The 2012 World Championship San Francisco Giants Parade Pt. 2 of 4

Hello all!! I’m back as promised to continue sharing some of my favorite shots taken from my stake out spot on Market St during the parade. So, let’s get right to it!!

First off for tonight, we have Bill Neukom, who up through 2011 was one of the team’s managing partners. Although his duties have now come to rest on the capable hands of Larry Baer, Neukom is still very visible in the Giants organization and will be remembered as a crucial element to that 2010 World Championship winning team.

We love you too, Bill!!

Next up on the parade route was no other than Gaylord Perry. Perry was with the Giants from 1962-71 and even threw a no-hitter in 1968. Famous for doctoring balls with Vaseline for his famous spit ball, he went on to do great things after released by the Giants, but still to this day is synonymous with all the greats that have worn the uniform. I was fortunate enough to catch Gaylord looking right over to me while he waved, so it made this image feel very personal.

Ol’ Spit Ballin’ Perry!!!

Following Perry in the parade was Orlando “The Baby Bull” Cepeda. Orlando played with the Giants from 1958-66 at a time when a good number of the GREATS of all time in baseball were playing with the Giants. In a land full of talent, Cepeda managed to hold his own. Always with a hefty batting average throughout his career with the Giants, Cepeda will be synonymous with all the Giants greats for all time. His likeness is commemorated just outside of the 2nd and King St entrance to the ballpark, which happens to be one of our favorite gates for bobble head giveaway games!!

The Baby Bull

After playing with the Giants almost his entire career, it’s a shame that Juan Marichal only saw one World Series game during his career. Juan Marichal was known for his high leg kicks and pinpoint control with his pitches. A Giant all to his own, Marichal was one of the most feared pitchers of his time. His likeness will always be remembered in the bronze statue featuring his high leg kick windup over by the 3rd street China Basin entrance to AT&T near the 3rd street drawbridge.

Badass Juan Marichal

Of all the living legends that have worn the Giants uniform, who would you leave for last before bringing in the World Championship team? WILLIE MAYS, OF COURSE!!! There isn’t enough room on this blog to say all the accolades that has earned. He is and forever will be THE GIANT!! Today’s players are very fortunate to still have him around for knowledge sake and the fans young and old always scream for the Say Hey Kid!! We love you, Willie!!

SAY HEY, WILLIE!!

First up from the 2012 World Championship San Francisco Giants was the longest tenured General Manager in all of Major League Baseball. Obviously, Brian Sabean knows what he’s doing at the helm of the Giants roster and has weather the storm through many years where we didn’t even clinch the division. Apparently, Brian only had one finger working throughout the entire parade. Lucky for us, it was his fore finger letting us know who’s number one!!! Keep doing what you’re Sabes!!

Is that Sabean showing off a huge booger?!?!? Nope, he’s just letting the world know where we stand, baby!!!

Next up was a faux-cable car filled with a number of scouts that were instrumental in scouting the opponents throughout the 2012 season. The most familiar face in the bunch, and what I am constantly told to be one of the sexiest guys ever by my wife, was none other than Pat Burrell from the 2010 Worlds Series Championship team. Very much like he was during the 2010 parade, Pat was sporting his beer and cheering everyone in sight. While I couldn’t drink along with you, Pat, we’ve got nothing but love for you.

Pat the Bat!!

Next up in the parade line was the longest tenured staff member of the Giants, our awesome Clubhouse Manager, Mike Murphy. Mike has been with the Giants since their inaugural year in San Francisco 1958 as a bat boy. Obviously, Mike has moved passed that supporting role to another, but he is just as instrumental to the team as any of the other coaches. Don’t be fooled by the calm demeanor that Murph usually displays when sitting on the bench. My father-in-law played with Mike back in the day when they were both much younger, and Mike was just as unruly a player as the best of them today. To a man who clearly knows the game through and through, here’s to you Murph!!

The Murph and the Grandson. Live it up, kid!!

Here come the big guns, folks!! The first car with the 2012 coaching staff had none other than Mark Gardner and Dave Righetti. Mark played with the Giants from 1995-2001 and is currently our bullpen coach, which should come with a separate award all of its own with the class clowns that we have down there. Somehow Mark manages to get their “working hats” on and has the BEST bullpen in all of baseball, as is apparent with two WS rings in three years. Dave spent the majority of his career with the Yankees, but we won’t hold that against him today!! Dave has the arduous task of being the Giants starting rotation pitching coach, which can’t be easy at all. With responsibility over The Freak, Zeets, MadBum, Vogie and The Horse, you would start to wonder if you could actually walk out to the mound for a clutch out and talk those pitchers down from their emotions to focus on the task at hand. Dave, you are the man!!!

