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|| News Item: Posted 2011-12-12

Nothing To Bitch About

By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter Newsletter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro, USA Today

Photo by Robert Hanashiro, USA Today

San Diego, CA, U.S.A: Michigan State's Adreian Payne puts up a shot over North Carolina's John Henson during the first half of he Carrier Classic played on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson.
I say this kiddingly all of the time: Photographers love to complain.

Come on guys, honestly, there is some truth to the statement.

We could be covering __________ (fill in the blank here), an event that most “civilians” would give a month’s salary to be at, but we will find some (usually small) thing to bitch about. From reading various sports media message boards the latest is the quality of the press food served at _________ (fill in the venue here).

Admit it, you’ve bitched about: the parking (or at least the price of it), your assigned shooting spot, boiled hotdogs instead of grilled, the weather, your (pick it) aching back, knees, hips, feet or neck, the crappy light, crappy color balance, the fans, the athletes, the coaches, the late start of games, deadlines, editors…

OK, you get the idea.

We knew the Carrier Classic, a college basketball game pitting #1 North Carolina against Michigan State on the deck of an aircraft carrier, would be a special event.

How cool is that? (And not even taking into account that the USS Carl Vinson was the ship that buried Osama bin Landen at sea after he was killed by Navy Seals last May.)

Playing a major college basketball game outdoors in November is a chancy proposition, even in San Diego and all week the threat of thunder showers hung over the event.

Because of security issues, we had to be at the main gate of the North Island Naval Base by 5:30AM on game day to get all of our equipment on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson by 7.

Tip-off was scheduled for 4:18PM.

We had to hand-carry all of our equipment from the pier to the deck of the carrier --- up 5 flights of narrow stairs. So I decided to limit my laptop and camera equipment, including remote gear, into a single Think Tank Photo Airport Acceleration backpack (17.75” H x 12.375“ W x 6.75” D) plus a small Domke camera bag. I think the backpack must have weighed about 45 pounds.

(For those of you that want the In The Bag list: 2-Nikon D3 camera bodies, 2 D300 camera bodies, spare batteries, 200-400mm, 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 70-200 zooms; 24mm f/2.8, 2 Super Clamps, 1 Friction Arm, Manfrotto ball head, 2 sets of MultiMAXs, MacBook Pro laptop with accessories (spare battery, power supply, card readers, cables, Verizon Mifi), CF card wallet, Gitzo monopod, GoPro Hero and 2 Snicker candy bars.)

Climbing up and down those narrow metal, Erector Set-type stairs --- looking over my shoulder I thought a couple of unnamed photographers were not going to make it. Needless to say, there was a lot of huffing and puffing as we rattled up those stair (yes, me included)…

After the “issues” with remote camera placement (none allowed off the court or on the side of the court where the President would sit), movement during the game (allowed, then not allowed, then allowed) and confusion over assigned spots (can you say: “work it out among yourselves”?) ---I decided to take a position on the court facing the carrier command tower so shooting wider I could give readers a real sense that this game was being played on the deck of an aircraft carrier. I also mounted a camera on the basket stanchion with the 14-24mm to give me a second “look” from that side of the court.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro, USA Today

Photo by Robert Hanashiro, USA Today

President Obama and Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo during the National Anthem before the start of the Carrier Classic played on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson.
Because the Secret Service had ordered there could be no remote cameras placed outside of the court it was a challenge to get an overall shot, especially from the angle facing the San Diego skyline. To get that shot, photographers ran up to the top of the bleachers to shoot what was a nice scene-setting image with the court in the foreground and the city behind it. But doing this I missed about 8 minutes of the game.

Luckily I was in the first group (though some photographers went up there ahead of time contrary to what we were ordered) and I knew I had to hustle back down to court level to hopefully get what I really wanted before the quickly dimming available light disappeared completely.

