Professional photographer, Vincent Pugliese, shares his love of sports, one picture and one memory at a time.
Editors Note: Vincent Pugliese has spent the past 20 years traveling the country taking sports photographs for a living. Each picture tells a story. Each picture stores a memory. Each a window into sport, and how we connect to it. In ‘Beyond the Lens,’ Good Men Project Sports selects one photograph and tells the story behind the shot.
With the MLB opening day on the horizon, we continue our series on the baseball diamond . . . .
NATIONALS PARK, Washington, D.C.
One of the greatest benefits to being a sports photographer is the access that we are afforded by the teams and the leagues we cover. A laminated, cardboard press pass that hangs around my neck provides behind the scenes admittance to the field, outside- and at times inside- the locker rooms, and the tunnels, hallways and spots that are off limits to everyone else.
So you might be surprised to read that I often go back to my roots-to where I started shooting sports-to look for a different kind of image. Like many professional photographers, I started by buying a ticket and bringing my camera to baseball games. I longed for the day when I could make it a career and be on the field with the professionals. But I didn’t realize back then that creative, obscure photographs can me made anywhere. You don’t need to be in the photo well next to the dugout for that.
So, if time allows, I roam the bleachers and stands to find a different kind of image. I was at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. last season to photograph the Nationals take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. From a spot behind the cage during batting practice, I noticed that the Nationals bullpen was directly underneath a row of seats in the right field corner. I observed a swath of beautiful light cascading towards the area as the crowd filed in for the late July game.
My initial pre-game goal was to follow the mascots-all dressed as former U.S. Presidents- but was denied access. But when I thought of the possibility of getting an interesting vantage point to photograph the Nationals star Stephen Strasburg during warmups, I changed course. Getting to the section proved to be a formidable test. I kept cutting down the wrong aisles to a variety of dead ends not close enough to the sweet spot. Strasburg wasn’t in the bullpen yet, instead going through his pre-game stretch in right field.
Making my way closer, I finally arrived to the perfect spot. The security guard smiled towards me which assured me of no resistance. Press pass or not, grumpy security can hinder any photo ideas in this situation. I looked down upon the pitching mound below me. I needed to be a few feet to the left to make this picture sing. The beautiful light I noticed earlier continued to shine, but was dropping quickly. I stood in the perfect spot, but needed the sun to hold still and for Strasburg to move faster.
As if he was on cue, the tall right-hander strode towards the bullpen mound and set up shop. As fans began to swarm to catch a look, I was entrenched in the ideal spot for the image I wanted. The sun hid behind the clouds as he began warmups. Shooting from directly above, it was a cool shot. But not what I envisioned. As Strasburg continued to throw heat, I prayed for sun.
And for a glorious minute or two, the sun appeared, creating gorgeous shadows from the fence and the pitchers body. And on one of the final throws that Strasburg flung, it all came together- light, shadow, composition, color and the moment. And I had my image.
The funny thing is that I didn’t even need a press pass to make this image. I just needed to know that Section 139, at 6:50 p.m., was the place to be.
Photo Credit: Author
This post originally appeared on the Into The Uncommon Blog.