A Pair of Pitching Coaches…

Next up was Hensley Meulens and Ron Wotus in the parade lineup. Hensley came up to the Big Leagues after coaching the AAA Grizzlies in Fresno in 2010 and the departure of Carney Landsford. He must have made a difference, cause we won the whole damn thing in 2010 and again in 2012. Hensley keep doing your thing!!! Ron Wotus has been our bench coach since 1999, and doing a damn good job at it too, if you ask me. Luckily, Bochy isn’t a hot head, so he doesn’t see a lot of action as the backup manager, but is crucial for all the in-fielding coaching and scouting information. You guys are tops!!

That’s all you get for tonight folks!! I’ll be back again tomorrow to share some more coaches, leading up to the general manager, including a couple of crazy pictures of stuff that I didn’t think should have been part of our celebration parade and maybe even get to show a few players. Stay tuned and good night!!

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The 2012 San Francisco Giants World Series Championship Parade on Market Street Was Nothing Short of Magical!!!… Pt.1 of 4

I’ve been a Giants fan a relatively short amount of time compared to most baseball fans that grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Whether you grew up in the city, on the Marin side or even down in the San Mateo Peninsula, chances are that your team from birth was the Giants. If you grew up in the East Bay, chances are you grew up an A’s fan, and there is nothing wrong with that folks!! I very much rooted for the A’s in their postseason run and would have loved to see another Bay Bridge Series hoping that this time it would end differently than it did in 1989. Unfortunately, the A’s season came to an end and they will have another shot at it come 2013. But the Giants, MY GIANTS, took it to the house yet again in an even more fantastic fashion than they did in 2010.

With a completely different roster as they did in 2010, the only constant in the groove as it was in 2010 was that every game was another player’s time to shine. When you have a team FULL of the game’s best, it’s only a matter of time before MLB Jesus looks down upon you and says “It’s your turn to shine, my son!!” There was nothing warm and fuzzy about the way the Giants made it to the big dance, but the team reminded everyone as each elimination game went on, “We will not go silently into the night!!” The 2010 season was the magic of making it to the World Series with a haphazard group of misfits that somehow managed to pull it through. The 2012 season was determined to go into the post season early on, and they Giants were amongst the first to reach their playoff berth. The fact that we pushed each series to the elimination point and never gave up is the story to take away from this 2012 season. But yet another reminder that Giants “TORTURE” is forever!!!

As I may have mentioned in a previous posting, I was born and raised in Miami, FL. As offspring of a Cuban household where even my dad was a feared left-handed pitcher in the high school leagues in Havana, having been born and raised in Miami meant that I was a Yankees fan. WTF, you say?!?!?!?! Very true!! I learnt early on in my childhood that not a whole lot made sense as far as what the Cuban community believed and the reasons behind it, but I can tell you that I would grow up expected to root for the Yankees and vote Republican. I did neither, folks!!

Just a few years ago I had the opportunity to visit some family in Havana over a long weekend. I was surprised that one of my little cousins that was big into baseball was very knowledgable of all the key players currently playing and of days past. Not only him, but a number of his friends were really into the Yankees as well. I think it astonished them more to hear that I didn’t really care for the Yankees in comparison with my shock of them being so up to date with the happenings of the ballclub.

The Florida Marlins, as they were called then, debuted when I was almost getting done with high school and girls had priority of my attention span during that time. I played baseball when I got the chance and was usually on the street playing stickball twice a week, but there really wasn’t a team that I was following. After doing a few years of college at the University of Miami, I moved up to Baltimore to finish up my Bachelors there. I was there in town as Cal Ripken was going for the record of most games played consecutively and could feel the electricity all around Camden Yards whenever it was game time. Still, I refrained and just watched from the outside.

In Baltimore I met my wife, and when it was obvious that we would be moving to San Francisco after the birth of our son, I never thought that the Giants would be a part of the equation. I came out and fell in love with the town. That was in 2000. In 2002, the Giants went to the World Series with the California Angels of Anaheim. The Giants lost, but as the family was huddled around the TV squirming with every bad play and ugly swing off Francisco Rodriguez’s off speed pitches, I was still an outsider looking in. It would take another few years for me to get fully vested and be able to call myself a real Giants fan through and through. By 2007, we were averaging about a dozen games a season. We haven’t looked back and made it to almost two dozen games this year. When not in attendance at beautiful AT&T Park, you can find us glued to either a TV or a radio listening to the play by-play.

