Playing at the Game

A beautiful day at the ballpark.

 

06-20-2011

I have the fun opportunity to shoot lots of local sporting events: Minor League Baseball (River Cats), NBA (Kings), United Football League (Mountain Lions), Tennis (Capitals), college sports, etc, etc.

Sports photography is always a challenge of techniques – it requires touch-typing all the camera buttons while looking through the viewfinder (no time to peek), anticipating and following the action, keeping track of exposure and manual focus, and oh yeah, watching out for that line drive foul tip that zips over the top of my head. It helps to learn to shoot with both eyes open. So far so good.

Action photos take split-second timing, anticipation of the action, and full control of the camera.

But after a while, and I hate to say this, it gets kind of repetitious. After nailing a few dozen batting shots, fielding plays, double plays, home plate collisions, manager/umpire dirt-kicking exchanges, crowd reactions, and mascot hi-jinks, I start to wonder, “What ELSE can I do?”

And that’s when the fun really begins.

First, I like to get right behind home plate and capture the ball in flight between the pitcher’s hand and the catcher’s glove. Shallow depth of field leaves very little time for the ball to be in focus. Even at 1/8000 of a second(!) it is mostly a matter of lucky timing to capture that one instant when the ball passes through the plane of sharpness. (It helps if your camera can crank out 8.5 images per second, too!)

The ball is sharp, it's not overlapping anything else and it's moving about 88 mph. (Click on photo for larger view)

Next, it’s kind of fun to take a high viewpoint shot of the field and apply some fake tilt-shift effects in Photoshop to give it that “miniaturized” look.

Gee, from way up here, everyone looks like toy figurines.

Then, for something completely different, how about putting the camera on a telescope and taking shots of home plate from the area behind the center field fence? The shots below were taken from a distance of about 450 feet away. I think the effective focal length (after calculating the crop sensor factor) worked out to about 2000 mm.

This photo was taken from about 450 feet away. Seriously, that's some amazing magnification.

 

All eyes are on the ball.

 

Check out the red arrow - that's where I set up the camera/telescope combination to take shots of home plate.

 

Instead of stopping the action, how about letting it really show?

Panning with the subject, shutter speed was 1/15 second.

As you can see, it’s not just the players who get to play at the game!

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3 thoughts on “Playing at the Game

    1. Penelope, the camera is a Canon 7D – probably my favorite digital camera these days. It has an excellent focusing system, weather-tight seals and it shoots fast! It also does really well under low light conditions (ISO 5000 anyone?).

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