Fall Baseball

The LVBA Fall Baseball Season started today. Several teams were active in the ECTB 5th Annual Hardball Challenge. I had the opportunity to photograph three of the games today and the action was amazing it was like watching a professional game you assist if you get red sox tickets or any other big team tickets for a game. These boys can flat-out play baseball! I was at the 9u, 11u, & 14u games.

I believe that a unique story unfolds in each game and my job is to capture the moments and turn them into memories. I will be posting photos from all three games on my website once they are edited, but I thought putting three photos up here on my blog would be a good representative of the forthcoming photos. I think you can tell from viewing these photographs that these boys mean business on the baseball diamond!

Photograph the Action

You’ve heard me say before that I love photographing baseball games. Well, today I photographed two games and the action was unbelievable!

The first game went back and forth as both teams battled it out on the field. There were several good defensive plays, some good hitting, and lots of action on the base paths. This is a sports photography dream come true! Hitting, running, sliding, tagging–these games had it all!

I enjoy the challenge of photographing the action. This is no easy task. Just when you think you’ve got your camera pointed in the right direction at exactly the correct time, something else can happen. The focus can be off just a touch or another player can run into the frame. Capturing the action requires paying close attention to the game. Do you know how many strikes there are right now? Where might the next action take place? Some luck is always helpful, too.

Here are six photos from the games I photographed today. I did not have a high batting average of great shots today, but these aren’t bad are they?

A New Sports Photography Website

I just created a new website exclusively for my sports photography. You can view it here.

My opportunities and experience in sports photography have taken me to places I never dreamed. It is a blast to face the challenge of “recording” the game with my camera. I always say that every game tells a story and we photographers have the privilege and honor of capturing the game’s story with our camera. I am a huge sports fan and always have been my entire life. I guess I came by it innocently enough. You see, my dad played Semi-Pro Football back in the days when this level of play was the stepping stone to the pros. I’ve been watching football games probably since I was inside my mother’s womb! I still enjoy seeing a game in Philadelphia or wherever some 45 years later! I also played sports most of my life and still enjoy playing as opportunities present themselves.

I also coached sports for over nine years. I may be getting back into coach a little bit in the near future, but my years of coaching experience have paid off huge dividends when I am behind the camera. For example, when I am photographing a baseball game and a runner gets on first base, I can often predict where the action might next take place depending on the number of outs, the count on the batter, the score of the game, who is pitching, and who is at the plate. Certainly there are many variables here but my coaching experience surely helps me anticipate where I should point my camera.

My interest in sports photography began slowly some years ago when I was attending one of the baseball instructional clinics that my son was attending. Like many dads, I had my camcorder with me. But I also have training in communication with a Journalism degree from Temple University, so I took my interest to a higher level. It just so happened that I had recently received an iPod as a gift. My new goal was to use the camcorder to record the instruction and then edit it to put on my iPod. My reasoning was that players and parents could use the instruction throughout the year even after the clinic was over. I thought this might of interest to the coaches as well. That project didn’t turn out completely as I hoped, but it definitely laid the groundwork for what was about to happen in the coming months. God is so good to us if we just pay attention and follow!

Some months went by and then my son made it onto a tournament baseball team. The Lehigh Valley Baseball Academy was starting to grow and add more teams and they hired me as their sports photographer. Around the same time I also started photographing the Pleasant Valley Baseball team. These opportunities helped me gain some experience and try some new things out.

Check out my new website, look at the photos, and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your feedback. And if you know of anyone looking for a sports photographer for their team or event, please pass my website and contact information along to them.



I Just Love Sports Photography, Especially Baseball!

Baseball, baseball, and more baseball! I love it! I am spending a lot of time photographing baseball these days and I could not be happier! The thrill of trying to capture the action as we make photographs at sporting events is not only an awesome challenge but it’s a whole lot of fun, too!

In the past month I photographed a high school District Championship, a State Playoff game, and a weekend tournament where my son’s team took first place!

