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|| News Item: Posted 2015-07-22

Brad Mangin talks baseball and his new book ‘Championship Blood’

By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

ROBERT HANASHIRO: Let’s start this conversation from the beginning. Where did your love of baseball begin?

BRAD MANGIN: I fell in love with baseball, the San Francisco Giants specifically, while I was growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1970's because my dad, Al, was a fan and so was my older sister, Paula. The voice of Giants radio play-by-play announcer Lon Simmons was always heard throughout our house during the season. Giants’ baseball was a way of life in the Mangin house.

Photo by
RH: You’re a life-long San Francisco Giants fan. Who were your favorite players?
BM: The Giants were not very good when I was a kid in the 1970's so I gravitated to some pretty good players, and to a few cult-heroes of the time. Slugger Jack Clark was a favorite of most kids my age for the vicious line drives that came off his bat and his cool look. Pitcher John "The Count" Montefusco was one of my all-time favorites after our family watched his big league debut on television in 1974 when he beat the Dodgers at Dodgers Stadium and hit a home run. The Count was awesome and I even tried to pitch like him in Little League. First baseman Mike Ivie became a cult-hero for me in 1978 when he hit a pinch-hit grand slam off Don Sutton on May 28 to help beat the Dodgers on Jacket Day at Candlestick Park in front of 56,000 delirious fans, including me, my dad, and my cousins Mike and Pam. Finally, journeyman catcher John Tamargo etched his name into my heart and many others in 1979 when he hit a walk-off pinch-homer against John D'Acquisto in the bottom of the 9th on Opening Day to beat the Padres 4-2 with my dad and I sitting in section 10 of the upper deck at Candlestick. It was my first home opener and it is a day I will never forget. Every hard-core Giants fan my age can tell you where they were when Ivie and Tamargo hit their homers. Luckily for me I was where I should be- at Candlestick with my dad seeing them in person, and I still have the tickets stubs to prove it!

RH: Do you remember the first Giants game you shot?
BM: I shot several games in the 1987 season when I was a college intern at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay Area. We shot all the day games back then shooting Fujichrome RDP, so I was lucky to learn at a young age how to shoot the game the hard way, by nailing my exposures. My first game was in May against the St. Louis Cardinals.

RH: Candlestick Park had its … charm … but AT&T Park is not only gorgeous for baseball and the fans, but is a great place for photographers to cover a game. How does it differ for you as a season ticket holder and as a working photographer?
BM: As the years go by, and as Candlestick turns into the pile of dirt and rubble that it is today, it takes on more and more charm than it really had. Candlestick was a dump but it was MY DUMP because my favorite team played there. It was also a great place to shoot because there were so many photo positions. Of course I was not so smart when I was a younger photographer and did not take advantage of all the great inside spots behind the backstop that I should have. In fact since I have learned to become such a better shooter in my older age, I have actually had dreams about going back to the ‘Stick to shoot the Giants again, but this time I am smarter and I shoot better pictures!

One thing that was much better about Candlestick was the light. The park sat at a different angle than AT&T Park so the light was better. We also got a real warm kick on cloudy days from all the red and orange seats (that were usually empty!) compared to the dark green seats at AT&T.

I never had full season tickets at Candlestick but I did have partial plans with a buddy in 1984 (to get All-Star Game tickets) and 1985 (to see them lose 100 games). I have had 4 season tickets with a group of friends at AT&T Park in the lower deck behind first base since the park opened in 2000 and they are fabulous. We have a ticket draft before the season and I usually take groups of friends to 10-12 games a season. Games at AT&T Park are fun with every game being a sellout, but man there are times I wish I could jump into a time capsule and go back to a game at the ‘Stick and be there with just 3,000 die-hards. That was an experience!

RH: You know this ballpark like no other photographer. Where is your “secret spot” to shoot?
BM: One of my favorite spots to shoot at AT&T Park is on a stool in an aisle through the netting at ground level looking up the third base line from the Lexus Dugout Club. It is a special little spot where I started shooting from back in 2009 that gives me a very different look. My goal is to always try and make images that other photographers don't have. I shoot most of my pictures from here with my 70-200. I shot several games during the Giants 2014 post-season from this spot and many pictures from my Lexus spot are in my book.

RH: ‘Championship Blood’ is your third book on a Giants World Series season. During the season when do you start thinking “book” or is that something that comes after you wipe the champagne off of your gear?
BM: The first year they won in 2010 I had no clue. I had never done a book and the thought never crossed my mind till I flew home from Texas after the Giants beat the Rangers to win their first World Series since 1954, looked at all my pictures from the season, and realized I had a terrific set of pictures. I called my good friend, season ticket partner, and terrific writer Brian Murphy and told him, "There is no way we are NOT doing a book. You have the words and I have the pictures." So that first year it was all after the fact.

In 2012 my I was working with my publisher Cameron + Company on my iPhone Instagram book "Instant Baseball" in September and October when the Giants made their improbable run. It was during the post-season that my publisher Chris Gruener came to Murph and I and asked if we would do a Giants book if they won. So I started to think about a book during the playoffs, knowing that if they won it all again I better have some good pictures.

