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|| News Item: Posted 2006-11-16

Leading Off: Lakers 'Lights Out' Puts the Light back on the Court
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Lights Out! The new light at the STAPLES Center for the Lakers, above, and the old light in the same building for the Clippers, below.
"Backgrounds. Backgrounds. Backgrounds."
-Brad Mangin
Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau 2002

In this age where every stadium and arena looks like the starting line at a NASCAR race or the arrivals line at a Hollywood premiere, what the Los Angeles Lakers have done at Staples Center this season has defied sports marketing logic.

At the Lakers regular season home opener against Golden State, fans and photographers found the team's promotional campaign "Lights Out" was a misnomer ... the lights were out all right, over the seating areas ... and they were ON over the court.

Describing this new look as actually a nostalgic look, the team said that owner Dr. Jerry Buss missed the way the game looked when the Lakers played at their old home, the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood. Having worked games at the Forum for many years, I didn't think anyone really missed the place, other than the exterminator or car jackers that hung out in the outer parking lots at nights.

Buss said that he wanted a "more dramatic look" and actually paid to have temporary lights hung just along the edges of the court, with the light focused almost like spots onto the playing area. The lighting is so focused, that there is nearly a stop falloff on the courtside "Jack Seats".

The Lakers said a survey of fans and players after the first game indicated that dimming lighting over the seating area made "the game the center of the action." Wow ... it seemed for the past several years the "center of action" at NBA games was what celebs were at the game and the advertising plastered all over every open area in the arena.

A colleague said that on opening night agency shooters took a look at the "Lights Out" in the seating areas and complained that the Lakers were costing them money because they couldn't shoot their usual head shots of celebs with a 400mm from the baseline photo spots.

Score one for "Lights Out"!

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Lights Out! The new light at the STAPLES Center for the Lakers, right, and the old light in the same building for the Clippers, left.
At a recent Staples doubleheader --- Clippers - Hornets at 12:30, Lakers - Grizzlies at 6:30 --- the difference between the photos shot at each game was very noticeable and as Buss wanted, dramatic.

Shooting at basically the same exposure for both games, ASA 1000 1/500 @ f/2.8, the photos shot during the Lakers game had a real pop to them. Down court with a long lens was like shooting against a black velvet backdrop.

I also think the auto-focus is a little snappier because the entire court is so contrasty. I'm sure there will be some techno-geek that will argue that it's not possible, but my photographs seemed sharper... like the ones I shot on strobes in the old Forum.

The "Lights Out" promotion was suppose to be just for opening night. But the team announced this week that the new look was so "popular with fans and players" they are continuing it for the remainder of the season.

During a time out in the Lakers game last Sunday I asked a TV cameraman if he liked the "Lights Out" look and he exclaimed "it sucks!" He went on to say that producers like to see the crowds, especially celebrities at the Laker games. The difference in light between the court and the seating area is so great that the cameras take a bit to adjust when swinging from action to the fans ... I guess it means less TV time for celebs attending games (usually there to promote a new movie) and fans waving stupid foam fingers...

A SLAM DUNK for "Lights Out"!

* * *

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Sports Shooter Academy instuctor Donald Miralle leads an early morning session on underwater photography before the start of the Big West Shootout swim meet at the UC Irvine Aquatics Center.
Sometimes you can teach an "old dog" new tricks ...

Sports Shooter Academy III was recently held in Orange County and the experience was educational, enlightening, inspiring and a little exhausting.

Putting on educational programs is my way of "giving back" to a profession that's been pretty good to me. But I also have a selfish reason for doing them: I get a heck of a lot out of them myself.

Working with a fabulous faculty ... Matt Brown, Wally Skalij, Donald Miralle, Michael Goulding and Myung Chun ... is motivation enough. But what I get out of working with the students and working pros that attend is a real kick. I learn a lot from ALL of them as well.

Watching the hustle of students Daryl Peveto, Carlos Delgado and Will Godfrey ... the steady improvement made in three days by Marcus Yam, Tiffany Isreal, Steve Kashishian, Kristen Nichols, Jon Malis, Melih Onvural, Scott Mussell, Kirk Irwin, Jeff Conner, Gabriel Gonzalez, David Pardo, Talya Arbisser, Grant Morris, Charlie Litchfield, Tommy Whitcomb, Chad Ryan, William Hallstrom, et al ... made the long hours and sleepless nights planning the workshop worthwhile.

I even learned a lot from the questions they ask made me reexamine why I do something a particular way. They all really made ME think!

Seeing the photographers at swimming, soccer and basketball search around the venues for that different, interesting place to shoot from gave me pause and I started to think about places in Staples Center and Dodger Stadium I should be looking at to shoot from.