It was a given that we would be in attendance for the 2010 Parade to celebrate with the rest of the city, but we opted the route of heading over to Civic Center and camp out in front of City Hall where the parade was slotted to end. It was awesome, but it was a mess. We had taken our 10-year-old out of school that day and headed down to a crazy mob of pot smokers where it was impossible to get away from it. I don’t have a problem with people’s habits and am certainly not one to tell anyone else how to live their lives. But when I can’t seem to get away from it and I’m afraid that my kid is going to get a contact high, I get pissed. So, when it was time to go down to the 2012 Parade, I was skeptical about how it would all unfold.

Luckily, an uncle had headed down first thing in the morning and had landed a great spot on Market St with only one person between himself and the barricades. We headed down to meet him and took the camera along for the ride. Lucky for me, I had a rather short man in front of me, so I was able to shoot over his head almost the entire parade without being a nuisance to anyone. Some of these images are great. My camera gear tends to get me noticed, and this occasion was no exception. In certain images, I managed to even lock lens-to-eye contact with a few players and coaches, which was great. I’ve got to get myself some media credentials…

As the parade started coming down Market Street, the first to appear was the Mounted Officers from the San Francisco Police Department. I loved how all the horses were sporting their baseball caps under their head-gear and even had spray on “SF” decals on their hind legs. Here they are in formation.

The Horses

Horse said “wazzzuuuppp”, Camera said “wazzzzuuup” back…

We are a very fortunate fan base to have the best TV and radio announcers in the entire sport. On the TV side, we have Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper who work their magic every day. These guys are funny!! They compliment each other in every way and are a joy to listen to. On the radio side, we have the highly awarded John Miller and the new kid on the block, Dave Fleming. John loves giving the listener all the detail of everything that is happening along with colorful historical commentary and makes it a joy to listen to him. Dave will forever be tied to Giants history with his cracked voice call of Edgar Renteria’s home run in game 5 in Texas.

In this image I was able to capture Dave Fleming and Duane Kuiper as they were on my side of the double-decker bus. Although we didn’t get to see John and Mike, I’ll throw a shout out to them as well. Shout!!!

Dave and Kuip!! As an announcer, Kuip ‘hits it high…hits it deep…IT’S OUTTA HERE!!!!”

Had I been a fan of any other ball club prior to moving to San Francisco and becoming one of the Giants faithful, perhaps I would have found it odd to have a female announcer at the ballpark. Lucky for me, I wasn’t. Renel Brooks-Moon IS the voice of the San Francisco Giants. She brings the level of excitement that the fans feel at each and every home game. I feel sorry for all the other ball parks out there when I visit and listen to the morose sounding announcers calling the next batter to the plate.

Renel, I am sure that I speak for the entire GIANTS NATION when I say  “WE LOVE YOU!!!”

Do the FIST PUMP!!

On the Comcast end of the ballpark coverage, you can usually spot Amy Gutierrez walking around the ballpark getting all sorts of screams and shots by all the fans. Definitely a favorite with the ball players alike, Amy is in the dugout trying not to get Romo-bombed during interviews.

AMY!!!

For fear of going on and on, I will cut the post here tonight and come back tomorrow with some more images of ownership, coaches and past players that are still very prominent in the Giants community. Look forward to continue sharing this awesome event with everyone, especially if you were unable to attend. Good night all!!

The San Francisco Giants Go For The Sweep In Houston on 8/30/12

Hello everyone!! I’m back!!!

I’ve been fairly busy with even a business trip that took me to Houston, TX to visit with one of our suppliers from Mexico who is entertaining a joint venture with one of my US customers. Whereas at any other moment, I would shrug at the idea of going to Houston for any period of time, this trip ended up being one of the few exceptions where I would actually be looking forward to heading out. It wasn’t until a few days before my trip that I was thinking about the trip on the commute ride home as I was listening to KNBR sports radio and the hosts were talking about the upcoming Giants road trip that would take them to Houston for three evening games. All of the sudden, the lightbulb went off over my head, and just like that, I turned that frown upside down!! It turned out that I would be free of any plans for the Thursday night game, so I hopped on the internet to secure a ticket.

What does $50 buy you? Well, at AT&T park in San Francisco, $50 can buy you a field level ticket in the outfield down either baseline, an outfield club level seat in the waaay outfield or possible a real nice view reserve box seat in the infield, but you’d still be in the third deck. What does $50 buy you at Minute Maid Park in Houston? Well, being that the Astros are quite possibly MLB’s worst team yet again this year, I was able to secure a second row seat on field level one section over from right behind home plate!! I was right in front of the visitor’s on-deck circle and just off from the visitor’s dugout. It was awesome!!!

