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|| News Item: Posted 2012-10-01

A Hawaiian’s journey to LA

By Jamm Aquino

Photo by Jamm Aquino

Photo by Jamm Aquino

Jamm Aquino during pre-game festivities on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012, outside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.
Eighty-six degrees, blue skies, 82 percent humidity. That was the climate when boarded a flight bound for Los Angeles at the end of August to cover the Hawaii Warriors football season opener against USC and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Hawaii contingency --- Shane Victorino and Brandon League.

Surprisingly, when I arrived in LAX, I stepped off the plane into weather not that much different. Warm, comfortable, familiar. It was a fitting metaphor to one of the most exciting trips I've ever had as a staff photographer at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

In my past eight seasons as the primary beat photographer for Hawaii Warrior football, I've never set foot in the LA Coliseum or Dodger Stadium to cover a game. I've been spectator a few times before--twice at the Coliseum while I was in college and once in Dodger Stadium as wee lad, so my recollection of that is rather hazy.

But my reaction upon being in the storied Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was always one of awe and amazement at the cardinal and gold colored sea of 90,000-plus fans. So here I was, about to SHOOT a game and be down on the field with that cardinal and gold sea roaring all around me. AND two Major League Baseball games??

In the days leading up to the trip, I was quite nervous in that this was the first game in eight seasons that I'd be covering by myself. Our paper has usually sent two, and sometimes three shooters to every home game, and the last game we covered on the road--the notorious Sugar Bowl in 2008 against the Georgia Bulldogs--I was shooting with former Star-Bulletin photographer Richard Walker. This time around, the pressure was on me, myself, and I to produce all the visual content for the season opener.

From a news and historical standpoint, this was head coach Norm Chow's first game as head coach. Coach Chow has his roots in Hawaii, and in the spring pre-season, he'd garnered a lot of support and anticipation from the Hawaii fan base in bringing a different style of football to the islands.

Our editors saw a lot of value in having a Hawaii shooter record cover this game visually for the Hawaii people. This was Coach Chow’s first game and it was against USC and Lane Kiffin, with whom he'd also had history. So that was my game plan. Warm, comfortable, familiar. Never mind the 90,000 fans. Never mind being the only shooter and that the plays may not always come my way.

Photo by Jamm Aquino

Photo by Jamm Aquino

The Hawaii Warriors head out of the tunnel prior to a college football game between the Hawaii Warriors and the USC Trojans
I arrived at the Coliseum on game day way too early. By 10am, I was already scouring the surrounding areas looking for tailgating features for our news desk. After setting up my workstation in the west endzone, I was off to do some feature art of the Hawaii football squad and coach Chow.

An interesting tool I used for the first time was social media-- Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Because of the social media ramp up at our newspaper, there was high demand for me to use that fourth camera--my iPhone--alongside my DSLR's. It worked well on more than one occasion, and I was able to make a really poignant shot of Coach Chow inside the Coliseum. Another equally memorable moment was shooting the Hawaii captains coming out of the tunnel against the wall mural of some of the storied USC football greats. But before I knew it, game time.

Because my coverage was of primarily Hawaii, I had an easier time that I expected roving the Hawaii sideline. I had a great first half, even though Hawaii was being dominated. Towards the latter part of the third quarter, I was mesmerized by the "golden hour" of light that just shone down low through the west part of the Coliseum. Just ethereal light that you don't get back home in Honolulu.

As the game clock wound down to zero, I was able to get a nice moment of USC quarterback Matt Barkley and Coach Chow sharing a conversation at midfield, just as a full moon rose over the eastern wall of the Coliseum--almost as if to greet me with a smile after one of the most exhilarating games I've ever been privileged to shoot.

My Dodgers experience was equally exciting. Thanks to Dodgers team photographer Jon SooHoo, I was able to shoot from the 1st base well on the first night I covered the game. He also let our Hawaii guys--Shane Victorino and Brandon League--know that we were there to cover them.

Since I was there for features, I was primarily focused on Victorino and League, but I couldn't help but take in some of the action that is Major League Baseball. Wow. The sound of a wood bat making contact. The profanity from the dugouts. Vin Scully's unmistakable voice. It was also really humbling to shoot and chat with photographers whose bylines I've seen under some of the most amazing sports photographs like Mark Terrill, Steve Dunn and Hans Gutknecht.

Such an unforgettable experience. Dodger Blue. Cardinal and Gold. Forty-eight gigabytes of raw files. For this Honolulu guy, going to the big city, covering the big game was something that to this very moment, I can reach back into my mind for a smile and inspiration because I went above and beyond what I was expecting to do.

Our editors were so happy with my coverage. I was confident I could, albeit anxious at times, but in the end, the big game was in the bag. Warm, comfortable, and familiar.

(Jamm Aquino is a staff photographer for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. You can see more of his work at: or his blog at:

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