable on your website and in your portfolio.

But there is a very fine line between "story telling" and "exploitive". What your motivation is can tip the pointer either way.

A couple of questions:

Do the refugees and rescue workers need even more photographers sticking a wide angle lens in their faces … especially ones with the only purpose being to get photos for a portfolio?

And that brings up an age-old debate: Does a student portfolio need to have a hard news (especially from a big event) and professional sports?

So before you head off to that tornado or 3-alarm fire or bug that photographer for a pass to a Laker game take a hard look at yourself. And ask one simple question: Why?

* * *

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Going to USC football practice gives you a chance to not just work on your follow-focus but check out Reggie Bush's moves.
I grew up playing baseball and it will always be my first love (in sports).

The sport I look forward to as a photographer though has always been football and probably what I do best … though I am certainly no Peter Read Miller, Rod Mar or John Biever.

But I do have some insight into the sport I love to shoot (though I don't get to as often as I'd like) and as we turn from the heat of summer to the cool of fall I have a tip for those who might want to improve their football photography and get ready for the new season:


No … I mean go to practice!

We have done a lot in the Sports Shooter Newsletter on shooting football and there was a recent thread on that listed treads on techniques and how to improve. (

But one thing that wasn't mentioned was going to practice.

I was recently assigned to shoot a USC practice. Ho hum.

But I treated it like a game: I went early. I stayed to the end. And I shot everything in between.

Many would take an assignment like this and get the head shots on their list (Mark Leinart. Check. Reggie Bush. Check …) and get then a quick shot of a QB throwing. Maybe a sweep and a receivers drill. Then: Adios, dim sum here I come!

But I watched the routine of the team trainers and equipment managers an hour before practice started. Discovered who the vocal leaders of the team are during stretching and sprints.

I learned as much as I could about the team. Looked for tendencies, familiarized myself not only with the players but also with the assistant coaches and now I can recognize them all on sight. And maybe even by their voices.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Familiarizing yourself with not only who the players are, like USC standout wideout Steve Smith, but who the assistant coaches are like new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.
And believe it or not, assistant coaches CAN become a big story … like out at USC where new QB coach Steve Sarkisian and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin step in for the departed Norm Chow.

Not all publications assign a specific staff photographer to a team … but when they do, like the Times of Seattle has done with Rod Mar, it reaps the benefits. What Mar does is turns his knowledge and familiarity of the Seahawks into coverage of the season that any beat writer would envy.

And it probably started with covering the first practice at training camp …

* * *

With the start of the football season, this issue of the Sports Shooter Newsletter has two features on football: A look at covering preps by Francis Gardler and an installment of "Sports Shooter Conversation" featuring the above mentioned Rod Mar.

We're in the home stretch of the baseball season and Jonathan Daniel gives us a little insight into his hometown of Chicago and the White Sox's effect on the people and the town.

And for we have five installments of "Intern Diaries" by Elie Gardner, Elisha Page, Lucas Jackson, David Weatherwax and Matt Lutton.

Rod Mar remembers a colleague.

And lastly … we all may not be in Louisiana or Mississippi covering the aftermath of Katrina but we can all help. If you haven't donated, please do. There are many relief organizations accepting financial donations to help those affected in the Gulf Coast but I don't think anyone would argue that the safest is probably Please give!

So sit back, relax, turn up that CD of the funky Meter's "Fiyo At The Fillmore" CD … and enjoy Sports Shooter v.82.

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 and Bob Deutsch.

Thanks this month to: Francis Gardler, Elie Gardner, Luke Jackson, Elisha Page, David Weatherwax, Matt Lutton and Jonathan Daniel.

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

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