Words and photos by Chris Garrison
For the past few years I have been working with a crew that covers the Atlanta Braves Fantasy Camps in Orlando, Florida. For those of you who do not know what Fantasy Camp is, it is a one-week camp where participants get to train, play, and hang with some of the best legends to ever play with the Atlanta Braves. The participants basically get to fulfill a lifelong dream to be part of a team, and see what happens behind the scenes. This is always a very fun experience for me for so many reasons. I get to do so many types of photography in just a few days with a sport I do not usually cover. I get to shoot outdoor lifestyle shots, locker room shots, action, behind the scenes of the sport, event and ground coverage. It is a very long week with days from sunrise to sunset, but it is well worth it, and the cold post-game locker drinks seal the deal!
73 Portraits in 35 Minutes or Less
One of the requirements is to get a portrait shot of each participant and the participating Atlanta Braves Legends. Sounds pretty easy at first until there are 73 athletes, not including the Legends. There are no time slots for the portraits to be shot either. I have to basically show up super early at 5 a.m. with one assistant and set up the all the equipment. Then as the participants come in I have to pull them from the locker room and shoot as well as pull them from the batting cages. With the allotted warm-up time being just around 30 minutes, I would have just about 20 seconds to shoot a solid shot for a poster of each participant. This time includes getting them into the right position, getting some action shots, and getting some standard portrait shots.
My first setup was the typical right at Home Plate. The flash setup is my usual quick three light setup, with a scrim to block out the sunlight. I use all Elinchrom Ranger Speed AS pack for the daytime flash power, The Elinchrom 27 in Beauty Dish, Elinchrom 53in Strip boxes, and the Westcott Scrim Jim 6 foot model. Everything was fired with the Pocket-Wizard FlexTT5 using HyperSync. I shot with the Nikon D800 and 35mm F 1.4. I love this setup for the portraits for the high recovery of the D800 in the highlights to make up for the white uniform. The lower F-stop of the 35mm Prime lens also helps separate the participant form the background. This was a great setup since my assistant or I could grab the participants as they went into the locker room.
#BTS shooting a participant with the Elinchrom setup
A different angle of the #BTS shooting a participant with the Elinchrom setup.
I also decided to step it up and set up an outfield shoot to get a different background than the previous year’s. I love this shot because it gets the massive green wall and scoreboard.
The biggest challenge with this spot was not just getting the shots but also the setup. I did the same three light setup for this location, but I used the Wescott Apollo Strips and Orbs as the light source. I also set up the Elinchrom Ranger Speed as Packs and Nikon D800 with the 35mm F1.4 again. I left the Nikon D800 on the Induro C313 Tripod, so I could run back and forth between the locations. The most intense part of this shot was setting it up. Because the sprinkler system was running at the time, it was a challenge to get the background that I wanted. You can see some of the sprinklers running on a few of the shots below. I was able to get all the participants’ shots by corralling them as they went to or left the batting cages from this location.
The Setup for the outfield location
For the third and back of the baseball card shot, I set up in the locker room. There was extremely limited space, and it was packed. I could only set up a single light, and was lucky to get that. I used on Elinchrom Ranger Speed AS and the 27in beauty dish set up. This location was a super fast click-and-run with each participant.
The All Day action and Event Coverage
One of my favorite parts is going into event coverage mode after the portraits. I have total freedom to move all over the field and park during the games. I also have full access to the locker room and any other area you can think off. For example, I was able to get on top of the massive scoreboard to get a good overview shot from an unusual angle. I was even able to sit in the field during play, or get right on the pitcher’s mound during warm ups! I love that I have the creative freedom to get some different angles for each participant in their different positions.
The event is truly amazing for everyone. Participants get to play baseball and hang out in the locker room just like one of the Atlanta Braves. They actually use the main Atlanta Brave Spring Training Locker Room. There are also post ball day poker games at the hotel “man cave!” They even get an entire day off and play a round of golf with the Braves players if they want. If you have not experienced the Fantasy Camp yet I would highly recommend it to anyone that is into baseball! It is such an interactive experience with baseball legends that you almost forget you are only on the team for a week!