Behind the lens with Shanna Lockwood
The College of Liberal Arts, and especially the Office of External Affairs, is pleased to announce that Shanna Lockwood, a CLA alumna (and former intern for the Office of External Affairs), is the Digital Media Coordinator at USA Today Sports Images and is taking amazing photos of the Tigers during this storied season. Lockwood is a 2011 graduate of the Master of Technical & Professional Communication program and began working for USA Today in August. She took some time to talk with us about how she became an acclaimed sports photographer and what it's been like to cover the Tigers this season.
Q: Would you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
A: I grew up in Wadley, Alabama, a very small town not too far from Auburn. I always knew I wanted to attend Auburn—I never even applied to any other school. Writing is a natural skill of mine, so an English undergraduate degree fit the bill. After a semester or so, I began pursuing organizations I could become involved with on campus. Auburn offers so much in that respect, and I was anxious to get involved in some way. I interviewed and auditioned for an embarrassing number of things before I finally landed a gig at the Glomerata as an assistant photo editor. I was happy enough with being a part of an organization, so when they told me to sign up for football games to shoot, I was absolutely elated. I had never shot sports before, but I went into it determined to learn as much as I could. I loved it from the very first game I shot. When I began my graduate career in the Master of Technical and Professional Communication program, I didn’t think I would have time to continue at the Glomerata. I hadn’t planned to shoot all the home football games throughout graduate school, but it turned out that Saturdays at Jordan-Hare with my cameras was a great relief from the inherent stresses of graduate-level coursework. So I kept at it, and kept learning from the professionals on the sidelines. I made so many great photographer friends in those years, guys whose careers in the field reach back to before I was born. They were excellent teachers, and the more I learned, the more my passion grew for sports media.
Q: What has your career path been since graduation?
A: When I graduated, I became a professional job-hunter for a while until I landed a job as a technical writer at Southwest Airlines’ headquarters in Dallas, Texas. I was on the Flight Operations team in the Department of Central Publications, which produces the manuals for the entire company. My team handled the manuals used by pilots in flight training and on the flight deck during operations. I loved getting to work with pilots and learn about how the planes work. I have a lifelong fascination with aviation, so it was really fantastic to have the opportunity to learn so much about it and with a company as incredible as Southwest. I even got to “fly” one of the flight simulators, which had me wondering why I didn’t major in in aviation at Auburn!
Q: How did you become involved with sports photography?
A: During my job hunt, I connected with a veteran photographer I had admired for quite some time, Bob Rosato. He’s an immensely talented sports photographer, and I honestly was star struck the first time I met him (as any young sports shooter would be when meeting a man with over 60 Sports Illustrated covers). Anyway, he had this company that was called US Presswire at the time. He saw my passion for sports media and offered me some weekend work with them, which fit nicely into my work at Southwest. Eventually, a full-time role became available with the company, which is now known as USA Today Sports Images. The opportunity included the chance to be a live editor at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and I simply knew that to pass on the chance at a career in sports media—and working the Olympics—would be something I could regret later. So, in the last week of August, I turned in my Southwest employee badge with a heavy heart and made my way back to Alabama. When I got back here, Bob asked if I’d be up for covering the Auburn home games, and I readily obliged. Like with graduate school, those Saturdays still balance out the workweek for me. I just love it.
Q: Do you have a favorite Auburn memory as a student?
A: I believe one of my favorite memories would have to be the first distribution day for the 2011 Glomerata, since the cover was a photo I took. It was the neatest feeling, seeing students all over campus toting a book with my image on it. That was the first time I’d seen my work in public on a massive scale, and I was simply giddy walking around campus, seeing my photo in everyone’s hands. That was the day I fell in love with that feeling—the feeling that others enjoy my work as much as I enjoy producing it.
Q: Would you tell us about what it’s been like from your perspective to capture the most pivotal moments in recent Auburn football history (including the national championship in 2010)? And how has that perspective changed (if it has) from student to professional?
A: It’s been nothing short of incredible. I shoot because I love it; it still doesn’t feel like work to me. So to have that moment happen, where a photo I took became somewhat iconic…it’s really surprising to me, considering how I’m still relatively new to the field and was merely a student not that long ago. Watching the start of the Ricardo Louis play through my lens, I remember thinking, “Well, there goes the game. I’ll run the strong Georgia images for this one.” I didn’t think he was going to catch the ball. But when he ran the touchdown, I quickly reviewed the images on my camera, and when I saw that shot—I knew right away I had something pretty neat. I had no idea it was going to become as huge as it did, but I knew it was a solid shot. Admittedly, the Auburn alum in me was elated, and that’s been something of a challenge, to be unbiased. But I think I manage it pretty well; some extra Auburn photos may sneak in every so often, but I’ve been trained to tell the whole story of a game, and I do my best to be a professional.
Q: Have you ever been "too-close for comfort" on the sidelines and been run into by a player?
A: Fortunately not; when watching the game through a telephoto lens, your instincts to grab your cameras and run will kick in pretty quickly!
Q: How do you maintain your neutrality during Auburn games?
A: It’s tough to be neutral, but I’m rather competitive—I want to be at the level of the other national-coverage photographers. If I want to succeed on that scale, I know I have to tell the entire story of the game, and not just Auburn’s. It’s not easy, but fortunately, Auburn has made that less of a challenge this season!
Q: And finally, what other sports/teams are you shooting as a professional photographer with USA Today Sports Images
A: Right now, as a photographer, I’m just shooting Auburn football since I do full-time work in the week. I covered a couple of Major League Soccer games out in Dallas, which was quite the experience. My main focus right now is honing my live editing skills, in preparation for the Olympics. Last summer, I was a live editor for NBA and NCAA Finals games, and I’ll be in Atlanta doing the same for the SEC Championship game, then in Pasadena for the BCS National Championship game. If I’m honest, I’m really hoping Auburn is out there in Pasadena with me. I’m definitely keeping my hopes up!
(Top photo of Shanna is by Jerome Miron. Photo above of Shanna on the field after the Iron Bowl is by Todd Van Emst.)