I preached: "A photo position is not just the baseline at basketball or the outside first box at baseball... it's where you see a cool photograph". I have to practice what I preach.

As Matt likes to say at The Academy: "It's REAL WORLD experience folks!" The intensity of shooting 2 or 3 events a day and having your worked evaluated each night is about as real world as a workshop can get. The critique sessions were hectic and fast-paced. I roamed, watched, listened and LEARNED as the faculty and workshop students talked about their work ---what they were thinking, what they were seeing and discussed how they could improve.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Sports Shooter Academy instuctor Matt Brown works with students.
We did something new for SSA III, the instructors each had to shoot at least one event and we had the participants critique our work. Needless to say there was a little pent up hostility released! The comments were lively, funny and often stinging ... but for the most part right on. I think we will keep that as a regular feature in any future Academy workshops!

An event like this is definitely a labor of love. But it doesn't just happen with a wave of a magic wand. Canon, USA, Think Tank Photo, Samy's Camera and Apple Computers provided us with tremendous support.

Each night Canon's Jim Rose and Michael Nadler worked late making prints for display around our workspace. Each morning they distributed equipment and helped participants with their questions about gear.

Doug Murdoch and Think Tank generously provided our prizes for the top photographs made during SSA III. They also provided lots of goodies for each of the registered participants and the faculty.

Louis Feldman and Samy's worked behind the scenes in OC giving discounts for rental equipment and providing us with an LCD projector so we could conduct the classroom sessions and have a slideshow each night to showcase the day's best work.

Both the participants and The Academy staff put the iMac workstations Apple sent to good use each day.

Thanks also go out to SSA II alum Jenn Jedynak for giving everyone a very COOL Sports Shooter Academy III "Go Bold Or Go Home" t-shirt. Her support for this event is not just to be acknowledged and thanked ... but also admired.

We had two "assistants" --- Jordan Murph and Crystal Chatham --- that worked tirelessly and with a smile. They are both Academy alums and now an essential part of what makes this workshop as good as it is.

Kirk Baker from CameraBits helped us with our basic digital work flow class ... and spent time with many participants one-on-one giving them tips and advise on using their editing software Photo Mechanic.

The faculty of this workshop are all great photographers, but it's their good cheer, vision, desire and dedication to improving our craft that inspires me and puts them at the top of this profession.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Sports Shooter Academy instructors Michael Goulding and Wally Skalij look over the day's shoot with participants Jenna Tower and Talya Arbisser.
USA TODAY's involvement in my Sports Shooter projects cannot be overlooked. If my bosses at the paper ... Richard Curtis, Frank Folwell, Mick Cochran and Julia Schmalz ... didn't have the same vision I have for helping students and improving photojournalism, none of this would be possible.

A big thanks to my family for their help and support ... Brad, Grover, Jason and Joe.

And lastly a big MAHALO to my real family, my very patient wife and daughter Deanna and Emma.

* * *

We have a double issue of the Sports Shooter Newsletter! Because of the Sports Shooter Academy I had to delay work on this issue. But to make up for it, we have packed it with a lot of cool features and articles.

Megan Lovett from the Beaufort Gazette writes about her project on female marine recruits and David Leeson of the Dallas Morning News issues a wake up call for photojournalism.

Our World Series coverage includes a wrap up by Brad Mangin and Elie Gardner writes how the St. Louis Post-Dispatch incorporated various techniques for their online coverage.

Michael McNamara tells us why stitched panoramas are his new passion and the Fresno Bee's Tomas Ovalle walks us through his trip on the John Muir Trail. Tim Mantoani writes about a nightmare trip but reminds us "...this was the life of a sports photographer, and I wouldn't trade it for anything, I love this job."

Patrick Murphy-Racey ponders "Bagger Vance" and Michael Jordan; Paul Myers contributes another "Preaching to the Choir" column; Chris Detrick tells us how he made Utah Jazz players "float" and Bob Deutsch discovers the "Chris Lee Button".

We start a new regular feature on technology for photographers by Zach Honig, "Batteries Not Included". George F. Lee of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and freelance photographer Aaron Nagata recounts the recent earthquake that shook Hawaii.


So sit back, relax, adjust the contrast on your monitor, crank up the volume on that Eric Burdon & the Animals disk ... and enjoy Sports Shooter v. 96!

As always, thanks to Special Advisors & Contributors: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Rod Mar, Trent Nelson, Jason Burfield, Grover Sanschagrin, Joe Gosen, The Photodude, Reed Hoffmann, Darren Carroll and Bob Deutsch.

Thanks this month to: David Leeson, Megan Lovett, Elie Gardner, Michael McNamara, Tomas Ovalle, Chris Detrick, Tim Mantoani, Patrick Murphy-Racey, Paul Myers, Zach Honig, George F. Lee and Aaron Nagata.

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

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