Hiro Ueno ’14 is living a football dream. As assistant team photographer for the L.A. Rams, he’s got a front row seat to all the action. Although sitting is not part of the job—if you watch carefully from your screen at home, you might catch a glimpse of him sprinting on the sidelines, seeking the next great shot. Ueno earned his B.F.A. from Chapman University in Orange, CA where he majored in broadcast journalism. During his sophomore year, he landed an internship with Associated Press photographer Jeff Lewis; when Lewis transferred to the Rams, Ueno came along to help the team with their inaugural season during his junior year in 2016. When not on duty with the Rams, he works as a digital assets manager for the National Football League itself, handling NFL imagery of the past decade. We asked Ueno about the Super Bowl and what it takes to be a team photographer.
You majored in journalism, but when did photography enter the mix, exactly?
Most of what I learned was actually self-taught. My classmate Bo Bleckel ’14 was a big part of how I got started. We spent the summers of our last years at HPA shooting around the island for a variety of different passion projects and commissioned work, and I owe much of the opportunity I have now to him.
How much Rams activity do you cover?
Everything from practice, to pressers, marketing events, internal corporate assets, and of course gameday action on Sundays.
Have you always been a football fan?
I loved football before I even started working for the team, and now it’s become what I live and breathe.
Have you ever covered a Super Bowl before? What was it like on the sidelines vs. watching on TV?
Super Bowl LIII was my first one, and while the outcome wasn’t what I hoped, it was an opportunity that I’m very grateful for. Going to a Super Bowl—let alone shooting one—has been on my bucket list for a while. I’m lucky to cross that off at a very young age. Surprisingly, it felt like any other game from a field perspective as the crowd was relatively tame. Besides the pageantry and scope, the action on the field stays relatively the same.
What does it take to get a really great sports shot? Patience? Luck? Knowledge of the game?
You need to be able to track fast action and predict the game flow so you can be in the right place at the right time. For example, if we’re driving down the field in a two-minute situation, I can elect to stay with the flow of action at the line of scrimmage, grabbing images from each play. The risk there is not being able to get into position for the end zone shot if it were to happen. Or vice versa I could run over to the end zone but risk missing the images leading up to the scoring plays—and that’s if they even get to the end zone. There’s a lot to it, but the only way to develop as a sports photographer in my eyes is to shoot and keep shooting. From pee wee to D3 college ball to the pros, it’s fundamentally all the same when it comes to basic game action coverage.
Recently I’ve focused more on the things in between the action, the little moments on the field between players, coaches, and the moments that very few people get to see outside of a team or staff perspective.
Do you have any advice for aspiring Ka Makani photographers?
Find out which subject of photography you’re passionate about, then keep shooting as much as you can. Whether you want photography as a career choice, a personal hobby, or a weekend side job, the only way to get better at your craft is to do it as much as you possibly can.
Editor’s note: This profile first appeared in the spring 2019 edition of Ma Ke Kula.