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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Mighty Bogaerts

Photographing hitters at bat requires great timing, persistence and a little luck.

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts connects with the ball vs. the Baltimore Orioles on September 26, 2015 at Fenway Park.

The Photo
The 3rd base photographers’ well is a pit next to the visiting team dugout at Fenway Park, and it didn’t even exist the last time I photographed a Red Sox home game. It was a special treat to be back shooting my hometown baseball team, and a new experience shooting from this vantage point.  I was determined to photograph a player batting, but capturing a good hitting moment is always difficult, because balls are pitched at 90+ MPH and balls leave the bats at over 100 MPH.  Photographers have to time the moment right and also get a bit lucky, so it’s important to shoot many, many photos in order to get just one outstanding shot.

When Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts stepped into the batters’ box, I wanted to simultaneously capture both his sweeping swing and the baseball.  I had taken several pictures of him earlier in the game, but the photos were nothing special.  On this pitch, I fired the camera as he began his swing, and he lined the ball foul down the third base line straight toward me and the other photographers.  I flinched and ducked away, as a Baltimore Oriole player reached out from the dugout to snare the ball.  The fans in the stands were waiting for a foul ball souvenir, so they complained loudly to the Baltimore player, but the photographers avoided being struck and were very grateful.

In the image, the ball is slightly larger than normal because it is heading directly at the camera, which makes it stand out more than it normally would.  Unfortunately for Bogaerts, he didn’t reach base during this at-bat, but he did continue his stellar season with the second highest batting average in the American League. 

3 Tips
1)      When photographing a hitter batting, fire the camera as the batter begins his swing.
2)      Take lots of photos because you’ll need a bit of luck to time the photo at the moment the bat and ball meet.
3)      Watch out for foul balls coming your way.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Eagle in Flight

Wildlife photography requires finding the opportunity and waiting patiently for an outstanding shot. 

Bald eagle soars along the Mere Point shore in Brunswick, Me. (© Michael Maher).

The Photo
Although the bald eagle is no longer considered an endangered species, it is still exciting when you get to see one of these regal birds up close. Along Casco Bay in Maine, residents have identified a few eagles’ nests high in the trees on both the mainland and offshore islands. They can use binoculars to catch a glimpse of the eagles in their nests or flying overhead, but the view is usually from quite far away. A family member spied this eagle standing on the shoreline, probably searching for fish or food scraps, but I hadn’t brought my very long lens. Looking constantly through my viewfinder with only a 200MM lens, I slowly and quietly walked toward the eagle, trying not to scare it away.  When I got as close to it as I dared, I patiently remained motionless and shot several pictures of the eagle standing.  I don’t know if my presence scared it, or if it simply decided to change locations, but after a while, it abruptly flew off, and I was able to capture a few photographs of the eagle in flight. Whatever its reason for leaving, the photograph of the eagle in flight was far better than any of it standing on the shore.

Three Tips
1) Don’t assume you can only photograph wildlife with an extremely long lens.
2) Position yourself as close as you can, without being intrusive and scaring the wildlife away.
3) Once you are in position, shoot many different types of photos, especially close-ups, of the animals standing still and in motion.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Nose for the Ball

Timing a photo at the just the right moment can transform an ordinary moment into a dramatic picture.

Soccer player takes one on the nose in Lowell, Ma.’s Shedd Park (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).

The Photo:
This is a perfect example of how a great photo can sometimes come along when you least expect it.  I was searching for an interesting picture, struggling to find something worthwhile.  Twice I passed this young man in the park kicking a soccer ball around by himself.  I didn’t see anything else inspiring, so I decided to see if a compelling photo could come from this lone soccer player practicing.  I got out my long lens and watched him for a few minutes, but really didn’t think there was a good picture there.  Nevertheless, I shot a few pictures, stopped, then began photographing again when he kicked the ball over his head a few times.  I captured several shots of the ball sitting on his head, then rolling down his face.  I figured I had an OK photo, and was pleasantly surprised when I discovered I had this image of him balancing the ball on his nose, a far better shot than I ever expected I had.
3 Tips:
1) Sometimes you get lucky and come away with a stronger photo than you think you have.
2) If someone is practicing their sports activity, shoot the normal activity, but watch for the ball in unusual places, or the athlete doing difficult athletic feats.
3) Balancing the ball or seeming to defy gravity are two of the top pictures you can capture.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

"Now That's Funny!"

Close-up facial expressions are often the most important element of great kids' photos.

Megan Maher, left, and her teammate laugh while taking a break during the Northern Westchester Swim Conference swim meet in Chappaqua, N. Y. (© Michael Maher).

The Photo:
My daughter Megan was so busy concentrating and having fun when she was participating in sports, she rarely noticed when I pointed the camera at her. At this swim meet, while waiting her turn to participate, she and a teammate were laying by the pool watching the races, when another swimmer started goofing around to make them laugh. This went on for several minutes, and I managed to photograph several expressions of Megan laughing with her teammate, but this was the best. One key to taking kid photos is getting them to ignore the presence of the camera. Fortunately, none of them -- Megan, her friend, other team members -- paid much attention to me, so I could concentrate solely on finding a great photo. If you station yourself in one place, and wait a few minutes, kids will typically start ignoring you. Megan also had a brief moment of fame when this was published in the local newspaper.

3 Tips:
1) Kids frequently show a wide range of expressions and emotions when doing even simple things like watching their friends.
2) Stand back with a medium or longer lens so the kids concentrate on what they are doing, and not you.
3) If you stay in one place and wait patiently, kids will get used to your presence, ignore the camera, and you can take spontaneous photos.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Low Bridge

Shoot a facial close up during kids' play and you'll have a terrific expression. 

Skateboarder can’t bear to look as he rides between his friend’s legs (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).

The Photo: 
There’s not usually anything exceptional or interesting about a kid riding a skateboard down the middle of the street. However, as I walked to my car, I noticed a girl jumping into the air as her friend on the skateboard rode under her legs. As he went beneath her, he closed his eyes and grimaced, hoping she wouldn’t land on him. It was a very strong photo because his facial expression was so intense. I had to ask him to do it a couple of extra times to make sure I got the photo right and, without any prompting from me, he grimaced every time he went under her legs. Omitting the jumper's upper torso emphasized the skateboarder's expression even more.

3 Tips:
1) Normal play activity can be more interesting with close-ups of great facial expressions.
2) Look for any compelling expressions -- joy, intensity, fear, etc.
3) Your photo should capture both what the activity is and the kid’s face.