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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2000-04-27

Giants' New Digs by the Bay
By Martha Jane Stanton, San Francisco Giants

Photo by SF Giants/Stanton

Photo by SF Giants/Stanton
So you want to be a team photographer? But you can't find it as a major in any of those college catalogs? Well, my friend, that's because it's not something you learn in the classroom. Team photographers come from all walks of life. Not one is the same and they all have a different gig. That's what makes it so great - it's nothing you can plan on and anything is possible.

I've had the pleasure of being the San Francisco Giants team photographer for 11 years. Two years ago, after becoming a mom, I took on a partner, Andy Kuno, to help split the duties. This was imperative because our duties were going to multiply. In 1997, a ballot was passed that would allow the Giants to build a new ballpark in downtown San Francisco. I remember photographing the victory party and watching all these people celebrating wildly after enduring four previous defeats by voters. The only thing I could think of was, how am I going to shoot the first pitch? I literally worried about it for three and a half years.

My problem was that I had seen a photo taken by John Iacono, of Sports Illustrated, from the Camden Yards opener in Baltimore in 1993. I was really taken by the image and I put pressure on myself to measure up to it. I asked Johnny about this shot and he gave me his story, which of course was wonderful and humorous. Little did I know that there was more than just the first pitch to worry about. Like, what about photo locations? Hey, how about photo workrooms? And what's up with that Plexiglas in front of our locations?

Soon I was given the responsibility by my boss, Bob Rose, the Giants Vice President of Communications, with providing information to the architects regarding the photographers' needs. This was for both photo locations and photo workroom space.

Photo by SF Giants/Stanton

Photo by SF Giants/Stanton
I knew I was going to need input on this and I chose to work with Eric Risberg of the San Francisco Associated Press bureau. Eric is one of AP's top shooters and a good pal of mine. Together we attended meetings over the course of three and a half years. I couldn't have done this without him. A good friend told us to ask for more space than we needed, because we'd most likely not get all that we asked for. Sure enough, this rang true.

The first hit to our plans came when the ADA (American Disability Association) seats needed to be installed at field level. The first solution was to put them where our photo locations were designed. After conversations with the architects and our legal counsel, Jack Bair, we were assured that we wouldn't be displaced. They would figure out a way to make us co-exist. Sure enough, they kept their word and we do exist with the on-field ADA seats. Although we are further down the line than we would like to be, additional inside positions make up for it.

The next hit came when some of our photo workroom space on the service level was given over to the local radio affiliate. It seems their needs hadn't been factored in, and part of our space seemed a perfect fit for them. The problem was resolved by providing all local newspapers space in the auxiliary pressroom for editing and transmitting. This worked out better because the location is more secure and spacious. The photographers working out of photo workroom space on the Service level are AP, the other wire services and Giants Photos.

Everyone is happy!

The last hurdle came when the Plexiglas that was placed in front of our photo positions needed to be removed. It was obvious to us shooters that it needed to be replaced but the powers that be needed some convincing. After a late-inning rally of e-mail's from the local troops, the glass was replaced with netting in time for the opener.

As of now, we have six positions inside first and third bases, as well as five outside first and third. Along with that we have space in the overhead baskets that can accommodate six photographers in each basket (one is on the first-base side, the other on the third). This was made possible by the foresight of Jeff Kuiper, television producer for the Fox Sports Net and KTVU Giants broadcasts.

Jeff saw the need not only for television cameras in the overhead positions but also for still photographers. Thus we have these beautiful long baskets that accommodate both mediums. Jeff is a friend of mine and I appreciate his vision and professionalism. Any photographer that comes to our park and gives television any grief will have to deal with me. We,ve worked hard on having a good relationship with television, and we plan to keep it that way.

Photo by John Burgess/Press Democrat

Photo by John Burgess/Press Democrat
Finally Opening Day had arrived. I had run my test and staked outmy position. It was time to take the first pitch. I decided to use a Pentax 6x7 (recommended to me by Johnny Iacono), a 55mm lens and an exposure of 500 at f8. It was important that I captured the ball in mid-flight, so I made sure my position gave me a dark background for the ball. I also calculated the pitcher vs. batter matchup so I wouldn't be blocked. After clearing it with media, security and television, I would shoot out of one of the open television windows behind home plate.

