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Getting the Shot

The two most frequent questions I get about my sports photography is; How did you get that shot?  or How did you miss that shot?  The answers to both are very similar!  First, let’s talk about equipment.  The camera and lens I use increase the probability I can get the shot greatly.  For example, for the above shot I used the following; a Nikon 3Ds, a AF-S Nikkor 200-400 f4/G ED VR II lens with a TC-14E II1.4x teleconverter.  This combination can give a magnification power of 560x, 9 times a second.  That gives you quite an edge.  But you still have to know the subject your shooting. That is, be able to anticipate what’s coming next.  

Actually, the two shots above are easy.  That is, I can set up before the pitch for both of them.  In the bunt, about 75% of time I know ahead of time that there’s a good possibility the batter going to bunt.  Plus, I’m already zoomed in and focused on the batter anyway (for the swing).  A problem one faces with the equipment I’m using here is that if some action occurs away from the plate, it’s very hard to swing that big lens to the action and get focused on it in time to record it!  The result is that a lot of the time I miss that action (answer to the second question).

For this picture I have to set up differently (and usually shoot it two different ways).  With a runner at first, I’ll set up over behind third base.  I’ll either focus on the pitcher, with the runner leading off over at first base soft focused.  In that scenario I try to capture the pitcher looking at the runner.  Or, like in this picture, I capture the pitcher in soft focus with the first basemen and runner in focus.  Here I got lucky and the Ovid Elsie pitcher attempted to pick off the runner.

Trying to catch the action at second base, I usually have to give up shooting the batter and prefocus on second base.  I’ll take my eye out from behind the lens and try to catch where the ball gets hit.  I got a little too tight with this shot and missed some of the runner sliding.  Therefore, not a great pict!

This post is not meant to cover the whole gamut on how to shoot baseball by any means.  I just wanted to give you some insight into why I sometimes get the shot and sometimes don’t.  Some of the best shots involve action that doesn’t happen very often.  In the MLB, frequently these shots are captured with a camera the photographer has set up before the game and pre-focused it on a specific spot, like second base.  Then with a remote trigger in his pocket, he will go and set up with another camera in his usual place and shoot the batter.  Intrigued by this, I’ve recently received the remote equipment to do this.  Now I just have figure out where I can put the remote camera so that it will won’t be in the way and safe enough not to get knocked over.  That will take some time to figure out on my part.  But I like puzzles!

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2 Responses

  1. Do you do a lot of burst or multi-burst shots to increase the likelihood you get the best shot in an action series? This was interesting.

  2. Yes, Doug, I shoot exclusively in the continuous mode. I try to do a lot of in camera editing when I have time so I don’t have to go through so many photos when I’m uploading to the computer. Here’s a link to an image I made using 4 shots (of about 9). I used every other shot to make the image so that there would be enough separation between shots to make it interesting.

    Pitch Sequence

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