Backlight is beautiful
Posted on October 5, 2009
Backlight is beautiful! Carlos Marmol #49 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the game at AT&T Park on September 26, 2009 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Brad Mangin)
I love shooting day baseball games. There is nothing like a beautiful afternoon at the ballpark. It beats the heck out of sitting in the office. The only problem with day baseball games for a photographer, especially in the middle of the summer, is the awful light the games are played under. During the summer months the sun is directly overhead, shining very harsh light on the field down below. This causes heavy shadows on the ballplayers faces caused by shadows from the bills of their caps or batting helmets. A game that starts at 1:05 pm begins under the worst light of the day. It slowly gets better as the clock ticks to the later afternoon. By 3:00 pm the light is better, and by 5:00 pm it is awesome. That is why I love extra innings or 5:00 pm starts!
When I have to shoot an afternoon game and the sun is shining bright, I always start the game off shooting from the third base side at my Bay Area parks in Oakland and San Francisco. I go to third base because this is the backlit side and by shooting over there I am able to photograph the batters, pitchers and infield action by shooting into the sun, allowing me to expose for the players faces and still hold detail in the backgrounds. If I shoot from first base during the same time of the day the ugly frontlight casts heavy shadows on the players faces, making the pictures look pretty awful. See above and below.
I will usually continue to shoot from third base until around 3:00 pm or so when the light swings around as the sun drops lower in the sky, causing the batters to become backlit from first base. I am constantly chasing the sun around the ballpark when I work, or running away from it as the case may be.
Next time you go to shoot a daytime sporting event look at the light and make your game plan. You want to make the best pictures possible and in order to do that you need some good light. If the light is bad shoot backlit!
Whenever I shoot a San Francisco 49ers game and the light is harsh (usually in the first half) I love to go over to the visitors sideline on the far side (center field in the old baseball configuration) and shoot the pretty backlight. It is especially spectacular after a windy or rainy day and all the junk has been cleaned out of the air allowing for the backgrounds to go black so you do not have to deal with haze.
I always have a game plan when I go to the ballpark. If the sun is out and ugly I shoot backlit. If it is overcast I shoot from wherever I want. If it is dark I go home!