Monday, June 18, 2007

Bowie Youth Baseball

After having a blast at the DC Soapbox Derby I headed back out to Maryland to cover a baseball tournament in Bowie MD. A few weeks ago Jake at the Bowie Blade offered the assignment to me and I accepted it. I've learned quite a lot since I first started shooting, and one of the biggest lessons I've learned about sports photography is the name requirement.

In previous shoots I haven't gotten names for players and have had to play catch-up the following week. It's exceedingly time consuming and difficult to get the names of players after the game. Many coaches or secretaries aren't fluent with email and so I can't simply give them a link to my gallery and ask them to identify some players. Instead I have to email individual photos back and forth, and I run into all kinds of problems with that route.

So for this assignment I wanted to do my best to get names during the game while I take my shots. I knew that it would be difficult to both shoot and write down names so I offered to hire my younger brother Andrew for the task of getting names. I wasn't quite sure how well it would work out with multiple games and of course multiple teams. The vote is still out because I just sent my photos to Blade and he's going to identify the shots he wishes to use for the paper. The true test will be when he responds and how easily I'll be able to provide the names.

To make things more difficult there were 4 games going on concurrently, and almost all of them had a Bowie team involved. Likewise, many of the children are close in age, and that makes it difficult to identify them. For example, we knew that on field #3 the Bowie 13-15 year olds were playing, and on field #2 the Bowie 11-12 year olds were playing. In some cases a 13 year old looks very similar in age to a 12 year old. And they all had the exact same uniforms! I guess we'll have to see how it goes...

One thing that jumped out at me was the microphone feature on the D2XS. Prior to today's shoot I didn't understand why you'd want a microphone on your camera. I know realize it: it's so that you can associate an audio stream with a photo. If you don't have an assistant and you have to capture names AND pictures you're going to miss something. You'll either miss a player's name or an important moment in the game. With a microphone I imagine you can record a short message and it's somehow associated with the picture (or the folder).

It's funny because on the car ride home on Friday evening I wondered if we still had my mp3 recorder. I was thinking about pulling it out and firing it up for Saturday's game to aid me in capturing names. I really didn't want to have to put my camera down while I pulled out my pad of paper and pen. I've now totally connected the dots with a microphone and a camera and I think it's pretty wise!

Getting to the game was a story in and of itself. The Soapbox Derby was so exciting and fun that my wife and I didn't leave it until later than what we had planned. We walked up to Union Station and had some curry chicken prior to boarding the metro back to College Park. This only increased our delay. A transfer at Ft Totten also tacked on an additional 10 minutes to the delay. By the time we got back to our house in College Park it was about 12:15, and I had wanted to leave College Park for Bowie no later than 11:20. So we were about an hour late heading to the game...

Adding to our problems was an accident on East/West Highway under the BW Parkway that blocked BOTH lanes of traffic! Unfortunately it took us a good 15 minutes before we got to the turnaround point. And, since we couldn't take US 50 to Bowie and instead had to take surface streets with lights, our travel time increased. By the time we got out to Bowie High School it was 12:50. We were an hour later than what I had wanted!

When we arrived at Bowie High School the field had some American Legion players on it practicing. Likewise, the AL staff was assembling the foodstand, and a few people had started to gather in the stands. It was clear that we were early for whatever activity was about to take place. Earlier in the week I had confirmed the 12 noon start time for the baseball event, but I didn't confirm the location at Bowie High School.

A quick call to my wife at home revealed that the location was actually over at Black Sox Field on Mitchellville Rd. Andrew and I piled back in the car and hussled over to Mitchellville Rd to look for the field. 15 minutes later (now almost an hour and a half late), we were driving up Mitchellville Rd looking for the baseball field. There are about 3 different sports parks on Mitchellville Rd and none of them had an event occurring. So we kept driving, and eventually found the baseball event. It was nestled back behind a bunch of trees.

Fortunately we made it to the game with a few innings left in each game. I really hate being late, and a whole long list of "bad things" happened that wound up in me making it there just in time to snap a few shots. I kept thinking during the whole situation that I like to arrive 15 minutes prior to an event, and here I was almost an hour and a half late.

Overall the shoot went very well, and the coaches were very accommodating with respect to giving me access to the dugouts. There weren't any good shooting spots except from a small area in the dugouts where there was no chain fence. As as a result I had to stand in the dugout next to the coaches in order to capture my shots.

The 70-200/2.8 lens performed well, and there wasn't ever a time that I wanted a longer lens or a shorter lens. That lens is so versatile - I love it. Shot the entire event on ISO 100 with Sunny white balance. Most of my focus used spot, and that worked well. The subjects didn't move around very much and as a result most of my shots were keepers.

It was also fun to capture the players sliding into the bases. They steal a lot of bases, and often they get run down by the fielders. I made a mental note that younger baseball games like this could actually be fun to shoot.


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