Awareness and Opportunity

Yasiel Puig slams the glove down in the 8th inning of the Game 2. (via Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

One of my favorite parts of the World Series — or during the baseball season in general — is looking at all the photos. A lot of the photos we’ve seen are taken by the people at Getty Images, a stock photo agency that distributes its products to clients and lets them browse for through a digitized archive. I talked to three Getty Images photographers who worked at the 2017 World Series about a few particular shots. They shared their thought process and perspective that goes into capturing moments on the biggest stage in baseball.

There are a lot of action photos out there. However, if a photo features emotion along with action, it has a chance to become something special. The header photo above, shot by Christian Petersen, taken all the way from the third base side photo well, illustrates just that.

“We’re always looking for emotions in photographs, especially in the World Series,” Petersen said. “Emotions, whether celebrating, dejection, upset are ones we look for right away. The fans look for big plays — home run, big plays at the plate — but you want guys pumping their fist, you want guys hanging their heads. And I guess throwing a glove straight down.”

Big play indeed. The Dodgers were up 3-1 in the top of the ninth. Alex Bregman hit a flyball to deep right. Yasiel Puig hustled all the way near the foul line to attempt a diving catch, but the ball deflected off of his glove and bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double. Bregman ended up scoring to make it 3-2. The Astros scored another in the ninth to tie the game, and eventually won the game in a 12-inning marathon. What if Puig had managed to make an incredible diving catch? Who knows. We do know that Puig was immediately upset. In the photo, you can see he is up and throwing his glove to the ground so quickly that no one in the stands behind him is even looking at him yet.

The photo also holds some significance in that it featured one of the most talked-about players of the series. We all know Puig as a player, but his personality is what makes him special to the media and fans.

“I, myself, will always take photos of Puig because he’s so terrific for photos,” Petersen said. “He’s so electric, so emotional and gives it all the time. That makes for fantastic photographs.”

Petersen also nominates Joc Pederson as someone who’s a joy to capture.

“Myself and some other guys really got some good photos of him,” Petersen said. “In Game Six, he had a big home run and he pumped up his dugout when he went around. I had a photo of him from Game Five where he hit a homer and ran around second to third pumping his arms in the air. He was the big asset to the Dodgers and just great to photograph.”

Joc Pederson celebrates with third base coach Chris Woodward after hitting a home run in Game Six. (via Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Petersen shared an interesting tidbit of Getty Images’ photo-editing process. “During this game, we had an ethernet cable go right into my camera — so everything I shot went across the network and ended up on our editors’ laptop back in the media room.

“We have a technology crew on hand who’s so good at getting us lines when we need them. You can get a photo up in less than a minute depending on the game situation. Also at a moment like that, they’re seeing my pictures come through [of] Puig throwing his glove, but they’re also seeing three-four other photographers coming in at the same time, so they make a decision which one is the most important or dynamic, or which has the best angle.”

George Springer misses the ball during a diving catch attempt in Game Five. (via Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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This might be a simpler-looking one, but there is a lot going on here. First, let’s talk about the setup.

“We rotate [spots] each game and on this particular one, I was sitting elevated from the first-base side,” said the photographer, Tom Pennington.

A lot of the photos we see during the regular season are shot from the photo pit right by the dugouts, so many are shot upward or right at the level of the players’ height. During the playoffs, the photo agencies want as many choices of good photos, so there are photographers shooting from higher levels as well.

“A lot of the times, the baseball players look up toward the sky when they are celebrating. It really ends up opening up their face, and emotions just present themselves to the camera,” Pennington said. “It really cleans up the background, because you’re shooting down into either the dirt or grass. And that really puts the emphasis on the players and emotion on their face.”

Just like Petersen’s photo of Puig, this George Springer photo has significance because it proved to be a crucial moment in this game. With the game tied at 7-7 in the seventh inning and a runner on first, Cody Bellinger hit a low liner into center. Springer dove to make a diving catch but missed the ball entirely. The runner scored from first to give the Dodgers the lead, as the ball trickled toward the centerfield fence.

“[This photo] really exemplifies the way that series had gone,” Pennington said. “Things were really back and forth, and in the end, the Astros came back and won that game. But it just showed the clutch plays were happening offensively throughout the series when it mattered — and this ended up being one of the pivotal moments.”

Other than the technical aspect, you can see the emotion on Springer’s face and the ball flying past him. To capture something that has so many dimensions, a photographer must take as many shots as possible during the game and pick out the ones that stand out, which requires focus and stamina.

“In our industry, we have the saying that ‘baseball punishes inattention,'” Pennington said. “When things happen so fast, you have to maintain major focus and keep your head in the game the entire time because the minute you back off, you get tired or whatever, that’s when something big and pivotal will happen. And those long baseball games like that, they wear you down.”

At the end, the Astros won the Game Five. Pennington, of course, stayed the whole game to capture it all. He named the Bregman walk-off as his favorite moment to photograph. Celebrations, of course, bring out emotion from the players and are a golden opportunity for photographers.

“They really gave it up,” Pennington said.

Joc Pederson celebrates after hitting a solo home run during Game Six. (via Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

One thing that jumps out at you about this photo is how the words “HOME RUN” and “PEDERSON!” fit in neatly with Pederson himself celebrating the homer. Ezra Shaw, who photographed it, attributed that some to luck and some to technology.

“This picture is actually taken with a remote camera,” Shaw said. “I was shooting further outside of first base. Before the game I set up the remote camera, focused it on the home plate area for plays like this. If it wasn’t a home run, it would probably say “AT&T” or some other horrible advertising. It was nice that they switched it for the home run. I don’t know if the advertisers would like that, but it worked out well for the picture.”

The photographers are given five spots from which to photograph. They can add to the coverage by setting up remote cameras in areas where they are not permitted, such as the dugout. They use a transmitter called PocketWizard to control the camera.

“It is not a perfect system,” Shaw explained. “In Game Seven, one of my remote cameras didn’t fire at all. The shots we get from them are added bonus. They might work perfectly when there’s nobody in the stadium. And when there’s 50,000 people in there all on their cellphones, radio transmission might be more difficult and you might not get as lucky, but in this instance, you got it to fire and nice signs in the background like that.”

It was easy for Shaw to photograph the very same moment manually, but he believes that his remote camera was situated better for this particular moment.

“From where I was positioned, his arm was over his face because of angles and you couldn’t see it. You might get his face in one angle and not in another, so it’s nice to have that versatility.”

And, of course, it was of Pederson.

“If the Dodgers won the series, Pederson would have been the MVP,” Shaw said. “Going from, you know, not a household name like [Justin] Turner and Puig, it’s nice when you see someone hitting sixth or seventh in the lineup has such a good series.”

Before Game Two, Shaw went out of his way to get another cool shot — Justin Verlander warming up in the bullpen before the game. It’s an artsier shot that’s well-composed:

Justin Verlander throws in the bullpen before Game Two. (via Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

“I went over by the Houston bullpen when Verlander was warming up,” Shaw recalled. “And right as the sun was setting behind the stadium, I was able to shoot a real wide shot — I was right behind Verlander as he warmed up — as a sun was setting over the stadium.…I do like those artsier shots a little bit more sometimes.”

Sung-Min Kim writes for River Ave. Blues, and has written for, The Washington Post, Baseball America and VICE Sports. Besides baseball writing, he is also passionate about photojournalism and radio broadcasting. Follow him on Twitter @sung_minkim.
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So what sized lenses were used in (1) Petersen’s shot of Puig and (2) Shaw’s shot of Verlander?