An AP photographer explains why a good action photo is often about the cropping

Why This photo?

SEATTLE (AP) — In baseball, the postgame Gatorade bucket dunk is a common occurrence after a big win, such as a walk-off. It’s something we anticipate and prepare to make photos of after each home win just in case, but you never know exactly how it’s going to play out.

While we need to photograph and send the “regular” action as part of the game report, I’m glad anytime I can highlight nice light, details or reactions when covering baseball. Here, the photo of Mitch Haniger’s actual game-winning hit was nothing special. In this case, the reaction was what we were after.

How I made this photo

While the chosen Mariners player is getting interviewed postgame, we keep an eye on the dugout directly to our left to see if anyone picks up a Gatorade bucket to douse their teammate. Midway through, I saw shortstop J.P. Crawford grab a bucket.

In Seattle, because the television cameras that are used to film the postgame interviews are located along the first base well — the area where the photographers work next to the dugout — we are mostly stuck trying to make images from that space. We’re usually just hoping to find a window where we don’t get blocked by the on-field reporter and don’t block the TV cameras (a cardinal sin).

I’m always trying to find ways to make clean images out of chaos. Postgame I will sometimes choose to stay with a 70-200mm lens, keeping the shutter speed over 1/1000th, and get as low as I can. This helps maximize the amount of clean sky in the background and creates more separation than a wider 16-35mm lens. Sometimes it’s a tradeoff, and I sacrificed a nice full-body water dunk photo for the above image.

Why the photo works

Cropping, cropping, cropping. It’s a huge part of sports photography and this photo was no exception. Sometimes you make the photo within the crop — without it, it’s an average or even throwaway image. If you can find the right crop, it can make all the difference. Two of my best baseball photos from last season also came from extreme crops that I’m glad I found — otherwise they might be in the trash.

As Haniger was dodging the water, he ended up in the middle of a wonky frame. I chose to push in quite a bit to focus more on his expression, straighten the image and toss the distracting elements.

While I like peak action as much as the next person, sometimes the penultimate moment can be fun as well. We can see the anticipation and a bit of a wince as Haniger tries to cheekily dodge the blob of water headed towards him. A lot of sports is really about the emotion. ___ For more extraordinary AP photography, click here.

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