Shooting Baseball is A Lot Like Fishing

August 18, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Over the course of this spring and summer, by quick count, I have photographed about 80 different baseball games.

Everything from house league Mosquito (9-10 year olds) right on up through high school, our summer collegiate team - the Victoria HarbourCats - and just last week, at the MLB level, covering the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays series in Seattle.

2014 Greater Victoria Baseball Association2014 Greater Victoria Baseball AssociationJune 18, 2014 Victoria, BC - The Carnarvon Red Devils host the Gordon Head Thunder in the 2014 Greater Victoria Baseball Association Mosquito Championship game Wednesday night at Allenby Park in Victoria. The Thunder would pull out an exciting 5-4 win. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. NO UNPAID USE without the express written consent of the photographer. Telephone: 250-472-1699; E-Mail cstewart@cjscons.com 2014 Seattle Mariners2014 Seattle MarinersAugust 11, 2014, Seattle, WA - The Seattle Mariners Host the Toronto Blue Jays in MLB action at Safeco Field in Seattle. The Mariners would thump the Jays 11-1. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. NO UNPAID USE without the express written consent of the photographer. Telephone: 250-472-1699; E-Mail cstewart@cjscons.com
It has been a busy summer covering everything from Mosquito (left) to MLB baseball (right)

I am apparently a rare breed here in Victoria, in that I actually REALLY, REALLY enjoy shooting baseball.  Some of our local press photog's don't like baseball assignments mainly because they have a limited time to shoot a game and always want the "big play" images - double plays at second, plays at the plate - plays that do not always happen early in a game, if at all, or at least by their deadline.

2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Club2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball ClubJune 24, 2014 Victoria, BC - The Victoria HarbourCats host the Bend Elks in West Coast League baseball action at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria, BC. The Elks would emerge with a 13-7 win. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart / ISN and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. These and other images available for purchase at http://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/harbourcats
Plays at the plate can be relatively infrequent at most baseball games, but when they happen you need to be ready for them.

I tell them that shooting baseball is a lot like fishing....you sit quietly and patiently for long periods of time, waiting for that big nibble, or the fish to take your line, and when it does, you have to be ready to reel it in (i.e. snap away and capture the big play) before it is gone.  Sometimes those nibbles come early and rapidly, sometimes they don't come at all.

2014 Seattle Mariners2014 Seattle MarinersAugust 12, 2014, Seattle, WA - The Seattle Mariners Host the Toronto Blue Jays in MLB action at Safeco Field in Seattle. The Mariners would defeat the Jays 6-3. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. NO UNPAID USE without the express written consent of the photographer. Telephone: 250-472-1699; E-Mail cstewart@cjscons.com When plays at bases happen in baseball, be ready for them so you can land a nice "catch"

Fortunately, I like fishing, and with the work I do with Independent Sports News (being a web media outlet), we rarely have to worry about hard print deadlines  and can stay for the full length of most games, allowing for more time to catch that big fish, and capture a key image or series of images from a particular game.

2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Club2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball ClubJune 10, 2014 Victoria, BC - The Victoria HarbourCats host the Cowlitz Black Bears in their 2014 West Coast League home opener at Sports Traders Diamond at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria. The HarbourCats would give the crowd their money's worth, eking out a 6-5 win in 11 innings. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. NO UNPAID USE without the express written consent of the photographer. Telephone: 250-472-1699; E-Mail cstewart@cjscons.com
Sometimes the best image of the game happens on the very last play, like this example of a celebration after a walk-off base hit won the game.

And just like an expert fisherman who knows where and when to get the big fish, anticipating and understanding when that big play is going to happen in a baseball game is key. 

While sometimes it can be obvious, I find that because I have played and coached the game, and am a connoisseur  of baseball's finer points, there are times when I can anticipate what is going to happen and set myself up for a better angle and photo.

For example, knowing a bunt situation and turning to photograph the player bunting, or knowing a certain batter's tendencies and focusing on a fielder that he has a high percentage of hitting the ball to.

2014 Victoria Eagles Baseball Club2014 Victoria Eagles Baseball ClubApril 1, 2014 Victoria, BC - The Victoria Eagles host the Victoria Mariners in BCPBL pre-season baseball action at Lambrick Park in Victoria. The teams wold play to a 3-3 tie through 11 innings of play before park curfew ended the game. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. NO UNPAID USE OR COPYING without the express written consent of the photographer or payment. Telephone: 250-472-1699; E-Mail cstewart@cjscons.com 2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Club2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball ClubJuly 27, 2014 Victoria, BC - The Victoria HarbourCats host the Corvallis Knights in West Coast League baseball action at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria, BC. The HarbourCats would win a slugfest by a score of 19-10. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart / ISN and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. These and other images available for purchase at http://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/harbourcats
Knowing when a player might be called upon to bunt can often lead to nice photos of the play if executed.

