Got another chance to talk to Sports Illustrated contributor Brad Mangin, and it was great to get additional insights on how he approaches his photography.
Talking to Brad, who co-founded the 2,900+ member Sportsshooter.com, what comes through is his passion for photography. As I talk to more photographers, this is what seems to separate top-notch phototographers like Brad from run-of-the-mill photographers who think of photography as just work.
Every day, Brad leafs through the photography of five different newspapers. Those of you who read my previous interview with Brad were probably struck by his statement that, as a teenage aspiring photographer, he bought every magazine and book about photography on which he could get his hands. He looks through every member update on Sportsshooter.com in search of a different gallery to feature on the site’s front page. When I mentioned to him that I had gotten hold of (former AP photo director) Hal Buell‘s latest book, Brad immediately said: “I have to get the book!” He seems to be always absorbing images. “It is what I do,” he says.
Brad is as much a fan of baseball and the San Francisco Giants as he is a photographer who covers them for a living. Even if he is not shooting a game, he’s usually at the ballpark. He holds season tickets for the Giants.
I am also struck by how much thought and effort Brad puts into his photographs. Earlier this season, when Barry Bonds was getting closer and closer to breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record, Brad said he spent months thinking about how to best capture the historic moment. He ultimately decided to set a remote camera with a very wide angle lens behind homeplate, because he pictured capturing the scoreboard, Bonds and a good swathe of the stadium (the image is currently the opening page of his website). That kind of preparation reminds me of Neil Leifer‘s overhead shots of the Ali vs. Williams fight. Brad worked for Neil at The National.
Obviously, the meticulous photographer does his best to learn the venue where he shoots. In Brad’s case, because he regularly covers Major League Baseball, he has learned the angles of the ballparks where he shoots. He recounts one assignment for Sports Illustrated where he wanted to show players colliding against the outfield wall in Candlestick, and how he parked himself in parts of the ballpark that would normally be considered poor places from which to cover the game. He thinks more photographers should be willing to shoot sports like football and baseball from above the field. “Shooting from an overhead position, be it an official photo basket or a luxury suite, can clean up backgrounds and give an editor a completely different look.” Brad notes how important it is to work with editors who have the courage to go beyond the conventional shot.
How loose you shoot during a game depends on for whom you’re shooting. Wire service assignments are more restrictive, because they are looking for straighter news shots. Magazines allow you to shoot looser.
“Magazines like Sports Illustrated will often look for a wider view of a big moment that shows the entire scene,” says Brad. “An image like this works well in a glossy magazine that can run such a picture two full pages (doubletruck) that allow the reader to take in the entire moment and get a sense of place.”
Assignments like the Super Bowl, where every moment has the potential to be crucial, might also require more caution, but Brad says he admires photographers who go beyond conventional coverage. Be willing to move around the field.
“Walter [Iooss] used to always say at some assignments he would look to see where the other photographers are shooting from—then he would go someplace else,” says Brad. “If the assignment allows and the editor is supportive I love to be able to make pictures that no one else has. I want my pictures to be different—however, I cannot have this freedom without the wonderful support of an editor like Nate Gordon at Sports Illustrated or Paul Cunningham at Major League Baseball Photos. These editors allow me the freedom to try and get different looks at the action while I am shooting baseball for them and their trust in me really pays off when I am lucky enough to capture a nice play from a unique angle.”