Behind The Shot: “Play Ball!”

So, I’m starting a new series I hope you’ll like, and it’s called “Behind the shot”.  I’ll go over my process of shooting the image, the story behind it, and some of the post-processing…. or any mix of those in between.  I figured as the MLB season is heating up, the  first image in this series should be “Play Ball!“,

This shot was taken near Osseo, Wisconsin.  Carlie and I were on our way back from Minneapolis on an extended weekend trip.  We passed this old and dated biker bar that happened to have a baseball field right next to it; gravel parking lot and all.  The diamond looked like it hadn’t been used since Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez taught Scottie Smalls how to throw a baseball (or for those of you who haven’t seen The Sandlot, 1962).  It was falling apart, with the backstop caving in on itself, the coca-cola scoreboard was nearly see-through thanks to decades of rust, and someone had literally stolen all of the bases.

Anyhow, we passed the baseball field on the highway and a little bit down the road, I realized I just had to stop.  We pulled over, turned around, and went back.  I had rented a Sigma 8-16mm lens from LensRentals.com for the trip to Minnesota, so I figured this field would be another perfect candidate for testing out an extreme wide angle lens.  I get out of the car, set my Canon 7D to aperture priority, f/5.6, ISO 100, which gave me a shutter speed of 1/1600th of a second.  I walked a little closer to the backstop, set the lens to 16mm and snapped this:

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Not a stunning shot by any means, and definitely not what I was going for, so I walked closer to the backstop, and got just a few feet behind it.  Adjusted the lens from 16mm to 8mm, changed the aperture to f/4.5 (which gave 1/2000th of a second shutter – overkill, but who cares), and captured this:

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Much better.  As you can see, 8mm is extremely wide!  On my 7D, it’s the equivalent to 12.8mm on a full-frame camera. Yeah, there is distortion in the corners, and it looks a little weird, but I don’t mind.  The backstop IS caving in on itself, so the distortion is a little exaggerated in this 8mm shot above, and you can still see a little of it in the 16mm shot before that.  So anyhow, I got the shot I was after.  Decently dramatic sky as well, so I was happy.  Onto the editing!

Right off the bat, I used one of my presets in Lightroom 4 called “unknown” and went from there.  Here’s how it looked right after the preset:

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Pretty gross, I’ll admit.  Shadow detail is almost non-existent, colors are drab, and overall it’s just not very interesting.  I added 61 to saturation and 18 to vibrance to get this:

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A significant improvement in color, definitely, but notice how the sky in the upper right is a little bright, and not quite as nice and blue as the rest of the image?  I used an adjustment brush to fix that with the exposure set to – .40, saturation to +100, and added a blue tone over the top to come close to matching the rest of the sky.  Here’s the area I adjusted with the adjustment brush:

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As a whole, I found the entire image to be a little dark yet, so I increased exposure on the entire thing another + .60, and here is the final outcome as a before/after GIF:

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The sky in the upper right is still a little lighter than the rest, but overall I think it’s pretty good.  I hope you liked the first installment of “Behind the shot”.  If there are any photos of mine you’d like included in this series, just let me know!

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