Quite a number of players are actually pretty friendly and will acknowledge fans calling out to them. Obviously, they seem to perfectly deaf to all hecklers, but if you are encouraging them, you might even get a wave. Hunter Pence was among the few that actually made eye contact with fans and genuinely greeted them. I got a wave from Hunter and a nod of the head by Sandoval, Pagan and Blanco.

The Giants pulled out the win after falling behind early on. Minute Maid park is a beautiful place to see a game. The roof was closed, so the temperature was just right. The food options were great!! Parking was easy and I was in and out without any problems. I look forward to the next opportunity to head down to Houston during baseball season to see another game, even if it doesn’t involve my beloved Giants.

Anyway, I took the camera along and was able to get into the ballpark with my Tokina 100-300mm lens, even though the website listing for maximum camera lens length stated 4.5 inches. At four and a half inches, I think I would have only been able to bring along a Canon 135mm fixed prime lens, and hopefully sneak in an extender to get me some additional length. Luckily, I decided to call the media relations department and ended up speaking with someone that said that I wouldn’t have any problems as long as I wasn’t entering the ballpark with either a tripod or monopod. Like the man said, I showed up to the front door and had my back inspected and the young lady waved me through. I wasn’t going to stop and ask questions, so I went on through.

After getting to my seat and pulling out the camera, the Astros fans sitting next to me asked if I was with the Giants. After finding out that only in my wildest dreams would that be the case, he went on to mention how he had been given nothing but grief when he tried to bring in something much smaller, but over the 4.5 inch rule. Well, I didn’t want to attract too much attention to myself as the ushers walked up and down the aisles, so I made sure to only have the camera up to my face just as I was about to shoot a couple of pictures. It worked out just fine and no one said a word to me.

Here are a few of my favorite images from that game. I hope you enjoy them. Good night all!!

Note to self: Unless Sitting in the Front Row of Field Level During A Giants Day Game, Leave the Camera At Home!!

Hello again, everyone!!

I’m back safe and sound from Mexico. Yep, I remember that I mentioned that I’d be writing you guys on Saturday. I came home pretty exhausted from this whirlwind trip to various parts of Mexico and just wanted to veg. Of course, part of that vegging plan included going to the Giants games on Friday and Saturday nights. Now, I was flying back into SFO and scheduled to touch down at 5:37pm, yet I was still able to make it to see the first pitch, and this included a pit stop at home to drop off my luggage. How did I magically go through customs, immigration, luggage and stop off at home in less than an hour and a half to make the first pitch? The Global Entry Program from the US Customs Border Patrol Department. I freakin’ love that thing. It is completely worth every penny of the slightly over $100 that my company paid to get me on the list. The Global Entry Program allows pre-screened individuals that travel frequently abroad to access a ATM-like kiosk that asks all the same questions as the customs forms that the flight attendants hand out during the flight. The pre-screening involves an extensive background search along with submission of finger printing. SO, when the flight gets off, I bypass the long line at Immigration and head straight over to the kiosks. There is never a wait and I breeze right through the process.

Although I usually check my luggage in, this time I chose to upgrade to the first row of economy, which has extra leg room and allows for boarding on group 5 on United instead of general boarding in groups 6 or 7 where space in the overhead compartments starts to get scarce. So, I was able to get on with the bag and was one of the first to get off since there weren’t many first class passengers on my flight. The Global Entry Program also lets you breeze right through Customs, so I got waved by as usual.

Although I didn’t take the camera on Friday night cause I knew we were sitting waaaay to far from the game to make my little 300mm zoom Tokina worthwhile, I did take it with me on Saturday when we were in Club Level in my company’s seats. But, as you can probably gather from my post title tonight, I wasn’t too pleased with the results. I always end up talking myself into bringing the camera along when we sit there, and almost always end up disappointed. So, I am solemnly promising myself that I won’t do that to myself again. That is, until I do it to myself again… Argh!!!!

The problem is that I am asking the lens to do too much. Not only am I asking for it to zoom to its limit, but then I am also asking for it to focus spot onto an object pretty far away and expect it to be as tack sharp as if the object was ten feet in front of me. So, most of my pictures came out soft on the slightly out of focus attempt for my lens to please me. I tried manual focusing a few times during the game, and those came out even worse. Everything looks so small in the viewfinder, I’m almost better off letting the lens take a stab at it.

So, what would work from the 222 Club Section that I was sitting in? Well, about 500-600mm should do just fine. But, since that would put me into some serious glass in the L series lens for Canon lenses, I would be limited to perhaps a 400mm f/5.6 L with a 1.4X extender or a 500mm f/8 mirror reflex manual focus lens. Neither option would be suitable for a nighttime game with poor lighting, hence, my title reminding myself that I should leave the camera at home.

