Ike Davis - Israel National Baseball Team

Copyright Matthew Strauss

Last month I had the opportunity for a very last minute photoshoot with Ike Davis, Major League Baseball player and player for Israel's National Baseball Team. It was to be a pretty quick shoot with just a handful of different cover options necessary for a small magazine and if time allowed, a quick shirt change for an interior photo.

I had about 6 hours of notice for the shoot and the time and location were already chosen for me, so I spent the time doing some research. I found out Ike was born into baseball, his father, Ron Davis, was a pitcher for the New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Francisco Giants.

Ike, after successful baseball careers in high school and college at Arizona State, began playing in the MLB in 2010 as a first baseman, beginning with the New York Mets, followed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, and now he plays with the Los Angeles Dodgers Association.

Copyright Matthew StraussThe shoot was scheduled for 4pm at Ike's Phoenix home.
Not the ideal time of day so I went to work planning for inside and outside cover ideas, prepping lights and equipment, and scouting the house and neighborhood on Google Maps to get an idea of the house and yard for location planning. Of course Google Maps is never as good as location scouting in person, but in a pinch, it can at least give me an idea of what color the house is, any visually interesting backgrounds like a garage door, cool fence or wall, etc. Then I cross my fingers that the whole house wasn't renovated since the last Google Streetview update.

I pulled up to Ike's house at our call time, and had a few minutes to poke around while he finished up some business. I set up some lighting in his living room to utilize a wall I liked and then dialed in some settings outside for some natural light portraits at his front door so we'd be able to hit the ground running when he was ready.

We began in his living room, it was a good location, but definitely my least favorite of the cover set I had planned, so I figured it would be the best place to get warmed up because I could live with tossing those images in case Ike needed a few frames to get comfortable in front of the camera. We ended up spending only about 5 minutes inside before moving to the front of the house for the next set of natural light images.

Copyright Matthew StraussThe set in front of Ike's house ended up being my favorite. By now we were in a shooting groove, Ike was much more relaxed and I asked him to grab a bat to add something to the images I felt was missing.

Out of the 20 or so minutes we spent together, half of our time I invested into the front door area. I was really happy with what we got, I was comfortable we had a solid cover option in there, so I asked him for just 5 more minutes in the backyard without his jersey for some photos to go inside the magazine, something more casual.

Ike's backyard has beautiful views of Camelback Mountain. We spent the last 5 minutes of the shoot just getting some casual portraits with the great backdrop behind him. I didn't have high hopes for this set, to be honest with you, because we were in direct sun, I had a flash to camera right popping at full power for fill, and I was worried the sun being right in his eyes would cause enough squinting to have to toss the whole set, but thought it was still worth a try if we had a few minutes to spare.
Copyright Matthew Strauss

I ended up liking that final set more than I thought I would. While on a technical level the flash and camera pulled a good portrait out of less than ideal conditions, it was Ike's complete lack of squintiness that made it possible to keep the photos.

Sometimes those last minute shoots are great because they remove a photographer's opportunity to overthink and overplan, so you end up taking chances you may not have taken if the shoot had been more scripted. There is an added stress level when you know you're up against an editorial deadline, you have to walk away with a good cover, and you've had zero time to scout the location in advance, meet your subject, or even develop a shot list. It's a huge relief to know that when the dust settled you pulled it all off.

I had fun on this one, Ike was great to work with, and I'm happy with what we created together. Ike and his team are in Seoul, South Korea right now to represent Israel in the World Baseball Classic, Israel's first time ever qualifying for the tournament, so good luck Ike!


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