All of this provides me with plenty of opportunities to learn how to be a better sports photographer. Most times I feel like I am getting better, but sometimes the growth is minimal or even nonexistent. There is a certain degree of luck that goes into this style of photography. I feel fortunate to have coached baseball for 11 years and I am a student of the game, so this definitely helps.  But all that I know cannot prevent an umpire from stepping between the action and my camera! I also find myself envying those photographers who have the 400, 500, and even 600mm lenses. I think to myself, “Boy if I could have one of those lenses, my number of keepers would go up drastically! The grass always appears greener on the other side of the fence, doesn’t it? Some day I do hope to purchase one of those powerful zoom lenses, but in the meantime I will just keep honing my photography skills and try to get better and better at this craft. Besides, I can think of nothing I would rather do in my spare time!

The other week I was very pleased to secure a media pass for the District 11 Championship that was played at the Iron Pigs stadium in Allentown. This pass allowed me the privilege of photographing from the photo wells beside the dugouts, which was a dream of mine for a long time. The icing on the cake was when the Pleasant Valley Bears defeated Parkland 5-0 in that game. I photographed Pleasant Valley throughout the year and got to know the team quite well. I witnessed their strong offense at the plate, their aggressive base running skills, and their stellar defense. There were several games where the opponent wasn’t even close. It was obvious that PV had a good team and they made a great run at the end to win the Mountain Valley Conference and then the District 11 Championship. And they did it in an impressive manner!

It was hard not to cheer too loud from behind the camera. I understand that my photographic privileges allow me access to the very edge of the playing field. I also spend time very close to the opponent’s dugout. I do not want to discredit this special photographic privilege , so I try to keep my mouth shut. This was not an easy year to do that! These boys can play baseball and watching their coaches manage the game and the boys was a pure pleasure! They had an incredible year and I was honored to be there behind my camera to tell the story photographically.

I did learn a few things and re-learned a few more that I had forgotten. Here, in no particular order, are a few of them.

First, the background to a photograph can be completely distracting. At Pleasant Valley’s field, the view from the first base side and the home dugout looks directly toward the school bus terminal. Yep, yellow buses are everywhere! Talk about a distracting background! It is terrible. I actually limit my time on this side of the field for this reason, but I do like the first base side for some shots at first base, attempted steals, and, of course, the home dugout to capture the player’s facial expressions and banter that sometimes occurs.

Second, I really strive to show the action by capturing the baseball in the frame of my photo. This is not an easy task. My Nikon D300 does a great job to help me in this endeavor, and the MB-D10 Vertical Grip increases my shots per second to 8. The distance from the pitcher’s mound to the batter is 60 feet 6 inches. An 85 mph fastball gets there in a hurry! So even with my camera capturing 8 frames per second, I still need some good timing and a little luck, but when the baseball is clearly in the frame, I love the action it portrays!

Third, I love trying to show the base running action. This is a detail lost by some teams and even coaches. I remember a coaching seminar I attended many years ago that was led by the head baseball coach at the University of Kentucky. His entire talk was about the importance of getting on base, getting over to the next base, and then getting home. It was an impressive session and I learned a lot of fascinating details I never ever thought of before. They say that baseball is a game of inches. Well this is true for sure, but baseball is also about paying attention to details. And the team that does this consistently is definitely going to be more successful. There is no doubt about it. Immediately after that coaching seminar, I went up to that coach and thanked him for such an impressive presentation. We got to talking and I mentioned how I was trying to coach our team on the little things that make a big difference. He then offered to send me his PowerPoint (TM) presentation by email. A few days later the coach kept his word and I was able to learn even more to help me coach our team on the finer points of base running. Well, several years later and this is still paying off for me! Whenever Pleasant Valley had a base runner, I tried to anticipate where the action would next take place. I did not always get it right, but by having some basic understanding of the details of base running and trying to always be ready helped me get some nice photos of a runner stealing a base or a catcher throwing a runner out at the bag. Man, I just love those shots!

