Welcome to do :: or :: diso, a monthly sports photography ezine. do :: or :: diso will address issues particular to sports photography in a format that is to the point and easy to understand. This month, the only technical information is this: the shots are taken with either a 70-200mm lens, a 24-70mm lens, or a 500mm lens each at a wide open aperture often at a high ISO to permit the fastest speed the conditions will allow. The images in this article utilize post processing techniques discussed in prior issues. The rest of this article’s focus is observation and power of suggestion.
Baseball and Me
I am not sure why baseball holds such an attraction for Americans. The game is a modern anomaly, presenting a slow-paced game in an age of instant everything. Perhaps it is popular because it gives us the chance to wait for that moment in the game when suddenly, something remarkable, maybe something impossible, happens on the field; perhaps we love the game because of the infinite subtle variations it presents from game to game and moment to moment. Both could be the answer, but many feel its popularity is the connection to a slower era when, as kids, we celebrated moments with our dads, and then decades later as adults, we remember those moments with uncanny precision.
Baseball reminds us of our youth, a bygone era of hot dogs, popcorn, 7th inning stretches, baseball cards, cheering with dads and granddads, no internet, no technology, no connectivity. This is my love affair with baseball along with the dream of playing center field for my favorite team – the world champion 1969 New York Mets. The dream of playing for the Mets morphed into a dream of following the Mets around the country with a camera shooting for the New York Daily News recording for posterity Seaver on the mound, pitching to Grote, and backed by an infield of Charles, Harrelson, Boswell / Weiss, Kranepool / Clendenon and an outfield of Jones, Agee and Shamsky / Swoboda. We baseball fans all remember the team of our youth as our own field of dreams (for me, complete with the Rheingold Beer and Meet the Mets songs which I can sing to this day).
As Roger Kahn wrote in Good Enough to Dream: “The first dream, full of innocence and sunlight, is to play the game. . . . To play the game superbly. To play with such a brilliant sunlit, morning grace . . . “ Not all dreams come true.
Like so many, I never played center field and never shot the Mets for the Daily News. But I shoot baseball, and with a camera in my hand, and the game unfolding in front of me, I remember the days of innocence and try to capture some of that – some of the emotion and some of the remarkable about to happen. Shooting baseball and softball gives the photographer the chance to capture the dream and remembrance in an image. Take a moment before you shoot to consider how to capture the dream, not just the game. Shoot the sport not to record the plays but to capture something about the memory.
The pitcher is the focus of every single game. Use a high shutter speed and stop the action as the pitcher’s arm flexes and torques. When you capture this shot, you capture why it is no wonder that pitchers have tendon issues and no wonder that Tommy John surgery is so popular. Remember to use f / 2.8 to blur the background and make the pitcher and his arm the focus, like this month’s do :: or :: diso cover shot and this shot.
Find the intensity in the pitcher’s determination.
catch the release.
Capture the lines of the follow through.
Get down low as the pitcher strides toward home.
The ball is the instrument. Find the ball, and follow it.
Catch the pick-off throw.
And the double play.
The catch and the throw.
The intersection of the ball and a hitter.
And, the convergence of the runner and the second baseman at second.
Runnin’ and slidin’:
It is a game of running and sliding into the bases. Find a new shot. Shoot from behind.
Shoot from ground level as the player slides back into first base to avoid a pickoff.
Players kick up infield dirt. Get down low. Get the dirt. Get dirty. The camera will be fine.
Catch the runner watching the play unfold, both feet off the ground to show movement.
If you are standing in one place, you are missing some images! Sneak behind home plate and shoot through the chain link fence. At f / 2.8, little of the fence will be apparent in the shot.
Get low in the grass tops.
Get even with the grains of dirt as the ball enters the mit.
Find a hill and shoot the pitcher from above.
I am drawn to images where the viewer sees the look on a player’s face and peers into the player’s eyes. There is much more to the game than just the play. There is emotion. Watch for it and capture it. These are my favorite shots.
Find the disdain after a runner is called out in a close play at second.
Watch the hitter’s eyes get wide just before the ball arrives at home plate.
Do not miss the fun of being a baseball player as it bubbles to the surface when a great home run hitter laughs with the same infectious smile he likely had as a little leaguer more than a decade earlier.
Intensity is somewhere at every pitch.
The look after a double.
A first baseman’s exhortation after a close play.
The catcher running down the line as a squibber spins toward the foul line.
The strain on a coach in the league tournament.
Other parts of the experience:
look for offbeat shots, like the broken bat.
or the hitter’s sinewy forearms at the moment of impact.
Or, consider the participant fan or the minor league mascot. Silly stuff, but all part of what makes the game what it is.
It’s two of the more “out there” R’s of sports photography – Rugby and Roller Derby and do :: or :: diso will discuss both.