Twenty eight years ago, as a college student, I began my first internship in professional baseball with the Angels. At that time, the team was known to the sports world as the California Angels. My, how things have changed.
On Sunday, I returned to Angels Stadium only this time in a role I had never fulfilled before: As a credentialed digital photographer.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were hosting the Houston Astros, now in the American League for the first time and I had my Canon camera in hand and was headed for the photo well along the first base line. The public relations staff had listed the do’s and don’t for credentialed media on a sheet of paper taped to the wall of the photo well. This included what kind of files photographers were able to send over the team’s free Wi-Fi, where photographers could shoot from and the login and passwords associated with the team’s Wi-Fi account.
The one sheeter also stated that the team provided water in both wells as well as sunscreen for the media (a nice touch). Besides the umpires, a bat boy, well-placed security people and a few folks beaming the TV signal with TV cameras, no one is closer to the actual game.
I chose to start photographing the game from the first base side of the field for strategic reasons. The Angels starter, C.J. Wilson, is a left-handed pitcher and I wanted to shoot him from the wind up where I could see his body motion. I also wanted to see the faces of the Angels right handed hitters, including Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton.
I found myself looking over the batting orders of the players prior to the game, wanting to know which players hit from each side of the plate. it was not only the coaches who were interested in lefty vs righty pitching/hitting combinations.
One of the first photographs I captured was not of a player, nor of batting practice (there is none on day games). I saw one of the grounds crew members cleaning home plate with glass cleaner. Who knew? He took his job extremely seriously and wanted home plate to shine and he certainly worked the dish. Most people never see this and I thought it would make an interesting picture.
Photographers, the good ones, need to keep their head into the game and follow each pitch. In the photograph below, a tough ground ball was hit to second baseman Howie Kendrick. I had to quickly spin around as he scrambled to get to the ball. After knocking it down, he pounced on it and threw out the runner from his knees. Fortunately, I was able to capture the play with this photograph.
If you blink from behind the camera, you miss a play. Later in the game, I briefly spoke with one of the regular guys who shoots baseball behind the camera and I said how hot it was. I also mentioned that the gray clouds were finally breaking up and we could eventually have a few nice shots with a powder blue sky as a backdrop.
My untimely chatter came back to haunt me as a sinking line drive produced a wonderful diving catch by the Astros right fielder.
I felt guilty that I caused him to miss the play and I certainly did too.
I shut up for the rest of the afternoon.
Great baseball ballpark shots not only come from a specific play but events surrounding the game. After one of the Astros hit a home run, the veteran media member not only captured the ball going over the fence but then wheeled around the camera on his tripod and start snapping pictures of the Astros player entering his team’s bench to high fives all around. I followed his lead and captured an emotional moment in the game.
1) Shut up and shoot the entire game
2) Look for opportunities on and off the field.
3) Developing photographers should follow where the veterans shoot. After a home run, I never thought of pointing the camera into the team dugout to capture teammates high-fiving the player returning to the dugout after drilling a home run.
4) Like other jobs, photographers do not have it so easy. You are on your feet for hours, bathroom breaks are few, the sun is a killer and yes, your back does start to bark at you by the end of the day.
5) Enjoy the experience. You capture some amazing moments that other get to enjoy.
If you’d like to see more shots from my experience at the ball park, click here to visit my photography website, Charles Harris Photography Hosted by Smugmug).
(Taken during the seventh inning stretch)