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 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.
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.