Fourth, try to get the player’s or coach’s face in the photo. This not always easy especially if you are photographing a right-handed batter from the third base side of the field. But faces in the frame make for a much more lively photograph. I imagine this is even much more difficult when filming football games since players wear helmets, but even at baseball games it can be a challenge. Also, facial expressions can depict the demeanor of a player and even the general sense of how the game is going. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget to photograph the losing pitcher with his head in his hands. That tells a story, too. I do have a guiding principle I always try to adhere to: never embarrass a player or a coach. Baseball is probably the most difficult game to play in all of sport. A very good player is going to fail 7 times out 10 at the plate. He will be hitting .300 at that rate. So, I try to never publish a photograph that shows a terrible swing or a batter who missed the ball as it goes into the catcher’s glove. I also try not to depict an error in the field when a player bumbles a grounder. Now there are times when a coach can learn a lot from a player’s failure, especially with photographs that break down a hitter’s swing or a pitcher’s delivery to the plate. And my son is a catcher so I do try to focus on all catchers during a game and this will include some strikes that get by a swinging batter’s bat. But I never purposely try to demean or embarrass a player with my photographs.

Fifth, I recognize that I have a whole lot to learn. Even with being around the game of baseball much of my life, I still learn all the time. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard the PV coaches say something I never heard of or even thought of before. I even learn from opposing coaches as well. Baseball is a fascinating game and I recognize that I have much more to learn before I can truly capture the game perfectly. And I just love the game and the challenge of trying to tell the story of the game with my camera!

It’s always fun to buy new equipment!

Today I received shipment of the MB-D10 Multi-Power Battery Grip to be used with my Nikon D300. And I cannot wait to put it into use!

I recently watched DTown TV, hosted by Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski. I love this show! On a recent episode they talked about the MB-D10 and how with using 8 AA batteries you can get 8 frames per second from the D300. Since I shoot a lot of baseball games, I figured this would be a great addition to my setup.

Ordering from B&H is always a pleasure and some day I am actually going to get to see their store in New York City. Then with the informative UPS tracking system I could confirm the expected delivery date and watch the packages make their way to my front door. Amazing! It sure beats the Pony Express!

Opening new camera equipment is fun, too. So fun, in fact, that I always forget to take a photo of the unopened package sitting before me. Oh well, now it’s time to start putting this puppy into use!

My New Sports Portfolio

I have taken a lot of sports action photographs in recent years. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of trying to capture the excitement of the plays on the field! The challenge is obvious because many variables are involved. Will I click the shutter at just the right moment? Will the shot be in focus? Will the ball be frozen in the frame with the player?

Of course, there are some things the photographer can control. Watch the background to keep it as uncluttered as possible. Have your camera ready for action at all times. Keep batteries charged and memory cards ready. Position yourself in the best possible location.

Last night I spent some time going through many of the baseball photos I took this year. I wanted to create a portfolio of my best sports photographs. Then I posted the resulting portfolio to my website. You can see the Sports Portfolio for yourself. Take a look at these photos and let me know what you think of them. Do they capture the action? Do they tell a story? Are they any good?


Tonight I photographed the Pleasant Valley basketball game. They played a good game against Northampton. In the end they came up a little short, but it was fun to try to capture the action on the court.

Indoor photography can be tricky at best. Working without a flash I had to bump up the ISO. My Nikon f/2.8 70-200mm got exclusive use and performed beautifully. Fast lenses are a necessity in situations like this. I turned my white balance to florescent which seemed to work very well and render colors correctly.

The action was fast and furious at times. I positioned myself on the baseline, hoping for the action to come straight at me. It did!

I did learn a few things that I need to remember for the next game I shoot:

1. Remember to follow the players as they jump. Sometimes they jumped out of the frame!
2. Keep shooting after the play is over. Players reactions are sometimes very photographic.
3. Bring knee pads along. They will save my knees from becoming so sore.

Overall, this was a fun shoot. I can’t wait for the next tip-off! I hope to have some of these photos posted on my website soon. www.bobshankphotography.com

Baseball Photo Products

I enjoy working as the official photographer for the Lehigh Valley Baseball Academy. It keeps me involved in a game I love, allows me the challenge to capture the amazing plays that happen on the field, and introduces me to a lot of incredible players, parents, and coaches.

