Clean up your backgrounds: Shoot overhead!
Posted on September 29, 2009
Ivan Rodriguez #12 of the Houston Astros fields a swinging bunt and throws to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the game at AT&T Park on July 5, 2009 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Brad Mangin)
There are many things I look for in a sports photograph. Is there a good moment? Is there a good facial expression? Is it sharp? Is there good light? Is there a clean background? Many of these things are beyond our control when we shoot sports. We cannot make an athlete have a great face when he or she is in the middle of the action. We can control the light a little bit by trying to make the best of what is available. But to me the easiest thing we can do to make our sports pictures better is to clean of the backgrounds!
When I first get to a game I try and decide where I want to shoot from. Many times I will go to where the best background and the best light is and wait for the action to come to me. Other times when I want to break up the monotony I simply try and find a nice vantage point from upstairs that will allow me to shoot down on the action. This works great for a sport like baseball as the green grass and infield dirt can make a super clean background. This can be much better than an annoying white Chevron ad on the left field wall that gets in the way of all your pictures at second base. The double play picture above is a great example of this. I love the clean background of the brown dirt that makes the action pop so much.
I absolutely love shooting a baseball game from upstairs. There are so many possibilities. So many angles to choose from. First base or third? What about high home? The picture above of San Francisco Giants ace right handed pitcher Matt Cain shows what you can do when you combine insanely great light with the high home angle. There is a real sense of symmetry when you shoot a baseball game from directly behind home plate.In San Francisco I shoot from a great spot at AT&T Park that the TV crew sets up in directly behind the plate. The backstop netting is just below rthe plate and out of view, allowing me a clean shot of any action around the plate. I cannot shoot from high home in Oakland because the backstop netting blocks the view of the plate area.
My favorite overhead spot in Oakland is way up high in the third deck on the first base side. The third deck is closed off to fans and covered with an ugly green tarp, but I get permission to go up to section 313 several times during the season to hang out and hope that something great happens on the green and brown canvas below me, like the picture above from a few weeks ago.
So remember, next time your backgrounds are ugly, or if you are simply bored with your pictures- go upstairs! You might like what you see from up there.