I did try to make the best of it and try different composition methods in an effort to get something useful. One thing that I discovered is that when shooting baseball, I always find myself with the camera in the portrait position instead of the landscape position. Why is that? Well, since most players are standing upright while playing whatever position they are currently at, the portrait position lends to capture the full body doing whatever it is doing. I suppose of the player was sliding into a base, that would be a perfect opportunity to use the landscape position, but short of that, I hardly find myself wanting that compositional point of view. So, I decided to shoot mostly landscape to see what I would come up with.

The shots of the pitchers were lackluster, to say the least. Where I did find that I rather liked the landscape framing was when shooting batters. I am usually so focused on shooting the batter of my choosing, that I forget that right behind them the opposing team’s catcher is playing his position along with the home plate umpire that is calling the game. I found that photographing this way, I could fill the frame with not only the batter, but with the catcher and umpire as well. There are plenty of dynamic photo opportunities with passed balls, wild pitches, called strikes and swings and tips off the baseball bat.

Did I capture plenty of samples to share with you? Yuuup!!! Did most of them SUCK ASS cause they were out of focus??? Yuuuup, again!!! So, I leave with you with the two that I didn’t absolutely hate.

Did I mention that I won’t be taking my camera to anything but day games when I sit in the front rows of the Field Level? Good night, everyone…

Wrigley Field, Badass Deep Dish Pizza and, oh yeah, Happy Father’s Day!!

Happy Father’s Day to all!!

I was a little side-tracked last night working on a few things in the garage while listening to the Giants very sad game in Seattle and ended up not posting anything new last night. I know, I’m a baaaaaad person. Ok, I had a moment and got over it…

I had a great Father’s Day today. Not only did I get an egg in a basket for breakfast, which is one of my favorites, but we ended up going into San Francisco to hang around the Ferry Building and take pictures. I’ll be posting a few of those images later this week, so stay tuned.

Tonight I thought I would take you back to my Chicago trip last week and share a few images from my first trip to Wrigley Field. Unfortunately, the Cubs were in Milwaukee playing the Brewers while I was in town, so I wasn’t able to experience Wrigley Field in person. There seemed to be some sort of stage being erected in center field for a concert the next day, but I didn’t catch the name of the performing act. I did, however, notice in tonight’s game in Chicago against the Red Sox the amount of damage that the stage caused to the outfield greens. I’m sure there were a few people on the grounds keeping staff that were horrified with the state of the outfield tonight. The good news is that it will grow back in no time.

I was meeting up a couple of friends that I had met over the phone a few years back and were finally getting to meet them in person. After making my way over to their neck of the woods, we hung out at their place for a beer as we decided what we were doing for dinner. Since dusk was quickly approaching, we didn’t hang for long and headed out the door. Of course, my trusty camera was along for the ride. Their place turned out to be within walking distance of Wrigley, so we ditched the car in a parking lot and huffed it over.

We did make it to the marquis before the sun went down, so I was able to take a few shots before we went off to eat. With sufficient light still to be had, I decided on the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens. After hanging around there and stopping at the Cubs dugout store, we headed for deep dish pizza at D’Agostino’s. I figured that going to Chicago for the first time and not trying deep dish would be almost criminal, so when they asked what I was in the mood for, that was the first thing out of my mouth. Good thing, cause they knew just the place to go and it was one of their favorite spots.

That pizza was amazing!! I have never been a fan of the deep dish pizza. On top of that, there’s a chain of deep dish pizza places in the East Bay that we occasionally order from when the company picks up lunch the day before a long weekend or something like that, and it always leaves me with serious heartburn. But, this deep dish was awesome!!! I had two slices, and boy were they big, and I never do that!!! The outer crust was almost flaky like a pastry. It was light and just enough to have all the ingredients in the pizza be the main attraction. DAMN THAT WAS GOOD PIZZA. Good thing I don’t live there, cause I’d be waaaay fatter thanks to awesome deep dish.

By the time we headed back, the sun was down, so I whipped out the Sigma 50mm f/1.4. The nighttime shots were taken with this lens using my old school method of zooming in and out called walking.

A few years back, I was fortunate enough to be in Boston when the Red Sox were in town, so I did whatever needed to be done to buy a seat and watch them pummel on the Angels. I even went as far as performing Google searches on images from the seats to see which view I wanted. I found what I wanted, bought the tickets, and as I sat in the seats watching the game unfold in front of me, the whole experience of sitting in Fenway watching the Red Sox was enough to bring my eyes to water. Yuuup, I’m an emotional baby like that.

