You may not be able to identify Amanda Fewer if you see a picture of her. But, if you’re a Canadian baseball fan, chances are you can spot a picture taken by her.
The Calgary photographer has made a name for herself shooting the Okotoks Dawgs, the Toronto Blue Jays and the World Baseball Classic (WBC).
Ian Wilson, of Alberta Dugout Stories, recently caught up with the talented shooter to talk sports photography, baseball players and martial arts. Here’s our Q&A with Amanda:
Q: In your Canadian Baseball Network bio, you mention an early interest in sports, particularly taekwondo. What attracted you to sport, and specifically martial arts? And are you still active in that sport?
A: Sports have always played an incredibly important role in my life. Both of my parents are ex-military, so as you can imagine, structure and discipline come with the territory, and those are two fundamentals of taekwondo. I also had tonnes of energy and a super-competitive nature, so it was a perfect fit. I was fortunate enough to train with some of the best fighters on the Canadian stage, competing and winning at both the national and international levels.
Unfortunately, due to a back injury, I am no longer actively fighting. However, I carry the lessons I learned throughout my time in martial arts with me in everything I do.
Q: You are originally from Ontario. What brought you out west and what were your first impressions of Alberta when you moved here?
A: Honestly, what brought me out west is the same thing that brings most Easterners out this way … work. I basically threw a dart at a map when I was 21 and took a job at the first automotive dealership that would have me, which happened to be up north in Peace River.
I wish I could say I had a positive first impression, but it was New Year’s Day and minus 45 (Celsius) when I pulled up to the dealership. I wanted to turn around. I am so thankful I stuck it out until the deep freeze was over though, because I absolutely fell in love with this province and the people here. It didn’t take long for the landscape and the personalities to grow on me.
Q: You received a diploma as an automotive technician – have you had to fix any baseball team buses or groundskeeping vehicles in all your time at the ballpark?
A: Luckily none of the teams that I shoot have ever needed my help mechanically, although every season brings new challenges, so you never know!
Q: How did you get into photography – where did that passion come from?
A: I’ve always been drawn to photography. Not necessarily to the art of taking pictures, but with the final results. Living in Alberta provided the ideal backdrop for trying my hand at nature photography, so I started taking day trips to the mountains to see what I could see. Since hanging out in the mountains is a passion of mine, it gave me the perfect excuse to get out there.
Q: When did you first get into sports photography and what specifically attracted you to shooting baseball?
A: As a baseball fan, and specifically a Blue Jays fan, I made the annual pilgrimage to Dunedin, Florida to watch the boys in spring training. One year I brought my camera with me and started taking pictures from the stands. I was immediately drawn to the challenge of capturing that perfect shot. It became a way for me to be competitive with myself, always trying to beat the last photo I’d take. I love shooting baseball. To me, baseball is like a giant chess match, and there’s nothing better than anticipating a players next move and capturing the shot. Besides, can you beat sitting in the sun and watching the perfect game?
Q: Tell us about your trip to Phoenix to watch the World Baseball Classic in 2013. Why was that such a pivotal moment for you and baseball photography?
A: Wow, the WBC in Phoenix was such an experience. It’s the tournament that really made me a baseball fan. Having competed at a national level myself, I found this connection with the players representing their countries. The pride, energy and enthusiasm I witnessed that weekend was incredible.
It was also my first introduction to players like Jim Henderson, Chris Leroux, Dustin Molleken and Pete Orr, among others. I would go on to follow these guys’ careers in the MLB, sharing that “Canadian Connection.” Little did I know at the time I would have the honour of photographing these same players at the 2017 WBC in Miami. The bench-clearing brawl between Canada and Mexico didn’t hurt either. I’m a sucker for a good scuffle.
Q: Here at Alberta Dugout Stories, we got to know you through your photos of the Okotoks Dawgs. Not sure if you’re the “official” photographer for the team, but your shots of them are certainly popular and used by the team a lot. How did you end up finding your way to Seaman Stadium so often and what’s your relationship like with the Dawgs?
