Light. Camera. Action!
Posted on June 14, 2010
Barry Zito #75 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Oakland Athletics during the game at AT&T Park on June 12, 2010 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Brad Mangin)
Webster’s Dictionary defines “photography” as “…the art or process of producing images by the action of radiant energy and especially light on a sensitive surface (as film or a CCD chip).” That is what we photographers do. We capture light. We chase the light. Sometimes the light is too fast for us. Sometimes the light sucks ass. But sometimes the light is AMAZING. This is when photography is really fun.
On Saturday night the San Francisco Giants hosted their crosstown rivals, the Oakland A’s, in a 6:05 pm contest. I normally do not shoot 6:05 pm games in San Francisco because there usually isn’t much light on the field. However, as we move closer to the summer solstice of June 21 I knew that this game, played on June 12, might allow for some sunlight on the pitcher’s mound when the game started.
I have learned much about the sun and the earth and how they move or don’t move since leaving college. Through trial and error I finally figured out that my pictures from late in the day looked way better than the crap I shot at 1:05 pm. When the sun drops low in the sky and shines under the caps of the ballplayers so I can see their eyes I know my pictures will look super cool. These are the days when I pray for good pitching match ups, good uniforms and no fog rolling in!
I figured that there would only be small window of time that would allow me to shoot Saturday night’s starting pitcher, Barry Zito, in the pretty light before he was covered up by the fast-moving shadow cast by the upper deck behind home plate. I needed to come up with a game plan to maximize the light. I had tickets to attend Friday night’s game, so I got there early with my friend Eric to hang out and watch batting practice. When Eric took the long walk to center field to purchase and then devour a $20 Crazy Crab Sandwich I stayed in my seats behind first base to study the shadow. With one eye on the shadow and one eye on the big clock on the scoreboard I saw that at precisely 6:05 pm the mound was in full sunlight. By 6:10 pm the mound was covered in shadow. Man that shadow moved FAST!
During my scouting session I also noticed that the third base side of the field was covered with shadow, meaning if I could shoot Zito from first base he would be back lit with a dark background. This is a dream lighting set up and one that cannot be missed. Ever. I needed to come up with a plan so I could be two places at once. I could not blow this opportunity.
Because I am a freak, I obsessed about that shadow for the rest of Friday night and Saturday afternoon as I put together my game plan to maximize the five minutes I would have with Zito bathed in the golden sunlight. I decided I would start the game behind the plate so I could shoot him front lit. After shooting him pitch to the first batter then I would leave the position behind the plate and run (OK, walk really really fast!) through the tunnel underneath the first base stands, down the stairs, and up into the first base dugout position to hopefully shoot Zito pitching to one last batter before the inning ended and the sunlight disappeared.
I was behind the plate at 5:50 pm to make sure I had the spot I wanted. I was nervous that the National Anthem singer might take too long. Every minute was valuable. This game needed to start on time. I shouldn’t have worried as Zito threw his first pitch at precisely 6:05 pm and my plan sprang into action. I shot Zito pitching to the first A’s hitter, then I made my move for the tunnel. San Francisco Giants team photographer Andy Kuno came with me on this adrenalin-filled mission and was a good sport about not showing me up by sprinting past me in the hallway.
There wasn’t much time left when we came back above ground at first base and frantically shot Zito with many different lens combinations in a race with Mother Nature and the A’s offense. And just like that, the mound was gone. I quickly turned my attention to the infield as I shot for the next several innings chasing the fading sun. I made believe I was shooting slide film and only focused on players in the sun. No great action came my way (it rarely does when the light is insane like this) but I did manage to get some nice stock images for my archive.
I learned many things Saturday night. It really pays to have a plan and it is smart not to be satisfied with only one look at a subject in an amazing lighting situation. Move around. Shoot from the front, the side, and behind if you can. Great light is great light. Make the most of it. Before you know it, it’s gone.