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|| News Item: Posted 2008-02-27

Leading Off: The February Death March, The Dance and Teamwork
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by Dan MacMedan / USA TODAY

Photo by Dan MacMedan / USA TODAY

USA TODAY's Robert Hanashiro tries to squeeze in next to the AP's Chris Carlson as they try to photograph Sarah Larson and George Clooney at the Academy Awards.
February is a month I dread and a month I look forward too.

In my previous life, back at the Visalia Times-Delta, this time of year meant the Farm Equipment Show, regional high school hoop playoffs, a local criterium bike race and the Miss Tulare County Pageant (hey, it was the early 80's!) …

February 2008 began with the Super Bowl, then slide into the heart of Awards Season: The Grammys and the Academy Awards and then tossed on top of that, a trip to Louisiana for the annual NBA All Star Weekend.

Though the events have changed, the pressure to produce and the struggle to survive no days off and long hours are just as tough as they were back in little old Visalia.

But having survived another February Death March I can honestly say that one thing I learned as a young photographer back in the Central Valley still helps me today.


Maybe it's age or experience, but my appreciation for teamwork --- whether it's with fellow staffers at USA TODAY or fellow photographers from other organizations --- in this day and age of limited access, more control by the events and the demand for more images getting along and helping each other is more important than ever.

Of course you don't want to get "beat" by the competition. But you don't want to block anyone intentionally (or do you?) … we learn to work and survive together. And Death March February is a great example of that.

At the Super Bowl (or any big event) we draw up a game plan, dividing up the responsibilities, sectioning off the field of play and deciding who does and who does jube. We all do this, right?

The key to this is the idea: You cannot be everywhere.

I remember a Big Game several years ago and seeing about a half dozen photographers from the SAME organization all crowded within 25 yards of one another in a corner of the Rose Bowl all trying to shoot into the one narrow strip of sunlight that was left spilling into the stadium. And wouldn't you know it … the first touchdown went the OTHER way?


My colleague and good friend Bob Deutsch is famously afraid of heights. So when we're on a basketball gig together, it usually falls to me to hang the remotes in the upper areas of the arena. Like the catwalks.

But I always try to get him up to the catwalks and generally telling him I need a hand hauling the cameras, long lenses, clamps, magic arms and other assorted gear … he takes a deep breath and follows me up the ladders. While he's not comfortable about it, he does it without complaint (well, not too much) and it saves me a second trip or having to carrying all of that gear on my back.

I love shooting basketball … ok … I love shooting any sport. But during the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, we ran several remote cameras, including the aforementioned overhead remote. To simplify things, we decided that Bob would shoot from our baseline position and I would push the button on the MutliMax to trigger the remote cameras.

We ended up with three sequences, two from the remotes, used in our multimedia section of the paper's website (

Would I have liked to sit courtside to cover the Slam Dunk Contest instead of standing in a doorway pushing a remote button? You bet. But was it better for Bob and for the newspaper that I concentrate on just triggering the remote cameras for our sequences rather than shoot baseline AND try to run the remotes.


There is no more dreaded assignment and at the same time, one that I look forward to than working backstage at the Academy Awards show. (I chronicled my experiences in a previous column

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / USA TODAY

The Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard makes like "Superman" complete with an "S" shirt and cape during the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Howard won the contest, beating Gerald Green who was the defending champion.
But surviving the crowded, dark conditions takes not only a steady hand (I haven't shot so many photographs at 1/15 and slower in my career), steady nerves but also … yes … teamwork.

I call it "The Dance" where the 4 photographers documenting what's going on behind the scenes at the Kodak Theater juke, skip, kneel and dodge one another, trying to do our jobs and at the same time, letting the others do theirs.

Once early in the show, I lost track of where I was and was standing in front of two other shooters while an award was being presented on stage … needless to say I "took a knee" from then on.

