Tough assignment, great reward

by Loren Townsley

When I was younger, I wasn’t very interested in playing or watching sports. Occasionally, I would watch a hockey game with my family, who were Vancouver Canucks fans, or go to a Los Angeles Dodgers game. I never expected I would find an interest in sports photography while completing my fellowship at The Arizona Republic.

At my previous internship with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, I gained some experience photographing mixed martial arts and boxing, which I enjoyed. Unfortunately, the city had no professional sports teams when I was there. So I made a point of asking Mike Meister, the photo editor at The Arizona Republic, for those opportunities in Phoenix. Meister decided to schedule me to cover four Arizona Diamondbacks games in a week.

(Photo: Loren Townsley/azcentral sports)

I knew very little about baseball. Attending my first Diamondbacks game, I was nervous I wouldn’t be capable of capturing the critical moments and afraid my editor would ultimately decide I wasn’t fit to shoot baseball. The other photographers in the photo pit were helpful in my development as a sports shooter. Particularly one photographer, Ross Franklin from The Associated Press, who was patient enough to answer my questions about the rules of the game. I watched the other photographers’ approaches and learned their techniques. Some of the things I learned included where to stand when a left- or right-handed pitcher went to the mound, how to file quickly between innings and what to photograph when the game slowed.

Halfway through my fellowship, I covered a game against the St. Louis Cardinals in which Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo was ejected. My editor texted me afterward, saying, “I guess you were processing when the manager got thrown out.” I replied that I had already sent one photo. This particular moment made me feel really accomplished, proving I was on top of my assignment. My fear of failing as a baseball photographer was no longer present. Eventually, I got to a point where I knew the players well enough that I could foresee how they would play as they went up to bat.

I photographed more than 10 baseball games last summer. It was a great opportunity, and I’m glad I challenged myself as a photographer and pushed my comfort zone. Mostly, I’m thankful my editor trusted me enough to give me the assignments. Baseball is one of the hardest sports to photograph, which makes it all the more rewarding when you get the perfect photo.

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