Patience and persistence: Two case studies

“There are some times where I can say, ‘Well, I did well that game.’ I like to look at historical baseball photography, and one picture I always liked was shot at Yankee Stadium, a vantage point from high, where you saw the fans cheering up top. I always thought that would be nice to do. I’d wanted to see if I could get that idea to work at Fenway. Well, the light was nice that day. I went near the press box in the upper deck. The fans were in shadows, but the  Monster was lit, the field was lit and it was a walk-off hit. I liked the silhouette of the fans’ arms going up, and you could see the players celebrating.”

The Yankee Stadium shot she referenced probably was Pensinger’s at the end of Game 1 in the 1998 World Series. Tino Martinez homered, and the photographer had ventured high into the stands, up against a shaking wall behind fans, positioned there because of required photographer rotation. He managed to capture a wide image that let celebrating fans in the foreground do the talking as much as the distant field depth. That one became a double truck  in ESPN the Magazine. Pensinger has many photographic highlights, but to get a good understanding of the challenge baseball photographers face, let’s look at last week.

At Rockies home games, there are three photographer spots behind home plate for the first inning only. They must be requested in advance. Pensinger had one of those spots last Wednesday for the game against Arizona. Joe Saunders was the starting pitcher for the D-backs, and after some patience by the photographer, the left-hander would become the subject of compositional negative space, framed by batter Carlos Gonzalez.

“It takes patience. It takes knowledge. The light has to be right,” Pensinger said. “You can point your camera at second base and wait and eventually something is going to happen there. But it’s all the rest of the time, trying to put elements in the picture and make things work when there’s nobody on base. That takes a little bit of creativity. The willingness to get up and move around, to go to different places in the parks, when there are shadows on the field.

“I had the privilege of this access, as it kind of rotates through agencies or papers. The first inning can be absolutely nothing, three-up, three-down on both sides, with very little pitching. In this case, I got what I thought was a nice photo — looking over the umpire’s shoulder — between the bat of the batter and over the shoulder of the catcher, and I could see the pitcher delivering with that little negative space.

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