Baseball photography. Since I launched this blog a year ago today, with a photo of an occasionally idiotic third baseman and a brief discussion of baseball photography, what better way to celebrate a year than more baseball photography talk?
Obviously I take a lot of photos of baseball; concerts probably account for more of my Flickr stream but baseball is a sizeable chunk, as well. It is, as I think I briefly touched on here almost a year ago, an entirely different kind of photography than concert photography, different light and different framing and different subjects — but it’s also the same thing as all photography, that quest for a perfect moment.
Sometimes I covet the lenses that the professionals shooting Carolina games have; the 500mm/f2.8 lenses that give you not only every expression on every batter’s face, but every zit and peeling sunburnt spot, too, but what would I do with those? I shoot baseball for fun, first and foremost, and secondly for pin-striped uniforms, and I don’t and would never want to spend an entire game with my eye glued to a viewfinder. Sometimes it’s too hot for that. Sometimes games are too exciting and I spend so much time jumping up and down that having a camera out is just a pain, if I don’t want to risk dropping it on concrete or losing my lens cap into the weird no-man’s-land directly in front of our seats (RIP, Amazing Mechanical Pencil, 2009-2010). And frankly, my zoom lens has either unbalanced or needs a good cleaning, because at f4, it’s started to develop this bizarre Lensbaby-esque focus smear — it’s got a small slightly-right-of-center spot of sharp focus, and out from that radially, it’s more and more smeary. I love the effect of it, but it’s not professional. Or maybe: it’s not professional, but I love the effect of it.
So I’m working on it, this year, on finding new and different and better shots, and being quicker with the camera — having my metering right to start with, and when I know that Carolina’s centerfielder is trying to score from first on a long double, being able to get the camera up and out and get that moment, that split second crossing home plate at full bore, without having to stay glued to my camera for the whole game. Better reflexes, I guess; this is the third season I’ve spent shooting baseball intensely, and experience always improves the technical sides of things. It has in my concert shooting, as well. But our seats in the Bosh are always the same; the perils of season tickets. So I have to stretch, to work, to not take the same photos of Levi Michael chewing on his fingernails every game. The technical gets easier with every repetition, but the art side of things, the finding the shot side of things. That’s still hard. I’m constantly looking for the unusual, even, and actually especially when I don’t actually take the shot.
Sometimes it’s enough to just frame the shots in my mind and let them go. Sometimes I just want to eat hot dogs and keep score and make fun of how tight Florida State wears their pants. (Seriously. I was amazed that some of those boys could breath, much less pitch, in their pants. Good Lord.) Sometimes, though — sometimes I want to catch the single moment in a game when Carolina’s third baseman isn’t standing there, looking like a complete 19 year old idiot, but rather almost grown-up, the way he’ll look in the minor leagues at barely 20 or 21 years old in a few years. Sometimes I want the camera all the time at a game, and sometimes, that pays off.
Ritz Camera actually put together a pretty good guide to shooting baseball on all levels of play, and I can also recommend Digital Photography School’s post on how to shoot baseball. The latter really helped me improve my baseball shots this year, for what it’s worth.