The Denard Span Sports Illustrated cover and why I love shooting at Target Field

If you haven’t heard yet, Jim Thome is featured in this week’s Sports Illustrated with a story and a cover shot (see below).

I love shooting at Target Field and have had the privilege of shooting there on a few occasions this summer. There’s four photo pits the photojournalists can shoot from at field level (there’s a few other scattered on the main level and upper deck). Two photo pits flank each dugout and each one has room to fit about five photographers comfortably. The best angle in my opinion is on the Twins dugout side closest to home plate, but that is exclusively reserved for the Fox Sports Net television camera. But the second best spot to shoot from is on the visitors dugout pit closest to home plate. That’s where where the Thome Sports Illustrated Cover was shot.

That shooting position is great. It provides a direct sight line/camera angle to the close-up action shots at home plate and the artsy shots with the Minneapolis skyline in the background. Those spots are generally reserved for the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, Associated Press and other big news agencies. But the photographers down there are great people to work with and, when I’ve been there, those positions rotate a bit so everyone can get a chance.

I’ve shot at that position at every game I’ve been to this year. I’ve tried to get the SI cover type of shot, but lighting conditions just haven’t been there. The weather has been too overcast, too bright (sunlight reflects off the building windows) or there’s been no clouds to give the photo depth. It shows how much luck can play in getting the perfect shot.

But I did catch a small break when the Twins played Texas in May on Sunday Night Baseball. There were some light showers to start the game under overcast skies. When the rain passed, this great twilight emerged. The sun shined from behind home plate onto the skyline and the dark clouds added a great backdrop to the action on the field.

The light only lasted for about 15 minutes.

(Click to view in high-resolution) Denard Span takes a swing against Texas during a night game earlier this summer. Bemidji Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

My shot may not be as crystal-clear pristine perfect as the Sports Illustrated shot, but it’s still one of my favorites from the summer because it’s just a great moment of outdoor baseball at Target Field.

Crop it just a bit, and here’s my Sports Illustrated shot :)

Pioneer File Photo/Eric Stromgren

As beautiful as that light was in the Span photo, check out what it looked like about 25 minutes later when the sun was setting:

Josh Hamilton (Click to enlarge). Pioneer File Photo/Eric Stromgren

If you care to check out some of my photo galleries from Twins games I shot this year, here are some links.
Twins vs. Phillies, June 19, 2010
Twins vs. Rangers, May 30, 2010
Twins vs. Brewers, May 23, 2010
Twins vs. Orioles, May 9, 2010
Twins vs. Royals, April 18, 2010
Twins vs. Cardinals, Exhibition, April 3, 2010
Twins vs. Cardinals, Exhibition, April 2, 2010