This latter example worked out well for me in the image of the diving third baseman shown below.  Three previous batters, including the guy at the plate this time, had all earlier scorched line drives down the line.  So this time around, I focused on the third baseman and sure enough, the same batter hit another down the line and I captured the resulting image.

2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Club2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball ClubAugust 8 , 2014 Victoria, BC - The Victoria HarbourCats host the Kitsap BlueJackets in West Coast League baseball action at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria, BC. The BlueJackets would win 13-12. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart / ISN and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. These and other images available for purchase at http://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/harbourcats
With a little knowledge of a batter's tendencies and a pre-focus on an infielder, you can capture shots like this.

Or stealing signs from coaches or infielders and being in position (with my lens) to capture a pick-off attempt or a player stealing a base.

Plays at second are also big on a baseball photographer's hit list, especially when a shortstop or second baseman attempts to turn a double play in the face of a sliding runner.  Ideally you want to capture this from the first base side, with the defensive player leaping over the sliding runner and at the same time releasing the ball toward first.  Of course, given how infrequently double plays happen (well at least at the level of games I have been covering) and when they do, the fact that sometimes you are on the third base side, capturing such an iconic image can be difficult.

2011 Victoria Eagles Baseball Club2011 Victoria Eagles Baseball ClubApril 9, 2011, Victoria, BC - Victoria Eagle second baseman Brett Blashko calmly attempts to turn a double play as Nanaimo Pirate Justin Clarkson tries to break it up during BC Premier League action Saturday at Lambrick Park in Victoria. The Pirates would spoil the Eagles 2011 home opener with 7-4 and 8-1 wins.

Why I Chose This Photo - It's simply just a good baseball photo. I like the pose and calmness of the second baseman and the expression and effort of the player trying to break up the play (which I would not have got if I shot this from the first base side).

Quite often you can be on the third base side when a double play attempt at second base happens but with a little luck and the right timing, you can get acceptable results.

Fortunately for me, the "perfect storm" occurred in the very last game I shot (so far) this season, in a MLB Blue Jays and Mariners game, and I got TWO such images in the same game, the second of which, is probably the best such photo of this type of play that I have ever captured!

2014 Seattle Mariners2014 Seattle MarinersAugust 13, 2014, Seattle, WA - The Seattle Mariners Host the Toronto Blue Jays in MLB action at Safeco Field in Seattle. The Mariners would defeat the Jays 2-0 on the strength of a 2 run first inning home run from Kendrys Morales. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. NO UNPAID USE without the express written consent of the photographer. Telephone: 250-472-1699; E-Mail cstewart@cjscons.com
2014 Seattle Mariners2014 Seattle MarinersAugust 13, 2014, Seattle, WA - The Seattle Mariners Host the Toronto Blue Jays in MLB action at Safeco Field in Seattle. The Mariners would defeat the Jays 2-0 on the strength of a 2 run first inning home run from Kendrys Morales. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. NO UNPAID USE without the express written consent of the photographer. Telephone: 250-472-1699; E-Mail cstewart@cjscons.com
Two of the best double play images I shot all season, came in the very last game - my 80th - that I shot last week in Seattle, showing how rare the "perfect" double-play photo (the bottom image here) can be.

Ironically as well, in both of the above photos, the players are the same players, just switched on offense and defense!

In lieu of the big plays, one often has to resort to other ways to capture images that make the game interesting for the readers and viewers of the images.  One way I like to do this is by using close-up shots of, for example, pitchers as they deliver the ball to the plate.  With the right lighting and background, these can be very powerful images, especially if that pitcher ends up throwing a good game.

2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Club2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball ClubJuly 26, 2014 Victoria, BC - The Victoria HarbourCats host the Corvallis Knights in West Coast League baseball action at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria, BC. The Knights would emerge with a 8-5 win. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart / ISN and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. These and other images available for purchase at http://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/harbourcats
With the right lighting and background, close-up shots of pitchers like this can be quite dramatic.

Another good sight line I like is from behind the plate. Either a close up that really captures the exertion on a pitcher's face, or in the case of the first photo below, the stress on his arm, or in the case of the second photo below, shooting a bit wider to give the viewer more context for the game and situation.

2013 Victoria Eagles Baseball Club2013 Victoria Eagles Baseball ClubJuly 4, 2013 Victoria, BC - Victoria Mariner pitcher Colton Wood delivers a pitch in his game against the Victoria Eagles in BC Premier League action Thursday night at Lambrick Park in Victoria. The teams would battle to a 3-3 tie through 10 innings when the game had to be suspended due to a local 10:00 pm curfew.

