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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2008-04-01

Bonds Has Been Barry Barry Good To Me
Freelance photographer Brad Mangin looks at life without Barry Bonds.

By Brad Mangin

Photo by Brad Mangin

Photo by Brad Mangin

Barry Bonds, 2003
Opening Day of the 2008 baseball season is upon us and for the first time since I started freelancing in 1993 I will be shooting the San Francisco Giants without number 25 in left field.

For the last fifteen years it has been my pleasure to photograph the greatest baseball player I have ever seen with my own eyes play on a daily basis. Sure, Barry Bonds wasn't exactly the warmest and fuzziest guy to ever wear the orange and black and he had some chemical help along the way (and so did everyone else) but you know what? I could care less. The left fielder provided me with the most thrilling moments I have ever photographed. He also put money in my pocket and brought me out of my seat (section 108, row 27, seat 1) at AT&T Park many times in recent years to cheer for many of his home runs into McCovey Cove.

As a freelance photographer I make my money by shooting paid assignments and licensing stock images that I own the copyright of. Over the years Bonds has generated many day rates, space rates, and licensing fees for me. Bonds has been good for the freelance photography market. He has also been very good for my business.

I am not a portrait guy, so I have never really had to deal with Bonds on a personal level. I have simply documented his career as a Giant on the field through good times and bad for almost 400 games in spring training, the regular season, and post season- at home and on the road. His angry scowls to the writers had no effect on me. I didn't bother him and he didn't bother me. Over the years I have accumulated the largest archive of privately owned Bonds images shot by one photographer. His newsworthy career will probably be the most well known of any athlete I cover over a long period of time in my life.

The Giants signing of free agent Barry Bonds for the 1993 season coincided with my first year of trying to be a freelance sports photographer in the Bay Area. Looking back on it now my timing was pretty good. Beginning with the Giants home opener on April 12, 1993 when he homered for the first time in front of his hometown fans Bonds provided me with many wonderful moments to photograph.

Photo by Brad Mangin

Photo by Brad Mangin

Barry Bonds bats against Braves pitcher Greg Maddux during a 1993 game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
I was able to witness as a fan in my season tickets or photograph most of his landmark home runs: #71, 72, 73 (single season records), 500, 600, 660, 700, 714, 715, 755, and 756 (career totals). Photographing these milestones, both at home and on the road allowed me the chance to shoot many assignments with a great group of photographers and assistants that taught me a lot about teamwork.

I will never forget working the single season home run chase in 2001 with V.J. Lovero and Heinz Kluetmeier. I spent countless days and nights in September of that year inside the scoreboard in the right field fence shooting Bonds at the plate with a 1200mm lens on chrome.

In 2006 I had a lot of fun working with the Robert Beck and his best friend Kojo Kinno. With my official Bonds assistant Jim Heiser hanging out with me on many cold nights we saw the left fielder pass Babe Ruth on the all-time career list. In 2007 as he went after Hank Aaron's all-time record of 755 round trippers we were joined again by Heinz and John McDonough (and his amazing assistant Nils Nilsen) for various stops on the Bonds tour. Besides the afore-mentioned Heiser (and one-time assistants Jim Merithew, Robert Boyce and Jeff Bennett) I was joined by super assistants Don Liebig in Los Angeles and Shawn Cullen in San Diego. These guys taught me so much about running remotes that I became a better photographer. You see? Without Bonds I would not have learned many of the tricks that I use today to run successful remote cameras!

I often wonder if I would have been able to survive as a freelancer over the last 15 years if it were not for the left fielder. I will be honest with you when I say it scares the Hell out of me thinking about earning a living in the future shooting baseball in the Bay Area without number 25 patrolling left field at AT&T Park.

I shot a few Giants games during spring training in Arizona this year and it was definitely a different atmosphere around the Giants camp. Hardly anyone was there media-wise and the team looked pretty awful. Without the left fielder there weren't many members of the media (especially from the national publications) covering the club and some of the crowds at Scottsdale Stadium were down.

Photo by Brad Mangin

Photo by Brad Mangin

Barry Bonds, 2007
The Giants annual media open house a few days ago at the ballpark in downtown San Francisco lacked its usual pizzazz. There was not much evidence around the park that number 25 had single-handedly built this ballpark. Gone were the paintings in tribute to him on the left field fence. Gone were the enormous banners that hung from the light standards celebrating his home run record. Gone was the counter showing his career home run total. Gone were the rubber chickens beyond the right fields stands hung for every intentional walk. Gone: any sign of Barry Bonds. Giants owner Peter Magowan told the gathering that "The time came to go in a new direction."

I am trying to turn this all into a positive for me. I keep telling myself that now I won't have to worry about where I am every time the left fielder comes to the plate. I will have more freedom to shoot the Giants home games from wherever I want to in order to make the best pictures for my editors based on light and backgrounds, etc. I am going to try and shoot a lot more different angles this year to take advantage of this freedom. However, I must admit, I am really scared.

Will enough people want to pay me to go out to the ballpark this year? Gone are the weeks upon weeks of earning day rates just to shoot one guy. I will have to do a better job of shooting the visiting teams that come through our glorious ballpark in San Francisco. I will have to prove to my editors that I can shoot pictures of more than just one guy with a number 25 on his back as he digs into the left hand side of the batter's box.

When the 2008 Giants season opens Dave Roberts will be in left field, Bengie Molina will be batting cleanup, there will be fewer fans in the stands and the new Crazy Crab sandwiches will cost $15.

The left fielder will be missed on the corner of Third and King Streets. Fans all over the National League will miss booing him. He will also be missed by freelance photographers all over the country, especially me.

If you want to catch a glimpse of the left fielder head over to the San Francisco Federal Courthouse in the fall. He will be the guy surrounded by photographers on the steps outside the building heading into his trial.


(Brad Mangin is a freelance photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a co-founder of SportsShooter.com. You can see his member page here: http://www.sportsshooter.com/brad and his personal website here: http://www.manginphotography.com)

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