Medford High base runner stretches in vain to get back to first base as Arlington second baseman tags him out during Arlington’s 5-4 win at Medford (© Michael Maher).
This was my best pickoff photo ever, even though it was one of the first baseball games I photographed. Because I understand the game, I can anticipate where action will likely occur, and use the time between pitches to stake out the best shooting position for the plays I’m expecting. As this game progressed, I frequently aimed at the bases where I thought plays would unfold, and shot several action pictures. When a fast base runner reached first with another runner on third, he took a big lead, so the pitcher threw over to first repeatedly to prevent the runner from stealing second. I positioned myself between home and first with a 200MM lens to have the option of shooting an attempted pickoff at first or a play at home. I focused on the first base bag and set my shutter speed to 1/500. On the first pitch, the batter bunted in the air to the pitcher, who quickly threw to the second baseman covering first and picked the runner off for a double play. I luckily timed the pickoff picture perfectly to capture the runner’s fingers just off the bag with the ball inside the fielder’s glove touching the runner’s body. It was an ideal pickoff shot, a direct result of anticipating the play, and putting myself in the best position to photograph it. Note that the field’s layout forced me to shoot this picture into the sun.
1) Anticipate the next plays and where they are most likely to occur.
2) Reposition yourself and aim your camera to capture the plays you expect.
3) Ideally, try to avoid shooting into the sun, but sometimes it is unavoidable.