Covering Baseball with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
I first tested out the OM-D EM-1 Mark II at football because I know that really nothing compares to football in terms of needing to cover a whole field, needing fast focus, having isolated action and crowded action. I also tested it at a basketball game to test out it's low light indoor action performance. Those scenarios were enough to convince me that this system could be my only system for sports. Since buying my own, I've had football games and basketball games galore, not to mention countless events and portrait sessions. But now that the season is changing, I'm finally getting to test it out at some other sports! Like America's past time, baseball!
Football can be fun and big and bold, basketball can be fast and flashy, but baseball can really be beautiful.
To be honest, it took me some time to fall in love with baseball. I never played as a kid and the games, since I didn't understand them, seemed boring. Just as football fans think soccer is boring. But then you start to see intricacies, mental element, sliding plays, sense of camaraderie in the dugout, and suddenly you realize why so many people love baseball!
I wasn't sure how shooting baseball with the Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II would be different. I knew I would love shooting in the daylight but I didn't realize how much I would enjoy C-AF+Tracking. For the most part, I prefer C-AF and find it more accurate, but C-AF+Tracking is perfect for baseball. Normally, I would focus on the batters face and lock focus. Using continuous focus, it might hop to the bat. That would be great if their face was in the same plan as the bat's focus point or for a ball-on-bat or broken bat photo, but often in a hit, you want to prioritize the players face being in focus. But, then if you focus on the batter's face as they are at bat, you still risk losing focus because believe it or not, their face isn't stationary as they swing! With C-AF+Tracking, I could lock in on the the batter's face and it would continually adjust to keep the face as the focus point.
Though it can't do anything about ugly background and I'm not sure if the electronic shutter is what is making the bat look bendy in this photo.
Being someone who always felt that apart from the outfield, baseball was better suited for a 300mm (35mm equivalent) than a 400mm, I was surprised how much I loved the 300mm (600mm 35mm equivalent) and it didn't feel too tight. And meant I could get fun photos like this where you see the reflect in coaches glasses without it being a wide angle and risk also seeing ME in the reflection.
And some nice outfield plays.
Everything you see in this blog post was with the 300mm F4...Though it did mean I cut off some heads. I had brought my wide and a 70-200 which you can see in the full set.
I also took advantage of the articulating screen. As I was covering the pitcher, I wasn't liking where the yellow outfield fence line was intercepting the pitcher's torso, so instead of trying to stand or hunch all game, I found I could shoot with the camera angled a little lower and using the screen instead of the EVF to frame the shot. You can see the difference below. Fence line included for reference but you can see it could have been easily cropped out for a much cleaner image.
What makes a photographer ok vs good, is being intentional. If you like the line because it adds an element, sure, great, if you don't like the line because you want the image to be as "clean" as possible, sure, great. But whatever it is, be INTENTIONAL about what's in your frame.
Worth noting, I'm not sure if it's because I was shooting every pitch and every at-bat, but while I can get through a basketball game on one battery, I don't think I could have made it through a whole baseball game on one and was very glad for the grip to hop to the 2nd battery which was plenty. But if you don't have a grip, I would definitely recommend having a spare battery ready. Especially because the torture that baseball can sometimes deliver: extra innings! Thankfully we avoided them this game.
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