Paul Conrad

Catching the Pitcher: Tips for Better Baseball Photography

It’s always fun to shoot baseball. Especially high school baseball.

And with that, I heard a huge collective “Ugh.” I like photographing it because it is a challenging sport to shoot. You have to read the game, read the players, understand basic strategy, and mostly have fun.

Eye on the Ball:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -  Bellingham pitcher Brad Johnson tosses to Ferndale  in varsity boys baseball at Ferndale High School in Ferndale, Wash., on Monday afternoon March, 30, 2015.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Bellingham pitcher Brad Johnson tosses to Ferndale. Shooting through chain link fencing can be tedious, but if you position your lens dead center, the distraction is minimal.

But the most important part of shooting baseball, or anything for that matter, is to PAY ATTENTION!

In baseball, moments are incredibly fleeting. A few times I have chatted with others only to miss great play. So don’t get distracted. Pay attention to the game, only chat between innings and team changes. Keep on your toes.

The “V”:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -  Ferndale pitcher Kyler Schemstad (18) pitches to Bellingham during the second inning at Ferndale High School in Ferndale, Wash., on Monday afternoon March, 30, 2015.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Ferndale pitcher Kyler Schemstad (18) pitches to Bellingham during the second inning at Ferndale High School. Position yourself so the pitcher’s body is framed by the batter.

To photograph the Battery, the pitcher/catcher/batter/umpire combo, you have to be mobile. No sitting in the bleachers, no staying in one spot along the fence, you have to move. In fact, you may have to shoot from the 3rd base line, as well as the 1st baseline.

Off the Tips:

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography - Meridian Trojan boys against the Brewster Bears at Meridian High School in Bellingham on April 2, 2014. Meridian lost 5-4.

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography – Meridian Trojan boys against the Brewster Bears at Meridian High School in Bellingham. A hard photo to capture is getting the ball just as it leaves the tips of the pitcher’s fingers.

Don’t be afraid to shoot through the fence. If you position your lens properly in the center of the square of the chain link, the distraction is minimal or non-existent. If the squares of holes of the fence are small, you’re just going to have to use the largest aperture possible. Using f/2.8 or f/4 is best to decrease the effect.

Sideview:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -  The Ferndale Golden Eagles host the Bellingham Red Raiders in varsity boys baseball at Ferndale High School in Ferndale, Wash., on Monday afternoon March, 30, 2015.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – The Ferndale Golden Eagles host the Bellingham Red Raiders in varsity boys baseball at Ferndale High School. Notice how the face is visible in the left-handed pitcher’s windup?

Sideview 2 (from same shooting position):

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -  The Ferndale Golden Eagles host the Bellingham Red Raiders in varsity boys baseball at Ferndale High School in Ferndale, Wash., on Monday afternoon March, 30, 2015.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Bellingham’s Brad Johnson winds-up as he pitches to Ferndale. Shot from the same angle as the photo above, notice how you can’t see the pitcher’s face all that well.

Sideview 3:

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography - Meridian Trojan boys against the Lynden Lions at Meridian High School in Bellingham, Wash., on Thursday afternoon April 9, 2014. The Lions defeated the Trojans 6-4.

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography – Meridian Trojan boys against the Lynden Lions at Meridian High School. Notice how as the right-handed pitcher releases the ball, his face become more visible.

Every battery is different: different pitcher, different batter, how the catcher and umpire sit. Even how the pitcher throws will affect your choice of position. Again, stay fluid and try every angle.

Shooting the pitcher from the side you need to remember one simple rule: If they throw right-handed, then you won’t get a good face from their right side. Think about when you throw. Your face is covered by your right arm and shoulder. Now add the power as they throw, their head turns towards their left and is further obscured.

You’ll get the windup from their throwing side, but lose their face at the halfway point and beyond. It’s just a matter of what you as the photographer want: do you want the windup? Or the release? Why not both then choose later? SEE EXAMPLES ABOVE

Focusing is critical. But you have to prefocus in front of the pitcher. This does take some practice. Don’t rely on your autofocus.  In fact, watch the pitcher as you shoot. Focus on his front foot as it lands. This is almost the same plane as where his face will be when he/she releases the ball. Again, see the photos above.

In summary:

  1. Prefocus and use manual or lock the focus. It keeps your lens from “hunting.” Sometimes the lens will try to focus on the battery or the background. By using manual, you focus and won’t lose that focus if the camera picks something up while shooting.
  2. If you use autofocus, set your camera so the shutter is not activating the focus. I set mine so the back button activates autofocus.
  3. Use shallow depth of field to separate the pitcher from the battery (batter, umpire, catcher) and background. The basic principle of making your main subject the focus of the photo.
  4. Use a high shutter of 1/2000th or faster. On cloudy days you’ll have to up the ISO. stops any blur as they do move rather fast.
  5. Place your hand at the end of the lens barrel to keep it centered through the gaps in the fence. 
  6. While behind the battery, use the umpire, catcher and batter as a framing device. 
  7. Shoot the pitcher from the first baseline and third base line. 
  8. Pay attention. Don’t get distracted during active play by others around you. Literally, stay focused on the game. 
  9. Have fun and try new things. You just never know.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

Also, feel free to share and reblog, link to, and add your site in the comment section. Sign up for updates so you don’t miss on other postings.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

Follow me on these various Social Networks:

  1. Follow Me on Google+
  2. “Like” my Page on Facebook
  3. Follow me on Instagram
  4. Follow me on Twitter
  5. Follow me on Pinterest

Paul Conrad is an award-winning, nationally and internationally published freelance photographer living in Bellingham, Whatcom County, Wash., north of Seattle in the Pacific Northwest. His work has been published in newspapers and magazine throughout the United States and in Europe.