In 2014 the same thing happened again and our publisher started texting us minutes after the Giants beat the Pirates 8-0 in the wild card playoff game. So once again while shooting the post-season games on assignment for Sports Illustrated and Major League Baseball I was also thinking “book”. Once again the Giants won, and once again we had a book to celebrate their amazing feat of winning their third title in five years.

Photo by Brad Mangin/MLB Photos

Photo by Brad Mangin/MLB Photos

Jake Peavy #22 of the San Francisco Giants celebrates with the World Series Trophy in the clubhouse after defeat the Kansas City Royals in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series on Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.
RH: From the “green light” to getting it to the printers, run down the process and how much time did you have for the editing and layout?
BM: We had a lunch meeting with our publisher and designer on Monday, November 3 (the Giants won the World Series in Kansas City on Wednesday night October 29) to discuss plans for the book, size, format, etc. I brought my laptop to show them some pictures and to see if I had enough decent images to make the book worthwhile. In order to have a beautiful, big, coffee table art book like we wanted printed in China and ready for sale here in the Bay Area by Opening Day the first week of April, our deadline to get the digital files to the printer in China was the week of December 15. That is not much time for Murph to write over 10 player profiles, to track down manager Bruce Bochy to write a foreword, and to find Tim Flannery on a beach in Hawaii to scribble down an afterward.

Then I had to work with our amazing designer Iain Morris on editing my pictures down and mixing in about 45 of my iPhone Instagrams into his incredible layout. There were many emails of PDF files going back and forth, and many drives up to their offices in Petaluma to go over the layout in person. Captions had to be written, our intro and acknowledgments had to be written, everything had to be copyedited and looked over so many times.

My last big job was to personally do all of the CMYK conversions myself. We did an insane amount of work in just 6 weeks to produce this book. To top it all off our designer Iain went to China to supervise the printing from January 12-14. The book had to be printed and shipped from China before they took time off in mid-February to celebrate Chinese New Year. After the long journey on the slow boat from China and the truck to our distributor's warehouse our book was out in time for Opening Day in early April.

RH: Locker room jube is something I’ve always hated (maybe ruining a $20,000 DSC 3 with a direct hit of champagne probably has something to do with that) but you have taken that to an art form. What is your secret?
BM: Since I am a freelance photographer and own my gear I am responsible for all repairs. This means I take great care in making sure the equipment I take into the Champaign-soaked clubhouse is as well protected as possible. To do this, I take one of my camera bodies and prep it hours before the first pitch of a possible clinch game. I have a Canon digital camera body, a 16-35mm zoom, and a strobe, and cover the entire setup with an AquaTech rain cover with strobe attachment. This is a setup I have used for over 10 years and it works flawlessly. I have this camera with me on the field so if the series ends I don't have to fumble at the last minute trying to cover a camera with a garbage bag and tape. I could never handle that stress and I could never worry about ruining one of my personal cameras. I head into the clubhouse with my watertight contraption with the goal of trying to make a few good spray pictures before everything goes to Hell.

As soon as I enter the clubhouse, I make sure to grab a fresh towel from a clubby so I can do my best to keep the front of the lens dry and clear once the Champaign starts flying. This is one of the biggest problems I run into- horribly out of focus pictures because my lens is wet. This is why it is critical that I have a dry towel handy to wipe the lens dry. I have done this so many times I have gotten better at it than I was years ago, but it is still very difficult as the clubhouses are so crowded, it is hard to get a clean picture of a star player doing something fun- especially with the trophy. I can't tell you how many times I get good trophy pictures- but the guy holding the trophy is a crappy player!

Photo by Brad Mangin/MLB Photos

Photo by Brad Mangin/MLB Photos

Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals dives to force out Gregor Blanco #7 of the San Francisco Giants at first base during Game 2 of the 2014 World Series on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.
RH: Your slice-of-life images, many taken with your iPhone, to me are the string that holds the story of the season together. Describe how the simplicity of the iPhone contrasts with shooting with a state-of-the-art digital SLR, long lenses and 11 frames-per-second?
BM: Man, I love shooting with my iPhone. It allows me to step back, breathe, take in a scene and try to make a picture that fits a square format that reads quickly as a small image in an Instagram feed on a smartphone. It could be a still life, a wide shot, a silhouette, or a portrait of a ballplayer before a game. The pictures I take during a game with my long lenses and digital SLR's are the nuts and bolts of the coverage, but the iPhone stuff definitely allows me to have some freedom to goof around and see things differently. It helps that I started shooting iPhone Instagrams heavily back in 2012. By now my technique is so much better and my pictures are more successful. My iPhone Instagrams are definitely one of my favorite parts of Championship Blood. Never before have you seen iPhone pictures mixed with traditional SLR photographs by one photographer on the same subject in a large, coffee table art book like this.

