Recently I decided that I would learn how to photograph a sporting event. I read numerous articles and watched a few videos on the net but soon realized that learning-by-doing would be the only way I could try to gain this new skill.
This blog posting will center around one experience I had but the principles apply to almost any sport.
There is a small college near where I live and I had read in the newspaper that the softball team was soon going to be in a regional tournament. My first action was to drive to the school and request an interview with the coach. I told him what I wanted to do and that I would give him a collection of the photos after the tournament. This conversation would prove – later – to be very important as it gained me access to the dug-out and an introduction the players.
The Bride and I drove to the tournament location on a brilliant, hot day in April in Georgia, USA. The venue was a sports complex and there were already some teams playing — good for me because I could get in some practice shots and check out some set-up places before our team hit the field. It gave me time, also, to visit the scorer’s table to ask them what places I couldn’t be during the games.
I really wanted to catch the feeling of the whole day so I started with a photo of the grounds crew preparing one of the diamonds. Who would have thought that the infield had to be dampened before each game?
As the games got underway I mostly just watched and planned some shots. Almost immediately I discovered that the eight foot high chain link fence was a problem. I tried shooting through the thing but wasn’t happy with the possibility that the metal on the fence might scratch the glass on my (almost) new 70-200 lens. And I needed my left hand to operate the zoom ring instead of trying to center the lens over one of the square holes in the fence.
To the rescue came another photographer. He had a step ladder which he allowed me to use for much of the day. Have you ever noticed that photographers are a helpful bunch?
The image at the beginning of this posting is the obligatory shot of the ball, the batter, the catcher and the home plate umpire. It took me dozens of tries and the rapid fire capability of my camera to get this shot. I wish I had used a larger aperture to blur the background a bit.
But all the action is not limited to the batter’s box. By positioning my camera in the first base dugout I was able to catch this play as the second base (wo)man throws the ball to first. The short shutter speed stopped the ball so that the stitches could be seen and the background is nicely blurred with the wide aperture.
I like this shot of the third base coach directing his player to take home.
A short exposure catches the puff of dust as the runner reaches first base.
But sporting events are about more than the sport. This little guy grabs some refreshment as he watches an older sister play the game.
This player was injured earlier in the season but still traveled with the team and watched as her team won the tournament. I couldn’t know her thoughts but she stood in the dugout with this look on her face for hours.
A fast ball, high, was the last pitch of the game. The batter missed it and her team came in second in the tournament.
A tear betrays the disappointment of the loosing team’s captain.
This was a very enjoyable day. The athletes were cordial and the atmosphere was festive — particularly as the home team won the tournament.
But what is the take away from a photographic viewpoint? First, it pays dividends to befriend the coach. Secondly, make lots of pictures. The nine pictures you see here were among the fifteen that were keepers out of over two hundred and fifty made. I also learned that there are interesting perspectives to be captured if you follow the progress of the game. Don’t stay in one position. Anticipate what is going to happen and get in a position to capture it. Next to last: Get shots of the spectators and other aspects of the game. And last, wear a hat if you are going to be in the sun all day in middle Georgia, USA.