It is, obviously, important to stay focused (literally and figuratively) when taking photos.
On most assignments I think it’s pretty easy to keep on task and stay focused on the subject. Spot news, portraits, features – no problem.
But there’s one type of assignment on which I find it particularly difficult to stay engaged. Baseball.
There’s often lots of time between action, time which allows my attention to drift away from the game. I start looking everywhere but the diamond and if I’m not careful I miss what little action there might be.
Sure, I’m watching what’s happening on the diamond and in the dugouts, looking for other possible photos. I often watch the pitcher, looking for a photo there, a photo which might summarize his performance. I may also shoot some tight shots of other players for future use but really, after a couple of innings, I’m starting to drift away.
For me, one sure-fire way of staying engaged is to listen to the ball game play-by-play on a radio. The constant flow of information from the announcer keeps me engaged and involved with the game. Often the announcer gives information and statistics which help me decide what’s important in the game (such as a player that is hitting well, etc.).
Listening to a radio broadcast helps me with any type of game.
Obviously, this strategy works only for those games which are broadcast. I use a cheap AM/FM radio bought at some big-box store a number of years ago. I pair this radio with a cheap but comfortable set of earbuds which let in some outside sound but are still comfortable for hours at a time.
During games which are not broadcast I have occasionally listened to music to drown out any distractions. I don’t do this often but sometimes it just seems necessary. Easy-listening music is not on the playlist.
Hunger is another distraction. By the third or fourth inning of any baseball game I’m starting to get hungry (this may be from boredom or true hunger; doesn’t matter). This is especially true for games at The Orchard, the Yakima Valley Pippins ball park. We almost always shoot from the third- and first-base lines and stand right next to the beer gardens. Watching everyone else eat and drink just makes me want to do the same.
My solution is to pack a Clif Bar or two in my camera bag. A mid-game bar will tide me over through the rest of the game and subsequent photo editing and processing.
The best food is, of course, highly individual. It’s important, though, that the food be non-messy and can be eaten with one hand. That way you can continue to shoot while eating. The last thing you want is to miss a crucial play because you’ve got both hands on a mustard-slathered bratwurst. Yeah, that explanation is not going to sit well with your editor.