Taking a shot at history
Published: Wednesday, August 8, 2007 at 4:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 8, 2007 at 4:33 p.m.
Whatís it take to record a piece of history?
For award-winning staff photographer John Burgess, it took 16 days, 13 games, trips to Los Angeles and San Diego and one postponed family vacation.
The defining moment came Tuesday night, when Barry Bonds hit his record-breaking 756th home run. Burgessí images on pressdemocrat.com and in The Press Democrat show Bonds from every angle and reflect countless hours of preparation and the use of digital technology in bringing the best images to readers.
ďI believe that historical events need a sense of place to them. So I donít believe in shooting a photograph of him doing that really tight so itís just him and the swing. I want to see where he is and what stadium heís in.Ē
In his own words, hereís how he did it.
GETTING THE SHOT
I go about four hours before the game. Normally this wouldnít take so long, but with everyone else there it took much longer to set up the cameras.
Iím running five cameras total so two are on radio remotes (cameras at fixed locations operated by a radio signal), one set up inside, meaning behind the plate along the third base line ó thatís the image that appeared on the sports page ó and thereís one outside first, beyond the first base line. That camera allows you to see (Bondsí) face when he swings.
I have two regular cameras and one that Iím triggering with a star filter. On top of my regular camera, where a flash would go, there is a radio so when I trigger my camera (with my right hand), it fires off the other two remote cameras. Then in my left hand I have another trigger that fires off the one with the star filter.
The key to that (the camera with the star filter) is you have to make it slow because the longer you keep it open the more flashes you see go off (from fans). Thatís a half-second exposure there, whereas all the other cameras are five one-hundredths of a second.
The hard part is to keep your focus after this many at-bats. You want the ball in the frame ó and itís not in the frame for more than half of a second. The cameras fire at eight frames a second. If youíre off by just a quarter of a second, youíre lost.
The cameras are mounted on clamps and reticulated arms so you can move them into position. The remotes are prefocused on the plate and then we all tape them down.
TV cameras will interfere with the frequencies and that affects the remote cameras. The previous day the remotes did not fire at all because the signal was interrupted, so this time I put the radio signal up higher in the air.
After I photographed him hitting the ball, I picked up a camera with a 70-200-millimeter lens and started shooting as he headed to first base. But after three frames it froze ó the dreaded Error 99. I know to fix it you pull out the battery and reset the camera. So I did that and was still able to shoot him with the scoreboard in the background and crossing home plate.
Once he crossed home plate I then switched one of those lenses to a very long lens, a 400-millimeter lens, to get the front page shot of him raising his arms.
The photographers that were located with me, weíre locked inside a netted enclosure inside the Washington Nationals dugout. So we canít get out until after the inning is over.
The Sacramento Bee photographer went to pick up the discs from one remote area and I ran ó and you run as fast as you can ó to the outside remotes and pulled those discs from there (to be transferred into a laptop computer).
The computer is set up so when it brings the photos in, the caption is already in place embedded in all the photos. On these cameras you have all the previous swings, so you have to scroll down to where he hits it.
I sent 19 photos in about half an hour. Normally I would take 5 minutes on a photo ... and clean them up. In this case you have a work flow where you automatically correct all the color and send it.
Itís extremely stressful. Itís even stressful setting up the cameras before the game.
Weíre (transmitting) images from a small room underneath the stadium from behind home plate. The WiFi signal is not good in our cement bunker under there, so when Iím ready to send, I have to run across to a food court to send my pictures.
The signature shot came from a remote camera with the ball going out.
ďIím really happy that I saw history and was able to be there. Iíve covered Bonds since he first arrived (in Ď93). Iíve shot pretty much all his major homeruns. For me, I wanted to finish his career and make a complete package.Ē
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.
Comments are currently unavailable on this article