His clients include Getty Images, Wire Image, The Bellingham Herald, and many local business in Whatcom County. Previous clients are Associated Press, the New York Times, L.A. Times, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, and many others.

His specialty is photojournalism covering news, sports, and editorial portraits, he also is skilled in family portraiture, high school senior portraits, and weddings. He is available for assignments anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.

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Capturing a Sunburst: A Few Tips

There’s nothing more fun than trying to capture a pretty cool “sun burst” or “star burst” effect in a photograph.

My friend Heather in Denver wrote recently on her blog how she’s been trying to capture the sun as its rays burst through trees. She says she’s happy with the latest result, but needs to keep working on it.

Though I usually don’t chase down this effect but there was one opportunity I wasn’t going to miss.  This one in particular was at Fisher Towers east of Moab, Utah.

The Titan:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - The morning Sun breaks through a crag on The Titan at Fisher Towers near Moab, Utah.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – The morning Sun breaks through a crag on The Titan at Fisher Towers near Moab, Utah. It took a little running about as the Sun gained altitude to get into a position to capture the starburst.

 

I had camped overnight on a rock next to a dirt road that led to the camping area and trail head. This was a conscious choice as I left work late the night before and had planned on 3 days of camping near Hurrah Pass in Kane Creek. It was one of those times I threw out my sleeping pad and just crawled into my sleeping bag. No tent.

But Mr. Sandman was smacking me with a bag of sand so I turned down the road to find a spot. Unwittingly, it just happened to be the perfect spot in the morning.

At sunrise, Ol’ Sol peeked over the ridge and woke me. I got up, set up my camp stove to heat water for some coffee, and while waiting for the water to heat, I noticed how the sun peeked through the crags, crevices, and rocks of the towers and along the cliff edges. I took a quick shot with my 80-200 set at f/22. Looked at the back of my old D1H and zoomed in on the starburst I captured.

Without waiting, I shut off the stove and chased the shadow created by The Titan to capture a starburst. The above image is a result of over 30 minutes of work, and walking through gullies, under piñon trees, and being careful of the cryptobiotic soil.

The result of my effort is what you see above. One of the few times I intentionally set out to capture a starburst.

Steaming:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Bitter cold temperatures create massive clouds of steam as the stiff winds blow it from the Martin Drake Power Plant in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Wednesday evening Jan. 19, 2011.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Bitter cold temperatures create massive clouds of steam as the stiff winds blow it from the Martin Drake Power Plant in Colorado Springs, Colo.

 

Over time, I’ve noticed certain conditions that make for capturing a sunburst:

  • 1. A bright light source
  • 2. The source must be a pin point
  • 3. You must have your aperture stopped all the way down (f/22 or so)
  • 4. And patience, patience, lots of patience.

One thing about trying to capture a sunburst: you need to be careful not to overexpose as the pinpoint becomes a blob and the rays get washed out. Test various exposures as you’re shooting by varying the shutter speed rather than the aperture.

Also, older lenses will give a better star effect and the sunburst looks better. The reason is the aperture blades have straight edges and the new lenses have curved edges.

These curved edges form more of a circle than the older ones. The older lenses form a pattern with sharper corners such as a hexagon or octagon, or even a nonagon.

Mt. Baker and Refinery:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Mount Baker is illuminated by the setting Sun as the lights at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Wash., turn begin to illuminate the petroleum plant.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Mount Baker is illuminated by the setting Sun as the lights at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Wash., turn begin to illuminate the petroleum plant. The small aperture of my 80-200 formed the lights into starbursts.

 

When taking photographs of the sun, you must remember to move about and try different angles to capture the starburst. The moving leaves, buds, and flowers, will give you plenty of challenge.

Quick Tip: Without your camera, go under a tree and look for the sun. Observe how the moving leaves act as an aperture. Also, move around and see how you can find a spot where the sun is just a pinpoint.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography

Close-up of the strarbursts created by the aperture of the lens fully stopped down.

Capturing starbursts/sunbursts is a matter of patience and practice.

The only way to learn is to just go out and shoot.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

Also, feel free to share and reblog, link to, and add your site in the comment section. Sign up for updates so you don’t miss on other postings.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

Follow me on these various Social Networks:

  1. Follow Me on Google+
  2. “Like” my Page on Facebook
  3. Follow me on Twitter
  4. Follow me on Pinterest

Paul Conrad is an award-winning, nationally and internationally published freelance photographer living in Bellingham, Whatcom County, Wash., north of Seattle in the Pacific Northwest. His work has been published in newspapers and magazine throughout the United States and in Europe.

His clients include Getty Images, Wire Image, The Bellingham Herald, and many local business in Whatcom County. Previous clients are Associated Press, the New York Times, L.A. Times, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, and many others.

His specialty is photojournalism covering news, sports, and editorial portraits, he also is skilled in family portraiture, high school senior portraits, and weddings. He is available for assignments anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.