So, with Wrigley Field being the second oldest stadium still in existence and all the history that has been seen and played in that stadium, I expected to be overwhelmed with emotion at the sight of the marquis. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. I was almost left thinking to myself “is that it?!?!?!?” I mentioned this to a Cubs faithful later on in the trip, and he told me that there must be something wrong with me. He’s probably right!!!

Well, now that I think long and hard about it (that’s what she said), I probably didn’t get the reaction that I was expecting from the experience since it wasn’t a game day. Game day brings a level of excitement unlike anything else. There would have been rabid fans running all over the place, there would have been the smell of ballpark favorites cooking in the air, and foot traffic thick enough to it make it difficult to make it to your seats. So, yes, I was missing a LOT from this Wrigley experience.

I’m sure that once I head back to Chicago and time it right so that the Cubs are in town, I’ll have news to report. I’ll get that teary eye for Wrigley, even if I have to hang out in front of the guy cutting the onions, folks!!!

What Do You Get When You Mix a Jet Pack, Panda Gloves, a Badass Catch and 14 Strikeouts?? A FREAKIN’ PERFECT GAME!!!!

Holy Shit!! We just saw Matt Cain pitch the first ever PERFECT GAME for the Giants organization in its more than 125 year history!!! It was amazing!! It was a once in a lifetime!! It was MATT CAIN!!!

He was on fire from the get-go and was mowing the Astros down one after another. On top of that, the Giants offense was on their A game and were scoring crooked numbers in the first 5 innings. It wasn’t until the 7th inning that Gregor Blanco made the most awesome catch ever that it started to feel really special. After that, it was almost a given that tonight could only have one ending. That would be of a PERFECT GAME!!

Out after out, Matty just kept mowing them down. I must give props to Melky Cabrera for two great catches, Brandon Crawford for an off balance throw in the top of the 9th and Joaquin Aria’s final throw to first for the final out.

The magic that was felt in that stadium rivaled any of the post season games leading up to the 2010 World Series win. The crowd stayed behind after the game and didn’t start to clear for at least half an hour. The electricity felt in the stadium was incredible, but no one was talking about the inevitable. If you talk about it, you jinx it.

We were fortunate to witness history and only because I had a feeling earlier today and decided to talk my family into going to the game. I am so glad that my “feeling” worked out. When I usually have that feeling, all that ends up happening is really bad gas…

So, to explain these photos. There was a guy out in McCovey Cove that was trying out a water propelled jet pack. He got plenty of attention early on and was even featured on the big screen in the park in between innings. Panda slid into second head first. The streak in the warning track in front of the VISA sign is where Blanco performed a belly flop catch that saved the perfect game. The rest of them are pretty self-explanatory. There was all kinds of love going on as soon as the last out was recorded. The Astros saw a lot of called third strikes from this ump…

Oh, by the way, I rented the Canon 200mm f/1.8 L with the 2X extender for the game since it was available on the shelf at Gasser’s when I passed by. If you are thinking about that setup, please don’t get it. The extender degraded all the images to the point that they are nothing be fuzzy. On top of that, I was too far away to really use the 200mm range effectively. The images taken with the lens by itself came out great and sharp. That is one badass lens. Just don’t pair it with a 2X extender. I’m sure that a 1.4X may not be as bad while still giving you a little extra reach, but I chose wrong with the 2X extender.

This lens would probably be excellent for indoor sports, such as basketball and volleyball, where you can get somewhat close that a 200mm lens would be appropriate. I suppose if I was sitting in the media pits at AT&T park, that I would also consider the 200mm lens, but I don’t have that luxury YET…

I witnessed history tonight, folks, and it was awesome!!

Memorial Day With The San Francisco Giants

Is there a better way to spend your Memorial Day Holiday than at AT&T Park with the San Francisco Giants? I think not, mon frere!! Not only is San Francisco usually the host of one of our armed forces branches, but we get to show them our appreciation for the duties they perform every day and pay a salute to those soldiers that have paid the ultimate price for the freedom that we all enjoy here in this great country of ours. Take all that and wrap it up with a nice ballgame against a divisional rival and you have the recipe for THE ONLY way you should spend your Memorial Day Holiday!! The only thing missing to make this more American is to get the freakin’ apple pie out!! We should have stopped at McDonald’s on the way to the park…

Anyway, we went to the ballgame today and had a great show. The Giants struck fast and hard, and Zito threw an awesome game. We held the lead the entire game and got him another W!!

