Dubbed “a baseball mastermind” by Businessweek, Bill Veeck—a franchise owner and innovator in Major League Baseball—described the essence of baseball nicely: “This is a game to be savored, not gulped. There’s time to discuss everything between pitches or between innings.”
Baseball fields are relatively big areas, so they offer you lots of shooting positions. And because the game moves relatively slowly, you have time to think, calculate, and move around the field to get the best shots.
Where to Position Yourself
When you’re covering baseball, you first need to decide where you can safely position yourself and not interfere with play.
Balls and bats fly in all directions. Because they are so hard, they can cause significant damage when they come in contact with people. Too many times I’ve seen fans and photographers get seriously hurt because they simply weren’t paying attention.
First base is normally a prime position. If you are outside of the first base dugout, the side closest to the outfield, you’ll have good sight lines to make photographs of the hitters and the pitchers—especially left-handed pitchers—because they will be facing you for part or all of their throwing motion. You’ll be able to shoot the classic “double play” image of a runner sliding into second base and either the shortstop or the second baseman making a play. And you’ll be in a terrific spot to make images of plays at the plate.
A high percentage of plays involve throws to first base. From your location outside first, you’ll have the players throwing in your direction, which will allow you to make much better action images.
Third base is also a prime position. If you are outside of the third base dugout, the side closest to the outfield, you’ll have good sight lines to make photographs of the hitters and the pitchers—especially right-handed pitchers—because they will be facing you for part or all of their throwing motion. As with the first base position, you’ll be able to shoot the classic “double play” image of a runner sliding into second base and either the shortstop or the second baseman making a play.
You’ll also be in a terrific spot to make images of plays at the plate, because you’ll be looking down the line at the catcher as the play happens (Figure 7.1).
Figure 7.1 Shooting down the third base line put me in a prime location to capture this play at home plate.
Additionally, you’ll be facing first base, so this is a great position to show close plays there.
Behind Home Plate
Taking a position directly behind home plate is as simple as it sounds. You need to line up your shot so you can see the pitcher head on, the hitter from behind, and the umpire looking over the catcher’s shoulder. The backstop will be between you and the participants. You need to get as close to the actual backstop as possible. Put the front of your lens as close as you can to the physical backstop. A wide-angle lens will show the wires and will be a distraction in your image. With a longer lens, you’ll be able to shoot through the wire without distortion or disruption (Figure 7.2).
Figure 7.2 Shooting behind home plate gave me a great view of the pitcher as he released the ball.
Outfield Looking in
Baseball is the only sport I know of in which the team on defense controls the ball. When you are in the outfield looking back toward home plate, you have an entirely different perspective on the game. You can see how the defense—the team on the field—is set up. You can see the face of the batter, and if the batter hits the ball, it should come in your direction.
You have several options for making images from the outfield: You can use a short lens and do overall images showing the field, the players, and the scene—both static and during the action (Figure 7.3).
Figure 7.3 Shooting from the outfield with a wide-angle lens sets the scene of this game and gives the picture an element that a long lens from field level would not have.
You can also use a long lens and isolate the action. If your lens is long enough—you can tell if it is only by looking through the camera, because every field differs in dimension—you’ll be able to show the pitcher throwing the ball, the batter hitting it, and the home plate umpire watching intently.
You can concentrate on the individual bases and make very simple, easy-to-understand images of plays at the plate.
With a very long lens, 400mm to 600mm, you can make isolated action images of the hitters.
Shooting from Elevated Positions
If you can find a higher location to work from, you can use all of your lenses to make interesting photographs of the players, the action, and the scene (Figure 7.4).
Figure 7.4 I took this picture from an elevated position behind first base. The higher position let me make a clean, fun image with an all grass background.