Entries in Tropicana Field (3)
I am starting a new photo series: St. Petersburg Landmarks
The first landmark is the home of the Tampa Bay Rays -- Tropicana Field. It is a much maligned dome stadium. First, almost nobody is happy about its location. It is far from the other major cities in the area, Clearwater and Tampa. Even for us St. Petersburg residents it is not in any kind of walkable location. It must be driven to and it is in an area there is no other reason to drive to. It basically sits in the middle of a huge parking lot. Inside it is dark and dreary looking. I would actually say from the stands to look out over the field it is a depressing experience.
The entranceway and the stores in the immediate grandstand are actually attactive and make you feel like you are attending an exciting event. It is only once under the dome proper does the horridness settle in. I have been to only one game (see photos) and photographed a charity event on another occasion.
Perhaps the best view of the entire property is when you are walking out of the stadium under a mosaic sidewalk lined with tall palm trees toward your car. The walkway does not go on forever, eventually you would run into Tampa Bay!
Photographing this event brought two firsts for me. The first, first was to volunteer my photography services to a charity event. The second was to represent f8 Consortium in an official capacity as a staff photographer. The Abilities Foundation held its 21st annual silent auction charity event right on the field at Tropicana Field. f8 Consortium was a sponsor of this event with some members donating framed prints, others photography services, or both.
Many local restaurants had tables serving out tiny samples of presumably their best cuisine. The only thing I ate all night was a brownie sample. It was not bad, but not good enough to be called gourmet or whichever adjective their marketing people bestowed upon it. The most impressive thing related to food was the very functional trays handed out that took away the challenge of trying to have to balance a glass upon it.
There were a number of silent auction items that I would have liked to have myself, including the above autographed photo of one of my favorite football players, Adrian PETERson. In the background is an autographed Mike Vick helmet that the announcer was really stressing she wanted to be bought before the end of the night since no one bid on it last year. I checked, the minimum bid of $100 was met.
As the night went on and I saw that most items did not even have one bid on them, I commented to someone behind a table that it does not look like many of these items were going to move. He said that a silent auction is just like e-Bay, no one bids until the end when there is a flurry.
On the technical side of things, the photography, as usual, was in challenging settings. They did not turn on the lights on the field, and once the sun set and no more natural light permeated through the dome, it was really dark. Obviously no ceiling to bounce a flash off of and few backdrops of any kind. In the beginning I was actually using off camera flash to photograph some of the items. Once the guests starting filing in, I went with my usual event settings of f/5.6 and ISO 800, but still wasn't getting the results I wanted so I went up to f/4. Maybe some day I will have a chance to photograph an outdoor daylight event!
I joined the Saint Petersburg Chamber of Commerce in June of this year. At the Chamber's new member orientation networking event they have a raffle where everyone puts their business card in for a prize drawing. The top prize was a pair of tickets to the Rays game that evening. They were playing the Toronto Blue Jays. I knew I had won before the woman even read the name because of my business card's distinct color. I was half stoked and half thinking, do I have time to suddenly go to a baseball game?
I had heard that Tropicana Field was not a great baseball venue at all. My first impression walking from the parking lot to the entrance gate was very positive. Once inside I felt, "this isn't so bad. The atmosphere is pretty good, lots of booths and different stuff going on. Decent buzz."
The Chamber has great seats, just three rows behind the visitor's dugout (along the third base line). We were the first ones in our row and in the area, so had clean site lines and I was able to get unobstructed shots. However, people filed in well after the first inning and it made getting any good shots nearly impossible.
I started to notice that Tropicana Field was actually not that nice of a baseball stadium at all. There were lots of dark areas at the top of the dome, very poorly lit. The neon and regular billboards overwhelmed the outfield view. It soon felt very dreary inside the dome, despite the cheers of the Rays faithful.
Still, as home runs started to be hit I felt excited. I must confess also this was the very first major league game I attended. I can make the claim to fame, however, of seeing Michael Jordan plan a spring training game years ago.