Besides the benefits I enjoy from this, I also like to share my work with others. Capturing a player putting a tag on a potential base stealer in the midst of his slide is but one example of the thrill of photographing baseball games. I photographed 19 baseball games this year–14 for LVBA and 5 for the high school team at Pleasant Valley. Each and every game is different and trying to reflect the flow and outcome of the game with my Nikon camera is an exciting challenge!

Sharing the photographs is the second part of my job. I do provide the LVBA with 7 framed action shots for them to hang on the wall of their facility. We are also in the design stage of creating unique calendars for each team. But here are a few more ways players and parents can enjoy my photographs.

Sticky Pix
These are similar to Fat Heads, if you know what they are. These photographs stick to the wall and can be moved over and over again without leaving a sticky residue on the wall. They can also be ordered as cut-outs and are available in three different sizes–11″ x 14″, 16″x 20″, or 20″ x 30″.

3-Photo Sports Collage
The collage features three different photos of the same player. The one in the middle of the collage is bigger and the other two are arranged in an attractive way around it.

For goodness sakes, what in the world is a Teamsake? I’m glad you asked! A Teamsake is an 8″ x 10″ collage of 9 photos. The idea is to include a variety of photos from your team as a memory keeper of the season.

Many parents are proud of their baseball players and mom’s especially like to wear a 3″ button featuring their favorite baseball star. The photo in the button can either be a portrait or an action shot.

I don’t know about you, but our refrigerator is filled with all kinds of magnets. My favorite section is the rows of photo magnets depicting our kids in the various sports they have played. Each one brings back some special memories of that season and you can see your little man growing up right before your eyes!

Do you drink coffee, tea, or hot cocoa in the morning? Well why not drink out of a mug that shows your favorite athlete on the side? While you’re at it, take it work to show all your co-workers. Action shots showing dust and dirt flying are guaranteed to stay on the outside of your mug and not ruin the taste of your favorite hot drink.

Large Prints
Prints have become a bit more rare with the advent of computers and digital frames. Still, there is nothing quite like a large print hanging on the wall. The details of a photograph are much easier to see and enjoy in the larger sizes.

This is just a sampling of the ways to enjoy your favorite photographs. For more information on these and more please see my website or go directly to this page or this page.

Baseball Photos




I believe photographs should tell a story. These three baseball photographs were captured during a game on the last weekend in September. I believe each one tells a little story inside the full story of the game.

Action photography is a great challenge that I thoroughly enjoy. I like to capture the ball in the frame which is not easy to do, but it sure helps to tell the story better.

What stories do your photographs tell?


Teamsake… that’s an odd word. What is a teamsake anyway? You’ve heard of keepsakes, but what in the world is a teamsake?

I enjoy sports photography and have been photographing sports for a long time. It really doesn’t matter which sport to me, I enjoy it all. Action, movement, and competition get my creative juices flowing and I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of attempting to capture the sports action with my camera.

I was fortunate to be a baseball and football coach for over nine years. I do miss coaching, but now have utilized the skills I learned while coaching in my photography. This helps me prepare to aim my camera at the upcoming action and knowing the game I am photographing is immensely helpful.

I am the photographer for the Lehigh Valley Baseball Academy in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. This entails photographing games, player & team portraits, the facility, and any other subject the owners request. The players and parents enjoy seeing the action shots and the portraits, while the coaches like the action shots because they can see the mechanics of the players. I am always trying to offer something new and interesting for the players.

Enter the teamsakes. A teamsake is a collage of nine action photographs of one team. A player can choose any nine photos he wishes. He can include photographs of himself and his teammates to build a teamsake that will help him remember his team whenever he looks at this collage.

You can view the sample teamsake below to see what I am talking about. Each teamsake is only $15 and provides a keepsake for your season. Teamsakes make great birthday and Christmas presents, too.

Teamsake Blog