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|| News Item: Posted 2006-04-28

Sports Shooter Academy II: '11:30 p.m. Five minutes 'till deadline…two minutes…15 seconds.'
By Zach Honig, University of Missouri

Photo by Zach Honig

Photo by Zach Honig
(Editor's Note: Sports Shooter Academy II was held earlier this month. The hands-on, shooting workshop gave participants an opportunity to cover a wide range of NCAA Division I sports through the Big West Conference in addition to several professional sports. The Sports Shooter Newsletter asked several participants to write about their experiences and what the took away from this educational program.)

Some of my friends tell me I travel too much. I know I have much to see and learn and, as a student, there's no better time than now to do it.

Many American college students spend their spring break sipping margaritas in Cancun or hitting the slopes in Lake Tahoe. I like to make the most of all of my time; the word relaxation isn't in my vocabulary.

After three days of running around like a madman on the East Coast, four days in Barcelona (with my luggage arriving on day three), and three days in class at Missouri, I traveled to Irvine, CA., for Sports Shooter Academy II.

Photo classes are important and usually very beneficial, but students need to supplement their college classes with the practical experience they'll gain by attending some of the many workshops offered by professional photographers. No workshop or lecture I've attended in the past came even come close to what I was able to get out of those three intense, sleepless days in Southern California.

Let's take a look at my Friday morning as a Sports Shooter Academy participant:

4 a.m., Friday, April 7
I woke up to the Nebraska fight song playing from the cell phone of roommate and fellow workshop attendee Robert Meyer, who was preparing for a long but incredibly rewarding day of shooting horse racing at the Santa Anita Race Track. Still exhausted from the previous night's critique session, I laid in bed for another few hours, unable to clear the catchy tune from my head.

6:30 a.m.
It's time to turn on the computer. I rarely begin my day without skimming through the e-mails that have accumulated overnight, and there's always time for the Sports Shooter message board.

7:30 a.m.
After a shower, I headed downstairs to pick up my loaner gear for the day. Nikon representative Ron Taniwaki suggested a D2X and 300mm f2.8 for the afternoon track meet at the University of California-Irvine, a short drive from the hotel. Ron's first question was whether I use Canon or Nikon. I hesitated and said, "Canon," afraid he would turn me away. He sensed my hesitation and explained that he was only asking to see if I was familiar with the D2X's operation. After a quick lesson, I was on my way.

8:45 a.m.
After securing my gear in my hotel room, I stopped by a Starbucks stand in the lobby to grab a blueberry muffin for breakfast before running outside to the hotel basketball court for a glass remote class with Orange County Register photographer Mike Goulding. Bert and Myung were in attendance, video cameras in hand. After the remotes class, I went off in search of sunscreen, still red from shooting beach volleyball the day before.

10 a.m.
The drive to Irvine was rather quick so I arrived at the track stadium with enough time to make some feature images of the judges inspecting athletes' equipment. Burlington County Times photographer Matthew Rosenberg and I had some time to capture some unique images before being joined by 15 or so more SSA participants. Although there were quite a few of us covering the track meet, each photographer had his or her own unique style, some guided by instructors Matt Brown, Mike Goulding, Bert and Myung.

The first time I saw a "camera on a stick" was when photographer Chris Detrick demonstrated his technique at a University of Missouri gymnastics meet. A "camera on a stick" is essentially a camera mounted on a monopod with a ball head triggered by a wired shutter release. Carlos Delgado took it to the next level with his "pole-cam," which enabled him to raise his camera several times higher than one could with a monopod.

Photo by Ronal Taniwaki, Nikon

Photo by Ronal Taniwaki, Nikon

Sports Shooter Academy 2 class picture.
3 p.m.
Matthew and I packed up our gear before our 90-minute journey to the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. I also had time to grab some lunch - a bottle of Gatorade and a candy bar. Yum!

4:45 p.m.
After arriving at the Staples Center, Matt and I met Bert and five other lucky shooters at the will call window before heading down to the court to meet NBA senior photographer Andy Bernstein's crew for a tour of the enormous facility. After getting a tour of the catwalk, event level and press areas led by Noah Graham we stopped by baseline in to pick our shooting spots for the LA Clippers - Sacramento Kings game.

6:30 p.m.
We all met Andy in the cafeteria for an incredible $5 buffet. I was especially hungry after such a busy day.

7 p.m.
After stuffing our faces with grilled chicken, Mahi Mahi, numerous side dishes and ice cream with all the fixings, we headed out to the floor to prepare for the game.

7:30 p.m.
Game time. Bert sat under the basket positioning his floor remote as the six of us sat to his left. Hardly noticing that we were packed into the photo boxes like sardines, we knew how fortunate we were to have been given such incredible access.

10:30 p.m.
After witnessing an amazing game between the Clippers and Kings, we drove back to our hotel in Irvine for the evening critique and slide show.

11:30 p.m.
"Five minutes 'till deadline… two minutes… 15 seconds."

Matt Brown was completing his countdown just as we walked into the room. After watching the slideshow and listening to the insightful critiques given by instructors and students alike, we watched one of Myung's videos from the track meet earlier that day before heading to bed in anticipation of Saturday's early morning rowing competition in Newport Beach.

As a student at the Missouri School of Journalism, I am presented with invaluable opportunities to attend photographer presentations and sit in on the judging of the Pictures of the Year and College Photographer of the Year competitions. Just this year I attended presentations by Barcelona-based freelancer Ami Vitale, Roger Lemoyne of Redux, New Orleans Times-Picayune Photo Editor Doug Parker, and many others.

Regardless of whether you're a student or professional, you can never stop learning from the amazing work and advice of others. The work I saw my fellow academy participants produce and the advice of instructors and students as well motivated me to push myself to a new limit; to try something different in search of that incredible, unique image.

To those of you who have yet to attend such an amazing workshop: What are you waiting for? You can put the money you save towards purchasing more and more gear, or you can put it towards your education. For me, the decision is simple. If I had another opportunity to attend SSA, I'd highly consider it. For SSA alumni, your education doesn't stop there. There are plenty of workshops to choose from ( Use this Web site. We're lucky to have such an incredible resource.

I want to thank everyone involved with this year's Sports Shooter Academy: Robert Hanashiro, Ronal Taniwaki, Matt Brown, Wally Skalij, Michael Goulding, Myung Chun, Andy Bernstein, Lucas Jackson, Jordan Murph, Armando Flores and my fellow SSA II participants. I also want to acknowledge sponsors Nikon, the Big West Conference and Samy's Camera. Thank you for five incredible days!

(Zach Honig is a student at the University of Missouri.)

Related Links:
Honig's member page

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