Shooting the Taser Chase in Philadelphia

by Grover Sanschagrin

I know a lot of sports photographers, and I know how difficult their jobs are. Sports photography (especially baseball) can be extremely repetitive, with the same patterns and sequences happening over and over, it’s easy to get a little too addicted to the routine.

When unexpected things happen in what would normally be downtime in the action (like an inning change in baseball, or halftime in football), many photographers may miss this entirely because the will be busy doing other things. Talking to other photographers, taking a drink, changing memory cards, looking the back of their digital SLR camera to check on the images (“chimping”), or maybe even moving shooting positions, these things usually happen when there’s a break in the action.

So when I see a great picture that was taken during a break in the action, like the one on Monday of a field-running Philadelphia Phillies fan getting hit with a taser by security, taken by AP staff photographer Matt Slocum, I take notice.

Photo by Matt Slocum/AP

Slocum used a Canon EOS 1D Mark IV with a 400mm f/2.8 IS lens to make the picture.

“The image was exposed on manual at 1/1000th of a second at f/2.8 at ISO 1000 with a kelvin white balance,” Slocum said. “With the later games where the light is pretty even I can set everything on manual and keep upping the ISO as it gets darker.”

I think it was the focusing that first caught my attention here. The kid is sharp, and he’s coming straight at the camera, and the security person following behind him could have easily popped into focus instead.

“The camera was set to AI Servo and the center focusing point and I just spray and pray,” he said. “I’ve had Mark IV’s since late December and a preproduction one back in November. They have been great. A few little misses now and then getting the initial focus, but when it catches focus early it stays on pretty well. No complaints.”

The guy ran out onto the field between the seventh and eight innings, and Slocum was shooting from a position inside first base.

“From that spot we don’t have a good sight-line down right field, so the kid was almost to centerfield when we started shooting,” he said. “It was tough to tell exactly what was going on and I kept turkey-necking from behind the camera to see if security was closing in.”

“I waited till the the cops and security got closer and then hammered some more. The kid ran towards us and I had a couple frames of the cop chasing him. The kid turned away from us and hit the ground. It wasn’t till I saw the wires leading back to the cop that I realized he’d been tasered, and by then it was over.”

“Chimping after they led him off, I saw the cop was trailing him with the taser. It made a nice frame.”

Slocum’s image has been published all over the place, including very prominent use during the CBS News with Katie Couric.

I couldn’t help but notice that, in this case, Slocum’s image told the story better than the video captured of the event.

(In the video below, you can hear Couric tell the story, see the event play out, and ending with Slocum’s still image.)

Slocum said that there were four photographers at the game (Steven Falk of the Philadelphia Daily News, Miles Kennedy of the Philadelphia Phillies, Chris Szagola of Icon Sports Media, and Slocum), and he was pretty sure that they all have something from the sequence.

“Reaction has been kind of crazy,” Slocum said. “Lots of calls and e-mails from friends and family. Lots of taser jokes. Every once in a while I get a few e-mails from people asking for prints but never just compliments. TV and websites have used it a lot. A Philly cop emailed me that he’s using it as his profile picture on Facebook, I thought that was funny.”

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There are 3 comments for this article
  1. monsterphotoiso at 10:42 pm

    I want me a Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, I might just have to settle for a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, unless Canon would like to sponsor me, Nonetheless this was an awesome shoot. Great Work Matt.

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