WHY I CHOSE THIS PHOTO: It is a simple photo of a pitcher throwing a pitch, taken from behind home plate, but the way the light was shining on his arm, shows incredible detail of the strain on his muscles and tendons in the elbow and biceps area (almost mirroring the creases and folds in his jersey) and makes one appreciate why pitchers are subject to pitch limits, especially at younger ages.

2014 Seattle Mariners2014 Seattle MarinersAugust 13, 2014, Seattle, WA - The Seattle Mariners Host the Toronto Blue Jays in MLB action at Safeco Field in Seattle. The Mariners would defeat the Jays 2-0 on the strength of a 2 run first inning home run from Kendrys Morales. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. NO UNPAID USE without the express written consent of the photographer. Telephone: 250-472-1699; E-Mail cstewart@cjscons.com
Shooting pitchers from behind the plate in a close-up mode can really emphasize their effort and exertion (top) while shooting a bit wider (below) can add more context to the situation.

Capturing shots of batters is always another dilemma for baseball photographers.  Many like to capture the batter at the time of impact, when the ball hits the bat. These are called BOB (bat on ball) shots and many photographers seem overly elated to get them, but for me, I don't like them because in most instances you don't see the face of the batter.

My preference is to capture the batter as he comes out of his swing and his eyes begin to follow the ball as he follows through on his swing and begins to move toward first base.  Most times, such shots are best from the third base side, photographing right handed batters who pull the ball, but lefties from this side will also work well. Cropping closely in post (like the Jose Bautista shot below) is another way to add variety to the shot.

2014 Seattle Mariners2014 Seattle MarinersAugust 11, 2014, Seattle, WA - The Seattle Mariners Host the Toronto Blue Jays in MLB action at Safeco Field in Seattle. The Mariners would thump the Jays 11-1. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. NO UNPAID USE without the express written consent of the photographer. Telephone: 250-472-1699; E-Mail cstewart@cjscons.com

2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Club2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball ClubJuly 26, 2014 Victoria, BC - The Victoria HarbourCats host the Corvallis Knights in West Coast League baseball action at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria, BC. The Knights would emerge with a 8-5 win. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart / ISN and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. These and other images available for purchase at http://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/harbourcats

Outfielders are another challenge for baseball photographers and often get ignored, unless you are using a fairly long telephoto lens and are specifically shooting them.  Fortunately, there are times when turning to shoot an outfielder works out OK, especially if you are using a newer camera with sufficient megapixels on the sensor to allow close cropping of the image in post-processing.  The images below are such examples and can be nice catches if you get them!

2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Club2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball ClubJuly 18, 2014 Victoria, BC - The Victoria HarbourCats host the Klamath Falls Gems in West Coast League baseball action at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria, BC. The HarbourCats would emerge with a 14-8 win. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart / ISN and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. These and other images available for purchase at http://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/harbourcats

2014 Victoria Eagles Baseball Club2014 Victoria Eagles Baseball ClubApril 26, 2014 Victoria, BC - The Victoria Eagles host the North Delta Blue Jays in their 2014 home opener Saturday at Lambrick Park in Victoria. The Eagles would win by scores of 2-1 and 7-2. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. NO UNPAID USE without the express written consent of the photographer. Telephone: 250-472-1699; E-Mail cstewart@cjscons.com

Finally, sometimes the biggest fish can be caught off the field of play.  Look for shots of fans or other promotions happening during the game that can make compelling, interesting or just plain weird photos.  Depending on the game and the level of action, these may be the best images of the evening, so try not to ignore them!

2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Club2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball ClubJuly 26, 2014 Victoria, BC - The Victoria HarbourCats host the Corvallis Knights in West Coast League baseball action at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria, BC. The Knights would emerge with a 8-5 win. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart / ISN and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. These and other images available for purchase at http://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/harbourcats
2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Club2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball ClubJune 11, 2014 Victoria, BC - The Victoria HarbourCats host the Cowlitz Black Bears in West Coast League action Wednesday night at Sports Traders Diamond at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria. The Bears would cruise to an 11-4 victory. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart / ISN and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. These and other images available for purchase at http://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/harbourcats
2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Club2014 Victoria HarbourCats Baseball ClubJune 17, 2014 Victoria, BC - The Victoria HarbourCats host the Bellingham Bells in West Coast League action at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria. The Bells would emerge with a 7-2 win. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart / ISN and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. These and other images available for purchase at http://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/harbourcats 2014 Seattle Mariners2014 Seattle MarinersAugust 11, 2014, Seattle, WA - The Seattle Mariners Host the Toronto Blue Jays in MLB action at Safeco Field in Seattle. The Mariners would thump the Jays 11-1. All Photos Copyright Christian J. Stewart and Christian J. Stewart Photography 2014. NO UNPAID USE without the express written consent of the photographer. Telephone: 250-472-1699; E-Mail cstewart@cjscons.com


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