The team took the field and to my horror, there were still people on the field filing out right through the area I was going to shoot. With the help of security, the area was cleared and the first batter was announced. My heart was really pounding. I had shot a few test frames that I would have snipped to check exposure. Then I refocused for thefinal time and waited.

As Kirk Rueter wound up and released the ball, I waited until I saw the little white speck in the dark green background. Click! The deed was done. I sighed a breath of relief and I knew that three and a half years of worry had come to an end, well, sort of. I still had to wait and see the film. The snip test looked perfect and when I saw the film, I felt that all the preparation and mental sweat was worth it.

Now it was time to get down to the reason why we're really here- to shoot baseball. I felt now I could go on with my baseball life in a normal way. But not so fast. A few days later, Larry Baer, the Executive VP and COO, informed me that our President may make a visit to the park, and that I was needed to document the occasion. Fine. It's not like I had three and a half years to worry about it. When I arrived the next day I didn't think it would happen because of a possible rain delay. Well, a little rain doesn't stop the President's fun. He showed up with Chelsea and made the best of it.

What I thought would be a five-minute photo op turned into a two-and-a-half-hour visit. I had full access to Mr. Clinton because the White House photographer, Ralph Alwsang, made sure of it. I've helped out hundreds of photographers in my job, and to have the courtesy returned to me at this level was unbelievable. To watch the President do his thing was pretty unbelievable, too.

He shook everyone's hand as we went down hallways, including employees. He sat with Willie Mays, Bobby and Barry Bonds and chatted about everything from taxes to the modern-day athlete vs. yesterday's heroes. He was comfortable and relaxed. He seemed to enjoy himself without needing the fanfare. Chelsea was awesome, too. I've always wanted to meet her and talk to her about her school. She seemed stoked to be going to Stanford. Thanks to Ralph, I got a photo with her, too.

Photo by SF Giants/Stanton

Photo by SF Giants/Stanton
My favorite photo of the entire night was the one I shot of the President and Jorge Costa, Senior Vice President of Ballpark Operations. The look on the President's face is so friendly, you'd think they had been pals for years.

Driving home that night, after completing our first home stand, I thought of everything that had transpired. I was happy it was over, but excited about what's coming up - because you never know in baseball.

Anything can happen.

The unique angles were a hit with several local shooters, "I felt like a kid in a candy store," said Don Smith who shoots for Fleer, "There were so many new and unique angles that I couldn't get to all of them during the course of the game."

Jed Jacobsohn of Allsport said, "At first I was a little skeptical of Pac Bell Park for shooting positions. The positions are different than any other park I've shot in. For one, every spot is covered by netting. After seeing my film and not noticing a huge difference, I welcome shooting behind the netting, especially on the inside positions."

Photo by Brad Mangin

Photo by Brad Mangin
"Ever since the playoffs last year and the incident with John I. of SI, I've been very hesitant to take my eye away from the plate (i.e., to shoot infielders). With the netting at Pac Bell I feel completely safe to shoot any angle without out fear of death."

And everyone agrees that the backgrounds are some of the best in the major leagues with Jacobsohn calling them "great" and Smith saying they are "clean and unique."

A few people I'd like to thank: Bob Rose, for having faith in me and being a strong supporter of the photographers. Jorge Costa and his staff for taking care of it all, listening to me and most importantly, telling me the truth when it wasn't always what I wanted to hear. Jack Bair, for taking my frantic phone calls and always remaining calm and cool despite his 60+hour work weeks. Missy Mikulecky for being the hardest-working Packer fan I know. Andy Kuno for covering my arse so I can be Molly's mom. And lastly my husband, Bruce, for being the best partner in the world. Without you, it doesn't mean anything.

(Martha Jane Stanton is a freelance photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. When she is not spending time at the beach with her family she can be reached via e-mail at: fotojane@pacbell.net)


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