By: Media Services Intern Jorgan Staker
Around the holidays, there are many activities to look forward to-good food, good company and of course, the annual college bowl games. While most of us watch the bowl game from the comfort of our own home, there is always that desire to be on site, in the middle of all the action and hype. For one Nevada rifle senior, Heather Horn, this dream became a reality.
Last December, Horn was not only able to attend the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl game, but was able to get up close and personal with the teams, taking on the title of 'official bowl photographer.'
Horn's rise to this prestigious position began two years ago, while she was at home in Hawaii for Christmas break. She walked into the University of Hawai'i's media services department, offering to be an intern in sports photography.
Horn was given a press pass and followed the teams around. She worked until about nine every night, documenting players, activities and advertisements. Then she would go home, polish up the best photographs and sent them into the Sheraton Bowl offices.
"It was a very grueling pace sometimes," said Horn. "I would take pictures all day, go home at night, edit them, and send in the best by midnight. Then, I would wake up the next morning and do it all over again."
Horn completed this internship with the agreement that the Bowl offices would have all of her work in exchange for the experience.
"It's really about getting your foot in the door," she said. "You network and network and that's just what you do!"
This attitude paid off for Horn the next year. The bowl officials found out that the regular bowl photographer would be unable to cover the event in 2009. He instead was working the Diamond Classic (basketball tournament). Thoughts immediately turned to Horn, whose work had been used in a lot of pervious promotional materials.
"I would like to say the quality of my work spoke for itself," said Horn. "But they took a gamble in hiring me and were glad to be giving a young college photographer an opportunity."
For the next week, Horn was able to have an experience that will not-following the two bowl teams to activities, events and dinners that preceded the game itself. She went with the teams to Hawaiian Adventure Waterpark, the Pearl Harbor Memorial, various barbeque dinners on the beach and her favorite, a luau event complete with food and entertainment.
Horn's job was not only to document the event, but show the sponsors interacting with the team.
"I needed to photograph the event itself as well as the human interest side," she said. "But it was almost, if not more important, to get the sponsors in there too."
Horn said that there is a fine line between getting the shot the bowl officials want and getting a shot of someone acting naturally.
"There's a lot of pressure on me to produce good pictures," said Horn. "There is something to be said for asking people to get in a group to take a picture, but you're going to get the best picture when people are acting naturally. When you catch the star player talking with the guy from Outback Steakhouse and wearing a lei-you can't make that kind of shot!"
Horn said this takes a special kind of skill, somewhere between being too involved and being unnoticed.
"You have to learn how to be unobtrusive and like a fly on the wall," said Horn. "You also have to be able to muscle in there and not be embarrassed to ask if you can take a picture, get their name and number. You just have to put yourself in good positioning."
Horn said that striking this balance is hard and it is not unusual to feel out of place with all the other professionals there.
"Especially on game day, you are competing with everyone on the sidelines to get a good photo," she said. "And you just have to realized that you have just as much right to be there as the big-wig Honolulu reporter or ESPN photographer."
Despite the pressure and new situations, Horn says that the experience was a very positive one that she hopes to repeat. The young photographer has a standing invitation to be the bowl photographer. She would like to do it for one more year. After that, she will pursue photography just as a hobby.
"Sport photography is something I enjoy and will do on the side, but I want to explore other avenues," she said.
Horn is finishing up her senior season on the rifle team and will graduate from Nevada with a degree in broadcast journalism. After this, she wants to study film in graduate school and produce documentaries.
Despite this, Horn was glad for the experience to develop this skill, get paid and be recognized for her work.
"It gave me the chance to act professionally and get those social interactions," she said. "I was so fun and I just love going out there and taking pictures."