Photographing in a situation like backstage at the Oscars requires another kind of teamwork besides "the dance". You have to look at yourself as a sort of team, giving up something you could shoot and going more into pick and choose mode so you're not in the way ALL the time but concentrating on the photographs that count. (To see a gallery on click here:

I know it's a dog-eat-dog world out there, especially in this day of downsizing in the newspaper business. Maybe it's age. Maybe it's experience. But teamwork and getting along has worked for me over the years … and more now than ever before.

* * *

THE coolest sports photography event of the year will be held next week in Southern California.

I would be terribly remiss if I did not take up a little bit of space here to recognize the hard work and time that many people have put into Sports Shooter Academy V.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Jordan Murph, left, watches SSA IV participant Ric Tapia mounts a remote camera during the beach volleyball session at Long Beach State.
There would be no Sports Shooter Academy without Matt Brown. His contacts with the Big West Conference allow us to have the best shooting schedule of any sports photography workshop out there. There is no other program like this with the wide range of NCAA Division I sports like the Academy … and it's because of Matt Brown.

As always we have a great lineup of photographers on the faculty. They are not only outstanding photographers, but also great people and wonderful friends of mine. I lean on a lot of my friends for help with Sports Shooter and these guys are always there for me: Myung Chun, Wally Skalij, Mike Goulding, Donald Miralle and Sean Haffey.

A lot of advance work has to be done for a project like this to succeed and Jordan Murph has been juggling finishing up his senior year at the University of Hawaii and putting in a lot of time helping me with logics with SSA V.

We have a dedicated staff that will be working again at The Academy and they include Crystal Chatham, Suzanica Tam and Eugene Tanner. Without their time and dedication, this event would not be as wonderful an experience as it is.

Beach volleyball player extraordinaire Angie Akers had been involved with this workshop for a couple of years and is instrumental in organizing players to be a part of The Academy. The beach volleyball sessions and the portrait shoots afterward are always a lot of fun and would not be possible without Angie's and the AVP's help and support.

Several companies have supported me through the years with the Sports Shooter Academy … Louis Feldman and Samy Kamienowicz from Samy's Camera; Amy Kawadler and Jim Rose from Canon USA; and Doug Murdoch from Think Tank Photo. Their involvement in the Sports Shooter Academy is an example of their commitment to photography education.

SSA V will be the largest of these hands-on workshops we have held, with 50 students and working photographers from throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe participating.

And finally, the two most patient people on the planet allow me the time to put on these workshops and produce this newsletter each month. My wife Deanna and daughter Emma are the two most important people in my life and they share my desire to "give a little something back" to this whacky profession that was been --- up to now --- so good to me.


* * *

This issue of Sports Shooter features a rare, behind the scenes look at one of the major photojournalism contests, Picture of the Year International. Brad Mangin writes about the experience and how he handled the dynamics involved in being a part of a judging panel of a major contest.

George Bridges from McClatchy-Tribune Photo Service writes about a method of transmitting photos from the field without a laptop. Don Feria contributes the latest "Sports Shooter Destinations". Robert Beck writes about his trip to Arizona for the Match Play Championships.

This month we debut a new regular feature by Eric Leonard from KFI radio in Los Angeles. Eric will be writing about equipment and other matters related to multimedia. David Honl contributes this month's "In The Bag" feature.

Walter Calahan has a great camera strap he recommends in this month's "Photographer's Toy Box". And Super assistant Shawn Cullen tells us about the joys of assisting … and what you can learn from the experience.

This month we're rereading some James Lee Burke (in honor of Bob Deutsch's and my recent trip to New Iberia, LA) … "In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead" and "Sunset Limited". "Live! Worldwide" by Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience is on heavy rotation on iTunes.

As always, thanks to Special Advisors & Contributors: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Rod Mar, Trent Nelson, Jason Burfield, Grover Sanschagrin, Joe Gosen, Paul Myers and Bob Deutsch.

Thanks this month to: George Bridges, Eric Leonard, Don Feria, David Honl, Walter Calahan, Robert Beck and Shawn Cullen.

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

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