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Best Seat in the House

Photography, sports and life as seen through the lens of Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar.

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May 28, 2008 12:13 AM

Mariners: Walk (Off) This Way

Posted by Rod Mar

Some nights I come to the ballpark and finding a good picture is like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. Some nights, it's like shooting fish in a barrel.

Some days (okay, most...), this blog is filled with cliches.

Tonight was one of those nights when pictures come in droves.

It started with the first batter of the game. Boston's Coco Crisp (one of the all-time great names in baseball) popped a bunt foul towards the third base dugout. I was shooting from the outside photo well on that side of the field and when Seattle catcher Kenji Johjima couldn't get enough glove on it, I had a picture.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens , ISO 500, 1/1000th sec, f2.8)

Crisp then dove for a ball in the left-centerfield gap hit by Seattle's Raul Ibanez that resulted in a double:



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens , ISO 800, 1/1000th sec, f2.8)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens , ISO 800, 1/1000th sec, f2.8)

Made my photos of the starting pitchers, and they are boring so you don't need to see them.

(Close your eyes, imagine a pitcher winding up...now...FREEZE YOUR MENTAL IMAGE!...ah, see, not so exciting and you saved me some coding).

An unusual thing happened in the sixth inning when Boston shortstop Julio Lugo was tossed by third base umpire Angel Hernandez BETWEEN PITCHES WHILE THE RED SOX WERE IN THE FIELD.

I've never seen that happen before. I think it happened when Boston wanted a strike called against a Seattle batter on checked swing. That led to arguing, which no one really saw since when do you expect a fielder to argue balls and strikes with a field ump?

Lugo argued and left, bringing out Boston manager Terry Francona. This was weird, too. Francona and Hernandez argued a bit, not too angrily, or so it appeared. In fact, Francona and Hernandez were laughing when Francona headed back to the dugout. Then I guess he remembered he had to stand up for his player, so he turned around, said one more thing and Hernandez tossed him.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens , ISO 1600, 1/1000th sec, f2.8)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens , ISO 1600, 1/1000th sec, f2.8)

I'm figuring I've got a pretty good game going, photo-wise, anyway. Got something that will work if Seattle loses (Johjima not making the catch), something if Boston loses (Crisp diving in vain, Francona getting tossed), so I make my way to the centerfield area. If I can, I'm supposed to get a photo of Mariners pitching coach Norm Charlton for an upcoming story.

My picture editor tells me not to worry about the Charlton thing since the game is tied at 3-3. I tell her that I will go to center anyway, make a quick Charlton picture and see what happens.

At night, it's tough to shoot from centerfield. The throw (distance from lens to subject) is over 400 feet (okay, 405, to be exact for you Safeco Field veterans). That's too far to shoot with 400mm, and adding a 1.4 extender "costs" a stop of light. At night, at ISO 1600, I'm shooting at a shutter speed of 1/800th sec. @ f2.8. If I "add" that stop of light with a 1.4 extender (560mm), I can only shoot at f4.0 instead of 2.8, so to compensate, my shutter speed as to come down as well (from 1/800th sec. to 1/400th sec.). But I "cheat" it a bit and shoot at 1/500th sec., which is kind of a universally accepted "slowest" shutter speed with which to freeze action. The resulting exposure is 1/3 stop under, but that's okay for me.

Things get interesting in the seventh inning. With Seattle's Jose Lopez on second base, Boston relief pitcher Manny Delcarmen leaps but can't get to a ball hit back over the mound by Seattle's Jose Vidro. It makes for two nice frames.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec, f4.0)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec, f4.0)

The score is knotted at 3-3 in the ninth and the Mariners get runners aboard. I'm thinking, if this game ends in a play at the plate, I'm screwed. I'm too far from home plate, even at 560mm, to get a great photo. I can get a good photo, but I want great. The Mariners are going to be the centerpiece of the sports cover on Thursday.

With Wladimir Balantien on third base, Seattle's Jose Lopez lashes a walk-off, game winning RBI single down the left field line. In the shot of him swinging, the ball is not visible (I think it's being blocked by Ichiro, who was on second at the time). I've left this shot uncropped and full-frame so you get an idea of how "loose" home plate is from where I'm shooting. If the game ended on a plate at the plate I'd have something, but it might have been looser than ideal. Anyway, in this case, you get the pitcher in the photo, and that's interesting as well.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec, f4.0)

I can tell by the sound of the crowd that Lopez has hit the game-winner so I follow him as he runs towards first.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec, f4.0)

After he touches first base, the celebration begins. He knows his teammates are coming to mob him, and luckily for me, he starts backpedaling away from them, but towards where I'm at in centerfield. This is good because as he gets closer, the composition of the players celebrating is tighter in my viewfinder. Less cropping means better image quality, especially at ISO 1600 and shooting with an extender.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 1600, 1/500th sec, f4.0)

The last image made out sports cover. Folks in the office were intrigued that I was "in the right spot at the right time". I figure, there's 81 home games. Take some risks, and some will work out.


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