Friday, July 16, 2010

Know When to Duck

Many have asked, “What’s it like to be a sports photographer?” Well, I can say one thing, you are assured the best seat in the house and along the sideline of action, but sometimes that comes with a price. There’s always a degree of danger when covering sporting events. A friend of mine was hit in the head by a baseball thrown from the outfield and ended up with a brain injury that sidelined him for over six months. 

Even through I haven’t been hit by a baseball, (knock on wood) I did have the lens hood from my 400mm f2.8 get knocked off, and crashed by a line drive foul ball that went into the first base photo well while covering a Mariners game.  So, when you are viewing baseball, either on TV or at a game and wonder why so many pro sports shooters have their lens hoods wrapped with duck tape, now you know the rest of the story. Fortunately, the lens was protecting the left side of my head while I was waiting for a pick off throw at first base.

How fast do those errant foul balls travel? Fast damn fast, and you have to be quick enough to duck or get out of the way when you see them headed your direction in the viewfinder.

There’s been games where I’ve had three or four foul balls coming crashing into the photo well and bouncing around like a pinball. So far, I’m only been grazed, but three over thrown baseballs in the first base photo have hit another friend well in one week. I told him he’s a ball magnet and I always make it a point not to be in the same photo well.

While covering sporting events and standing near the action you must process cat-like reflexes and know when to drop the camera from your eye and either dodge right or left. Whether you’re covering little league, high school, college or pro sports, your chances of getting hit by a ball, bowled over by wide receivers, linemen and running backs are one of the chances you take every time you step out onto the field.  And believe
 me, the higher the level the players are, the quicker you have to be to get out of their way. I’ve been bowled over by Santana Moss, landed by Jamal Williams and stepped on by Reggie Bush as he was chased out of bounds, but nothing more scared they hell out of me when Shaquille O'Neal landed next to me. The floor actually shook! I looked at him as he picked himself up and all I could have said was, “Damn, that would have hurt if you had landed on me!”  He laughed and said, “Consider yourself very luck.” You know what? I was indeed very lucky and still so to this day, I am.

I captured this photo last week at the New York Yankees vs. Mariners game. Notice the 3-D TV cameraman and where the position of ball is. Now, that would have hurt.