Baseball Spring Training

Intro / Description

I visited Osceola Stadium last Friday with Tom and Vince to watch the Houston Astros play the St. Louis Cardinals in a spring training baseball game.

Houston won 3 – 2.  Jose Altuve played well, going 2-for-3 and scoring two of Houston’s three runs. If you like baseball and are anywhere near Florida in the spring time, it’s a great opportunity to see and photograph many spring training baseball photo ops.

Houston's Jose Altuve (#27) is safe as he slides into 2nd base against St. Louis' Matt Carpenter (#13)
Houston’s Jose Altuve (#27) is safe as he slides into 2nd base against St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter (#13)

Spring training in Florida starts in late February and lasts through March.  Fifteen major league teams play in the “Grapefruit League” at 14 locations over a wide area of the state.  Here’s a link to the list of teams and stadiums on Wikipedia.  This should stay up to date as venues change in the future.

Info for Photographers

Sports photography is a lot of fun.  Results depend on your photography equipment and skills, but also on your knowledge of the game.  The better you understand the game, the more you can anticipate where the action will be.  If you’re not a baseball expert, it helps to go with a friend who is.

You won’t get professional quality photos from the stands because 1) You’ll be in the stands, not on the field.  and 2) They won’t let you bring large lenses into the stadium.  But you can get some nice images.  Here are some hints to help.

Houstons's Brandon Barnes (#2) connects
Houstons’s Brandon Barnes (#2) connects

Photo hints:

At spring training games, you can often get good seats near the action for a more reasonable price than during the regular season.  We sat close to the field near 1st base and had great views of the batter and base runners.

You should always keep both eyes open when photographing.  This is even more important in baseball.  Foul balls often come into the stands and if you see it, you’ll be better able to catch it (or duck).  With practice, you can also keep your camera aimed through the viewfinder, and at the same time watch what’s going on with your other eye.  This will let you anticipate the action so you can press the shutter at the right time.  Make sure your camera is in continuos high speed mode, start  shooting before you think you need to and keep the shutter pressed until you’re sure the action is over. Be careful about reviewing your photos on the back of your camera – you could miss a great play, or you could get hit by a foul ball!

Shutter speed and frame rate:  A baseball ball moves at 90-100 mph when pitched and may be even faster when hit.  This can mean up to 14 or 15 feet of travel between frames even if you can shoot at 10 frames per second.  If you’re zoomed in tight on the action, you may not ever see the ball in the frame.  Keep your frame rate as high as possible and zoom out a bit – then crop some in post.  Similarly, you’ll need a shutter speed faster than 1/1000 sec. to get a somewhat sharp image of the ball, since it can travel a couple of inches in that time.  Up your ISO to get the speed you need  – faster is better.  I shot between 400 and 800 ISO on a bright, sunny day.

Tripod/Monopod:  Nope.

Lenses: They’ll look at your camera equipment when you enter and generally only allow smaller lenses.  They don’t want you scooping the pro photographers down on the field.  So you’ll have to leave your 300mm f/2.8 at home.  This is a good place to use a micro 4/3 camera if you have one along with a 300mm zoom lens.  You won’t be able to throw the background out of focus like the pros do, but the setup will give you enough reach.  If you’re using a DSLR, you can usually get in with a 70-300mm zoom.

Best time to visit:  Late February through March.

Other:

Baseball has long periods of not much happening interspersed with seconds of intense activity.  Anticipate and be ready.  You might get more keepers if you pick the kind of shot you want next, based on what’s going on in the game.   Pre-focus on the spot where you think the action is going to happen and wait for it.  For instance, I concentrated on batters until I got a couple of photos I liked, then I shifted to base running to catch some action there, and so on.

This is Florida – the sun can be very intense even in the spring, so bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.  Enjoy yourself and the game.

Houston's Justin Maxwell (#44) snags a fly ball
Houston’s Justin Maxwell (#44) snags a fly ball

Summary

If you like baseball, Florida in the springtime is the place to be.  Even if you’re not that big a baseball fan, photographing a game can be challenging and fun.

You can click the photos above to see larger versions on Flickr.  There’s a link to more photos in the table below.

My Gallery / Flickr photo set: Spring training set on Flickr
Website: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/tickets/spring_training.jsp 
Address / Phone: Multiple, see this link on Wikipedia
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating:  Hot dogs, peanuts, baseball, and photography – what more could you want?

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

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