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I picked up a Canon 300mm f/2.8 L along with a Canon 2X extender from Adolph Gasser on Friday and was able to use their fabulous 40% discount program to rent it for the weekend. The only plans for the lens combo was today’s game, but at such an attractive price, it was totally worth it. Today we sat in section 302 row 6, which is a far down the first base line as you can go in the view reserve. We did have seats in row 6, which were good, but had a group of clueless people down in the few rows below us that couldn’t have found their seat if their lives depended on it. It was brutal, and folks started to heckle.

It’s simple!! The sections go in numerical order, just like the rows and the seats. Have your ticket out and know where you should be before you start walking up the section and possible inconvenience someone trying to watch the game that actually gives a shit!! There are ushers at every section, so ask someone if you don’t have a clue, but don’t just sit in plain view inspecting your seat number on the ticket like you were trying to decipher a new language. What jackasses!!

Today’s seats weren’t ideal for photographing the game, but I did alright thanks to an extremely bright day. The 2X extender is brutal on the lens, since it effectively causes it to lose 2 f-stops, so I was shooting with a max aperture of f/5.6 instead of f/2.8. What does this mean? Well, it means that I took a gutsy lens, which is the 300mm f/2.8, and grabbed it by the balls to make it scream, which in this analogy is the 2X extender. Extenders are great for getting closer to the action, but the drawback of the loss of image quality and the loss of light usually does not favor the combo. In this case, it did alright, but I would much rather have been sitting on the lower levels to photograph the game from a straight ahead view instead of a birds-eye view.

Although the Canon 300mm f/2.8 L that I was shooting with is not the top of the line model that is currently out, it performed very well. It is still L series glass and commands great respect for how it performs. This particular model does not have IS, or Image Stabilization, but at the shutter speeds that I was shooting, I was almost stopping time and the IS would not have helped one bit. Other than draw on my battery a little, I would have had no use for it. So, for this particular shoot, the older 300mm works just fine. It is still a beast and will require good and strong arms to carry it around for any extended period of time. The newer model that features the IS isn’t any lighter either. After renting it a few times, I’ve gotten used to it, so I can hand hold it throughout the entire game, but that is with setting it down on my lap in between the action. I would think twice if I had  to hand carry this thing around all day. I’d probably opt for a monopod…

I shot at ISO 400 to ISO 640 throughout the day, as the clouds came and went. This allowed me to shoot with a minimum shutter speed of 1/2500th of a second, and all the way up to 1/4000th of a second on some of the bright shots. The post processing was kept down to a minimum with slight cropping of all images along with a little sharpness and contrast added in Photoshop. Enjoy!!

Canon 5D Mk II for Nighttime Sports?!?!? YUUUUUPP!!!

Every so often I’ll get a crazy-ass idea that usually starts off with a “what if…” in my head and ends up being a big mistake. Big mistakes are usually associated with wasting time and/or money for me. You would think that I would learn, and in all earnest, I tell myself each and every time that I will listen to conventional thought and not buck the system. Then what do I do the very next day??? You guessed it, folks, I get right back on the horse of crazyassness and come up with a new idea. An idea so smart, my head would explode if I even began to know what I was talking about. Not only did I just quote Peter Griffin from Family Guy, but I made up the best word ever!!! Crazyassness!!! Go and tell all your friends…

So what was my crazy-ass thought, you ask? That’s a great looking question!! I was standing at the counter of my favorite camera equipment rental store realizing that I had left my camera body at home knowing that I was going to a game and would have to look at possibly renting a body AND a lens. I guessed if I had to get a body, I’d at least try out something new that I had heard or read about to test its effectiveness for nighttime sports shooting. Of course the full-framed Canon 5D Mark II that only shoots 3.9 fps would be at the very bottom of the list, right? No way, folks!! That’s called bucking the system and as my boy Sergio Romo of the San Francisco Giants says, “That’s what’s up!!” I rented the Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 300mm f/4.0 and a Canon 2X extender. This lens and extender combo is the same that I featured in yesterday’s post, since this was the previous evening. So, everyone already knows how enamored I am with the lens, and I will keep all the commentary on this post relative to the Canon 5D Mark II.

This model camera body has been a best seller for Canon (if you can afford the $2,000 + price tag) and a more economical option when compared to the 1DS full frame series. The 5D Mk II features a small, crop sensor style body while packing a HUGE full sensor frame capable of capturing 21 MP images in stunning color and clarity. The 5D recently received another update and Canon released the Mk III, which has helped the pricing of the Mk II come off a little to just about the $2,000.00 mark. It has also been a favorite of film makers of all type for its high quality recording capabilities. I had never shot with the 5D Mark II prior to this, so I really have nowhere to establish a comparison, but nevertheless, I was completely floored at how responsive it was to my needs.