RH: You’re around the ballpark a lot. How do you balance the friendships you’ve developed with the team with the job of documenting the game?
BM: That's pretty easy for me. The Giants organization has had the same people around for a long, long time from the front office to the stadium ops folks. I have documented many, many bad moments in Giants history as they have had some awful teams since I started covering them in 1987. However, the recent run of three titles in the past five seasons has made my job much easier.

RH: I want to talk about a couple of my favorite photos. Tell me about the play in the double truck image of Gregor Blanco out at first on a dive to the bag by the Royals Eric Hosmer in Game 2 of the World Series.
BM: Thanks for asking about this picture - I love this frame! I get bored easily when I am shooting - even the World Series. I just can't sit and drill batters. Who needs baseball cards from a World Series game? My goal is to always try and make special pictures, and if I can't come up with anything cool, I at least need to amuse myself by trying to shoot details within the game-, which is what I was doing in this case.

There was nothing going on in the game and I was shooting from a nice outside first spot near the bag. I love shooting details of cleats hitting the bag at first with the World Series logo showing on the base and I had decided that I was going to try and make a frame of Blanco's foot hitting the bag at first if there was a close play. I got lucky here that Hosmer dove for the bag after fielding Blanco's grounder, kicking up dirt in the process, and making for a pretty cool picture. It is always fun to break the rules and go real tight like this and get lucky every once in awhile. Sure there are dozens of other photographers shooting the World Series, but it is still possible to come up with unique pictures if you are kinda nuts like me and refuse to shoot the normal stuff.

Photo by Brad Mangin

Photo by Brad Mangin

Instagram of Travis Ishikawa of the San Francisco Giants kissing the ball he hit for the home run in the bottom of the 9th inning that won the National League pennant in Game 5 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park in October of 2014.
RH: The image of a dejected Bryce Harper at the end of the NLDS is another one of my favorites. It’s subtle but the more you look at it, the more you see. What goes through your mind as a clinch game gets to the final outs?
BM: Man, all of us who shoot post-season baseball battle this in our heads. Who do we shoot after the final out of a clinching game? The safe way to go is always the mound, especially if the closer is a well-known guy or someone who goes nuts. In the question above, I talked about how I like to be different and try to come up with pictures others don't. That was the case this time. The Giants were about to win Game 4 of the NLDS against the Nationals at home with closer Santiago Casilla on the mound. It was only the first round and Casilla is pretty boring, so I knew there would be no picture on the mound. I didn't want to waste my time with a boring handshake picture.

Once you commit to a scene, you have to stick with it. If the scene you are on sucks and you move away looking for another, you are really screwed because your secondary choice will be over by the time you get there and you will want to kill yourself for making a bad decision. You will end up with no storytelling pictures. This had been a hard-fought series and young Nat’s star Bryce Harper had just killed the Giants. He is the face of the Nationals and the Giants did not want to mess with him when he batted in the top of the 9th. They walked him. With two outs, he was on first base so I thought instead of shooting Giants’ jube, I would shoot Bryce Harper/Nat’s dejection as he ran the bases between first and second when the game ended. I was in my secret little Lexus spot inside first and simply stayed on him horizontally with my 400 as he walked off the field. This picture does not work if it is a crappy guy, but it really works with Harper.

RH: The Travis Ishikawa photo in the locker room after his homer won the pennant is such a cool image. How did that one come about…the locker room is such chaos and it’s such a fun moment.
BM: Thanks! We talked about locker room stuff earlier. Man, is it hard getting good pictures of the storytelling guy after a big moment in there. I was pissed I was not on the front side of him, but it seemed to work out OK getting him from behind with all his teammates faces looking towards me. You should see all the horrible pictures I had to look through in Photo Mechanic when I got home that night! Since I didn't get him good from the front I waited for almost 90 minutes to get him kissing the baseball he hit for the pennant-winning homer with both my Canon and my iPhone. My iPhone Instagram became one the most well known pictures I shot last season.

RH: This book is not just something a Giants fan would love but it’s also a tribute to baseball and to sports photography. In this day and age of the Internet, what does a good book mean to you?
BM: I am definitely from the generation of people who love the printed page and have a passion for books. I have over 500 photography books in my home library and would much rather see one of my images printed large in a book or magazine than a website. Sure I have embraced social media and love sending out little square pictures on my Instagram feed, but being able to produce a big, heavy coffee table book printed in China on thick paper of my favorite team winning a World Series is a dream come true. Working with a fabulous publisher Cameron + Company, whose motto is "Books that need to be books," was amazing. As photographers we always complain how "they ran the wrong picture" or "they cropped my picture".

That was not the case with ‘Championship Blood’. It is my dream book and in the Internet age I think people still respond to a well-made book like this. Unfortunately books like this are expensive to make so photographers have to have a viable subject to get a publisher to spend the cash to produce something like this. I was very lucky. My publisher, Chris Gruener, is a HUGE Giants fan and he knew our book would sell. He was right.

Brad Mangin is a freelance photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also the co-founder of You can see samples of his work at his Sports Shooter member page:

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