But when I did get back to my spot, the sunset was spectacular, giving us a background of the carrier’s command tower, deep blue sky, clouds and a hint of orange from the disappearing sun. Something I don’t think will be seen during a college basketball game again.

After that, the game really was secondary. We had our images of President Obama during the National Anthem next to Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, North Carolina coach Roy Williams in his military-issued cargo pants and desert boots, Pamela Anderson mingling with the troops (ask me for the iPhone happysnap!) and obligatory dunks, drives and 3-point shots…

AC power was limited on the deck of the carrier and there was NO Internet service provided. Fortunately the Verizon 4G MiFi (2 bars of signal strength thank you very much!) saved my butt and I was able to file half dozen images quickly before halftime.

(We couldn’t even bitch about the media meal … because there wasn’t a media meal! Thank God for the two candy bars in my backpack.)

As I was finishing up editing and transmitting images back to USA TODAY about an hour after the game ended, it began to rain. I had just covered a truly historic sports event...workers were busily trying to get tarps on the basketball floor and I looked around and saw that I and a Sports Illustrated’s Shawn Cullen and John McDonough, still packing their gear, were the only ones left on the court. I said to myself: “It doesn’t get any better than this.”


Sports Shooter Academy IX will be April 25 - 29, 2012, and we have all of the details on THE coolest sports photography event of the year PLUS the return of the Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau!


The NBA returns in a few weeks … am I the only one that did NOT miss it? (Apologies to all of the team employees laid off, stadium workers and photographers that missed pay checks because of the lockout.)

Do not get me wrong, I love covering basketball. But it just seems the game has become secondary to the show. Maybe the players, owners and the rich folks that buy the tickets and fill the luxury suites have learned something from this messy labor disagreement…

Or not. (I just learned that the NBA has scheduled a TV special to announce its abbreviated regular season schedule.)

I’m even thinking that a 62-game regular season that starts on Christmas Day has some merit and should be made permanent. Everyone says --- or at least thinks --- the NBA’s 82-game schedule is too long.

Starting in December in my mind makes a lot of sense. We really don’t pay much attention to the NBA until after the NFL season is pretty much over anyway.

Just saying …


Sorry for the delay of this “November” issue …

We feature a story by Luke Johnson about ---those evil words --- working on spec and the life lessons he’s learned from the experience. Robert Scheer writes about covering the Colts slide from playoff team to picking first in the NFL draft. Carlos Gonzalez writes this month’s Cool Gig about a recent fashion shoot.

Garrett Hubbard contributes an In The Bag about gear he used for a recent video shoot. Gerry McCarthy writes about the Dallas Morning News’ coverage of the recent World Series. Christy Radecic reflects on the events at Penn State. My good friend Brad Shirakawa muses about the best way to learn. And it’s the Holiday Season so Rafael Delgado says he has lot to be thankful for.

Photo by

Books on the nightstand at the moment: “The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years” by Greil Marcus and the latest Harry Bosch novel by Michael Connelly, “The Drop”.

Heavy rotation on iTunes is the new release from the Black Keys, “El Camino” and a wonderful new Elvis Presley collection “Young Man With A Beat” (the live cuts are worth the price alone).



As always, special thanks to: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Grover Sanschagrin, Joe Gosen and Jason Burfield.

Thanks this month to contributors: Luke Johnson, Robert Scheer, Carlos Gonzalez, Gerry McCarthy, Brad Shirakawa, Christy Radecic, Garrett Hubbard, and Rafael Augustin Delgado.

The comments, opinions and other perceived nutty statements that the writers may have expressed, implied, imagined or made up are theirs and theirs alone. Sports Shooter, Inc. and published these articles in good faith with the purpose of education and inspiration. Permission in writing must be obtained from Sports Shooter, Inc. and the author of the article before being reprinted. I welcome any comments, corrections, suggestions and contributions. Please e-mail me at The Sports Shooter Archives, as well as tons of cool resources and information, can be accessed at

For information about the Sports Shooter Academy go to the workshops website at: and the new Facebook page:

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