To go into a little more detail of the rigors I was trying to place on this combination, let me tell you about my decision-making process. Since the body was in stock, I was tempted to rent it as soon as I was offered it. I resisted, but quickly came up with this experiment to convince myself of testing it out. I had heard that the 5D Mk II had superior high ISO capabilities, with it being rated at ISO 6400 before going into the menu to unlock the higher ISO settings that would take it into the stratosphere of noise-dom. After the decision of the body was made, then I had to decide on the lens combo. My gals working the counter offered both a 300mm f/2.8 or a f/4.0, and the price difference was negligible. I would go for the f/2.8, right? Wrong again, my friend!! After thinking through what my experiment would be testing, I asked for the 300mm f/4.0 and was given a look of “man, you are crazy!!!” Then I asked for the 2X extender knowing that it would take the lens to an effective aperture rating of f/8.0. Then I was given the “you are certifiable” look. Yuuup, I totally agree.

I quickly unpacked the gear when I got to my seat, which by the way, wasn’t spectacular at all, unlike the seat I had the following day that was featured in yesterday’s posting. I believe we were sitting in Section 311 row 2 in the third deck reserve, but still within the limits of the infield down the first base line. At first inspection, the 5D Mk II seemed almost like a toy camera when compared to my 1D Mk II n. Being a small crop sensor style body, there is a lot of plastic parts and the body lacks any type of weather sealing apparent unlike my 1D that is a magnesium alloy case with all sorts of bells and whistles that makes it weigh 300 lbs. (I’m exaggerating here just a bit)

Regardless of the weight, the camera performed well and that’s all I cared about. I did note to always handle the camera and lens combo by the lens and not hold the entire weight of the setup on the body of the camera and place unnecessary strain on the lens mount. Another thing to note is that only the 1D series is capable of retaining auto-focus capabilities at a maximum aperture of f/8.0, so I would be SOL shooting without auto-focus for the evening when using the extender. But, again, this was another condition I accepted in the challenge to try to put the 5D Mk II to the test of failing miserably with nighttime sports at high ISO.

To make a long story short, the camera did a great job and I would definitely recommend it to someone considering a full frame to also take occasional sports shots. Did I come home with a large number of images? Nope, the camera only shoots 3.9 fps, so you would have to shoot a REAL long time compared to a body that shoots 8.5 fps or greater. Did I at least have a good number of usable images? Hell no!! So, why would I recommend it? Simply because every obstacle that I placed in front of the 5D Mk II was set up purposefully for it to fail, yet it didn’t. The images aren’t great, but I have included a few below to show you what it came out with. These images were put through Photoshop CS5 to auto-correct the Tone, Contrast and Color. Beyond that, a little noise reduction and sharpening was performed with the Nik Software add-ons (which I absolutely LOVE). However, no extensive work was done on any of these and only auto-functions were used to allow the program logarithms to do their thing.

If you consider that I purposefully picked up a Canon 300 f/4.0, then placed a 2X extender to make it an effective maximum aperture of f/8.0, then bumped the ISO all the way up to between ISO 5000 and ISO 6400 for the entire evening while shooting at no less than 1/1000th of a second, you’d agree that the results are completely acceptable for those limitations set by me. If I actually wanted usable images, I would have found myself a seat a LOT closer to the field, would have rented the 300mm f/2.8 with a 1.4X extender to have a maximum aperture of f/4.0 and would have gone to town regardless of the 3.9 fps that the 5D  Mk II will give you. I must say that compared to my 1D Mk II that shoots at 8.5 fps, this camera definitely left me wanting more in the speed arena.

Keeping in mind that regardless of all the technological advances that today’s camera equipment gives us, there was a point in time when all the sports photographer had in their arsenal was being lucky enough to be at the right place, at the right time, and had the know how to wait for the precise moment to capture the action as it was happening knowing that they wouldn’t get a second shot to set up another shot until days after it was all over, we should feel priviledged we even have the option to shoot at almost 4 fps in continous burst mode. So, with the 5D Mk II, I got 3.9 fps, big whoop… You can make it work if that’s all you have and still come up with good action shots.

If your main focus in your photographic endeavors is to shoot sports, I would NOT recommend for you to sink $2000 in the 5D Mk II. There are plenty of other options in that price range, both new and pre-owned, that would satisfy your need for speed. However, if you are needing of a full frame camera (such as a portrait or landscape photographer would), and occasionally would like to take your awesome 5D Mk II to the ballpark, I’m telling you that you’re good!!

Thanks for coming by and I’ll be talking to you again tomorrow. Have a great night everyone!!!