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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2009-12-28

Decade Collection: Brad Mangin
'By the time I calmed down to edit my take I saw that everything I pre-visualized had happened in my frame.'

By Brad Mangin

Photo by Brad Mangin

Photo by Brad Mangin

Barry Bonds hits career home run #756 on August 7, 2007 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA.
When the first issue of the Sports Shooter Newsletter came out on August 28, 1998 I was shooting chrome, cruising the Internet on my Apple PowerBook 520c on a 19.2 baud dial-up modem, and San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds had 401 career home runs. In the decade or so since then we have all undergone many changes in how we live our lives and what we photograph. For me one thing remained a constant: I would spend the bulk of my time photographing the Left Fielder, Number Twenty-Five, Barry Lamar Bonds.

I spent the better part of the last ten years documenting history and photographing everything Barry Bonds did on the baseball field, including hitting numerous milestone home runs. Once the Giants moved into Pacific Bell Park in 2000 and he hit his 500th career home run in April of 2001 (that I enjoyed watching in my season ticket box seats with photographer friends Bob Larson and Dino Vournas) everything he did was magnified. Each time Bonds hit a big home run after that I had to be there and produce a unique angle of his home run swing that my editors would like.

Over the next several years I had the great opportunity to work with wonderful teams of shooters and assistants (yo Jim Heiser!) as together we photographed #71, #72, #73 (single season record in 2001), #600, #660 (Willie Mays), #700, #714 (Babe Ruth) and #715. It was apparent that it was only a matter of time before we would be following Bonds wherever he went to shoot #755 (Hank Aaron) and #756. My challenge was to find a different angle to shoot the most important meeting of ball and bat that would happen in front of my cameras during my lifetime.

As Opening Day of 2007 approached Bonds had 734 career home runs. If he stayed healthy he would have a great chance of passing Hank Aaron's mark of 755 home runs and becoming the all-time home run king. I had several months to plan my attack and decide what unique spot I wanted to position myself (if it happened at home). I started thinking early, at the end of March when I visited the ballpark and scouted locations. I had shot previous Bonds moments from the outfield but wanted something different this time. I wanted the perfect picture of Bonds setting the record. I wanted a picture that no one else would have.

I am a very tough critic of my own work and am rarely happy with my pictures. I knew this would be one of the biggest moments I would ever have a chance to photograph and I did not want to screw it up. I wanted a low angle with the camera on the ground to produce a super clean look. I did not want any advertisements in my background- only fans. I decided that in order to make my perfect image I would need to shoot the swing from outside the ballpark, through a chain link fence in right center field, with my camera on the ground.

I spent many early season games in my location, hanging out with the homeless people and Giants fans that were able to watch the game for free through the fence. Nate Gordon, my picture editor at Sports Illustrated was happy with my spot and urged me to continue shooting out there as Bonds drew closer to the record.

Bonds tied the record when he hit his 755th career homer in San Diego on Saturday night, August 4, 2007. He did not play the next day and the club returned home to play the Washington Nationals on Monday night, August 6, 2007. As usual I was at the park around 1pm for a 7:15pm start in order to set up my remotes and get ready. This could be the night. I was a nervous wreck! Once the game started things only got worse as Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young blocked my view of each and every Bonds at bat. I was totally screwed! I usually had a clear view of the plate all season, depending on where the first baseman was lined up and whether or not he was holding a base runner on the bag at first. Luckily for me Bonds did not homer- if he had I would have had no pictures and would have wanted to quit photography.

Tuesday afternoon and it was Groundhog Day again with the early arrival and set up, but this time I was second guessing myself. I could not miss the big swing and everyone had a feeling Bonds would do it on this night. I had a phone conversation with my editor Nate and he calmed me down and told me to stay in my spot. He liked the position and knew that no one else had my angle. He told me it was worth the gamble because we had Heinz Kluetmeier and Robert Beck shooting from the field area armed with over a dozen hand held and remote cameras. We were covered.

It was a typical brisk August night in San Francisco, and it was freezing cold out in right field where my assistant Robert Boyce and I were with the wind whipping off McCovey Cove. A homeless guy stole my fleece and I was not in a good mood. Bonds failed to connect in his first two at bats, but I could see him through my lens, as Young was not blocking my view. By the time he came up in the bottom of the 5th inning I was freezing when he got into a Mike Bacsik pitch and sent a deep drive to center field. The crowd around me went nuts and my adrenaline was through the roof. He had done it. Bonds had hit career home run #756 and I thought I had a real good look at it.

By the time I calmed down to edit my take I saw that everything I pre-visualized had happened in my frame. I had a clean look at the swing with nothing but fans in the background from ground level, and it was sharp! With a Canon Mark III! I was thrilled, and thanks to the great Kojo Kinno my remote behind home plate had fired so I had two real nice looks at the moment. I was thrilled that I got the picture I wanted but very sad that night as I drove home. Was I sad because all the excitement was over or was I sad because I had to be in Napa the next morning at 8am to shoot Oakland Raider training camp?

Taking this historic moment from August 7, 2007 and taking it back to 1998 I can say that this picture would never have happened for many reasons. First of all back then I would have had to shoot Fujicolor 800asa color negative film pushed a few stops yielding a really ugly and grainy image. The film camera also would not have offered the 1.3 magnification that my Canon EOS Mark III offered me. And finally in 1998 the Giants were still playing at Candlestick Park and they had a padded wall over the old chain link fence, thus it would have been impossible to shoot from ground level.

Yes, everything came together for me on that cold August night on the shores of McCovey Cove. I was able to shoot at 2500asa with a Canon Mark III digital camera using a 600mm lens with an exposure of 1/500 @ 4.0. The picture was published in the magazine. I was actually happy!

Two years have gone by and I still like the picture. There is nothing I would change about it, and that is pretty rare for me. Nope. There is no way I could have done this in 1998.


(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, his personal website here: http://www.manginphotography.com and his new blog housing his archive here: http://www.manginphotography.net)

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