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|| News Item: Posted 2005-12-20

Trade Secrets: Fastball
Chris Detrick's baseball photograph is the tenth in a series of features called "Trade Secrets."

By Chris Detrick, The Salt Lake Tribune

Photo by Chris Detrick / The Salt Lake Tribune

Photo by Chris Detrick / The Salt Lake Tribune

Ogden Raptor starting pitcher John Meloan delivers a pitch during the game against the Casper Rockies. Meloan pitched four innings and gave up four hits and three runs as the Raptors went on to win 9-5.
To me it was just any other Sunday baseball game. I packed my gear into my red Honda Accord and headed North to Ogden with the sun making its golden descent over the Great Salt Lake. I entered Lindquist Field brushing past the smells of hot dogs, popcorn and salted peanuts, weaving through the whispers about the size of my lens and onto the manicured field. It felt as normal as it always does.

My original plan was to try and get a good batting picture of Jason Mooneyham, an Ogden Raptor first baseman that I'd been documenting for weeks. I got permission to shoot from on top of the clubhouse in left-center field, so I brought along The Tribune's old and foul-smelling manual focus 600mm f/4, a 1.4x teleconverter and a D1H.

It was just my luck that Mooneyham didn't play, so I took the opportunity to try something inspired by former Baltimore Sun co-worker Karl Ferron: stop the ball half way in between the pitcher and catcher. And get it in focus.

For the most part, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted the final image to look like. The main thing was getting the ball sharp. I figured the best place to shoot this was from directly behind home plate in the first row of the stands.

One of the hardest parts about making this image was in the focus and timing. I shot at f/8 to give me more depth of field and wiggle room with the zone focus. First I focused randomly on a point in between the pitcher and catcher and tried shooting a few pitches to get a sense of timing. It was a mistake to try and motor drive the picture because by the time the second frame had clicked, the ball was in the catcher's glove. I quickly switched into single shot mode.

Photo by Chris Detrick / The Salt Lake Tribune

Photo by Chris Detrick / The Salt Lake Tribune

Here is a sequence of images that did not quite work.
My next thought was to get my timing good enough so that I could stop the ball in between the pitcher and catcher and adjust my focus from there. It took about 90 frames for my timing to be consistent enough that I was stopping the ball in about the same area, so I did some fine tuning on the zone focus and kept on shooting.

The next obstacle was framing. With the help of my LCD, I knew I had a few images with the ball sharp and in focus. Unfortunately, they happened on curve balls, so it just looked like a baseball floating in the air without the context of the pitcher. The background was also very distracting with white advertisements along the center field wall, so I moved a few feet to the left for a clean background.

Adjusting my tripod I hoped he would throw a fastball. It took 166 images and 1.5 innings, but with a little luck I finally made the image I had wanted. For the rest of the game, I continued documenting Mooneyham as he interacted with his teammates in the dugout.

The next day I showed it to my editor Scott Sommerdorf, who was excited about the image and its unique perspective. I also posted the picture on the A Photo A Day listserv, where it was well received by the members. The photo was published the next Sunday as a stand alone sports feature in The Tribune.

The thing I like most about this image is that I was able to pre-visualize what I wanted and was able to make the image without spending the whole game doing so.

On the other hand it's not the most storytelling image of the game. If I were to do this over again, I would try to make it when the pitcher was having a great game, giving the image more content.

Only minor adjustments were done in Photoshop: cropping, contrast, sharpening and saturation.

Here is the EXIF data:

Date: 8/28/2005
Time: 5:18:59 PM
Model: NIKON D1H
Frame #: 8305
Lens (mm): 600
ISO: 500
Aperture: 8
Shutter: 1/5000
Exp. Comp.: 0.0
Program: Manual
Focus Mode: MANUAL
White Bal.: CLOUDY

Chris Detrick is a staff photographer for The Salt Lake Tribune.

"Trade Secrets" is a series of educational features where members reveal the inside-information about how they were able to create a specific image (or two.) To nominate an image for this feature, please send a message to the admin staff here: The admin staff reserves the right to accept, or not accept, any nomination.

Related Links:
Detrick's member page

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