Historic rivalry. That’s how sports writers often describe the tradition of competition between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. Baseball inspired booze-fueled block party is how I refer to any game at Wrigley Field. I lived on Chicago’s north side for two years, and during that period I stumbled among the masses at Clark and Addison more than a few times. Last weekend I returned to the Windy City and was able to catch the marquis event that only happens 9 or 10 times a year: Cubs/Card at Wrigley.
An old friend, Scott Zaleski, found amazing seats for the game. We sat only a few rows behind first base and had a great view of all the action on the field. The seats were so good that the only real advantage press photographers had on me were their $9,000 400mm f/2.8 lenses. That said, I think my Nikon D300 with $785 Nikon 18-200mm VR lens and killer vantage point gave me the opportunity for some great shots.
The photo above is of Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano breaking a bat. I took this shot later in the game when there was a mix of natural and artificial light. To stop as much action as possible, I set the camera to shutter priority mode and dialed in 1/1000th of a second. Since the light was fading, the camera compensated for this quick shutter speed by choosing ISO 1600 and selecting the widest available aperture, f/5.6, on my fully extended Nikon 18-200mm VR lens.
After grabbing a few Old Styles at Murphy’s Bleachers; the gang was ready for some Cubs baseball. In addition to Scott; I attended the game with a fellow Loyola alum, Ross, and also Chris, an old friend from Grand Rapids.
The Cubs put Ryan Dempster on the mound to start the game. He pitched decently well and although he didn’t pick up the win, he kept the Cubs close.
I shot most of the game in manual. I dialed in f/8 as it is reasonably sharp at 200mm (on the 18-200mm VR, the maximum aperture setting at that focal length is f/5.6). To freeze the action, I selected a shutter speed of 1/1600th of a second. With aperture and shutter speed fixed, I let the camera auto choose ISO to get the best exposure using Nikon’s matrix meter.
As the game wore on we started losing natural light. I still wanted to get decently fast shutter speeds, so I switched to shutter priority and dialed in 1/1000th of a second.
After several lead changes, the game was tied at the end of the ninth inning. Aramis Ramirez homered in the bottom of the 11th to secure a walk-off victory for the hometown Cubs. Wrigley erupted and sang a boisterous rendition of “Go Cubs, Go!” as the delighted fans spilled onto the streets and into the local bars.
Update: Portions of this post are now featured in the Chicago Sun-Times blog Sports Pros(e), Photography Class: When cameras meet Confines.