Foul ball gets batter right where it hurts during high school baseball game in Pelham, N. H. (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).
I wanted an unusual photo of a batter, so practically all I photographed at this high school game were hitters swinging. Close-up photos of baseball batters making contact require a little luck because it’s difficult to precisely time when a hitter’s bat and a pitched ball meet. You’re shooting at shutter speeds of 1/500, 1/1000, or 1/2000 of second, while both the bat and ball can be moving over 100 miles per hour at the moment of impact. Framing the batter’s full body, using a 180MM lens and a 1/1000 shutter speed, I repeatedly tried to time the swing of different batters to capture the ball being hit. The key is to take the picture as the batter begins to swing the bat forward. I already had some strong images of the batter making contact with the ball, when this high schooler hit the ball and fouled it off his protective cup. I timed it just right to get the picture, but what the photo doesn’t show is that it barely grazed him, and he wasn’t hurt at all. He only reacted slightly, mostly in surprise, instead of falling to the ground and needing medical attention as you might expect. When you publish a shot like this, a creative caption helps convey the humor – we eliminated bad ideas like “ball three” – but “foul ball” summed it up.
1) Always photograph some hitters batting.
2) Time your photo as the batter starts to swing.
3) Use a very fast shutter speed (1/1000 or 1/2000 if possible) to capture both the bat and ball in motion).