A: I’m not the “official” photographer of the Dawgs, but I can count on one hand the number of home games I’ve missed in the last couple seasons. I was looking for a place to practice baseball photography and with the Calgary Cannons being a thing of the past, the Dawgs were the closest team to me. After shooting a couple of games and having the photos featured in articles on the Canadian Baseball Network, the Dawgs were kind enough to let me keep coming back. I met the staff and the players and realized what an amazing organization they have in Okotoks.
I’ve also become good friends with many of the players and their families. As many of the players come out of the U.S., their parents don’t often get to see them play. They are always appreciative of the photos I send them, and it makes them feel a little closer to their boys while they are away chasing their dreams … 100% worth the hour drive each way.
Q: In addition to shooting the Dawgs, you also shoot a lot of national and international baseball events and tournaments. Tell us some of your favourite events to shoot and why you like them so much?
A: By far my favourite tournament so far was the 2017 WBC in Miami Florida. It was my first opportunity to shoot MLB players in an MLB park, not just a spring training park. Sitting in the photo wells, I was immersed in each game and it was a completely new way to experience baseball.
Baseball Canada is such a great organization and they made me feel like part of the family. From players making sure I had water when it was 100 degrees, to taking care of my media access along the way. I am so grateful for that experience.
I also really enjoyed shooting the Junior National Team at the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup in Thunder Bay. Those guys get so into the moment, which makes for some great pictures.
Q: Do you have a favourite baseball photo of yours?
A: I have a few favourites, but one that stands out to me the most is the one of Okotoks Dawgs’ catcher Johnny Hawk framing a strike at sunset in Medicine Hat. You can see the dust cloud as the ball hits his glove, you can see see the batter following through on his strike – it tells a story.
Funny enough, some of my other favourite photos are not action shots. They’re of baseball players being, well, baseball players. Celebrations in the dugout, handshakes and pregame rituals. I like the idea of capturing a player’s personality, not just his talent on the field.
Q: What other sports photographers and photojournalists do you like and why?
A: I follow a lot of sports photographers’ work, but a couple that I really like are Logan Bowles and Brad Rempel. Logan shoots a tonne of football and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He’s a young photographer, but clearly has a tonne of experience under his belt. I was fortunate enough to meet him and watch him work at the 2017 WBC. Brad shoots any Minnesota sports … baseball, football, soccer and basketball, to name a few. He captures some really great angles and I catch myself looking to his work for inspiration. Brad also has a beautiful portfolio of nature photography, so I’m definitely drawn to that.
Q: When you’re at the ballpark, what do you look for? What do you want to see through your lens?
A: I try not to look for anything too specific while I’m at a game, unless I’ve been asked for a specific shot, or have something I want to practice. I like to go into it with no expectations and tend to concentrate more on the candid moments between players, coaches and fans. I’m looking for personality that translates well into a photo. Of course, if there’s something I want to work on, like capturing a slide to second, a pick off or an out at the plate, I could spend an entire game just practising that one shot.
Q: Is there a ball player that you enjoyed taking pictures of more than anyone else? Also, is there a ball player that you have not shot yet that you would like to shoot?
A: That’s a tough one, because each player brings something special to the plate. But I think the player I’ve had the most fun shooting was Freddie Freeman. He turned it into a game and would put on a big cheesy smile or wave at me any time I’d try to catch a candid shot, which of course made it more of a challenge. His facial expressions while he’s playing are great too, because he gets so into the game and intense.
A player I have not shot yet but would love to is Clayton Kershaw. He quickly became one of my favorite pitchers and I think it would be fun to shoot his mechanics.
Q: Tell us about taking photography from a hobby to a paid profession. How difficult has that journey been and do you have advice for others who hope to do the same?
A: I owe my start in the industry to Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame writer Bob Elliott. I met him in spring training one year as a fan, and he was kind enough to send me feedback on my photos. He helped me get in touch with the right people, and vouched for me when it counted. Bob gave me the best advice when I was first starting out: “Be P & P … patient and persistent. Keep trying till they tell you to take a hike.” And that couldn’t be more true.
Taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, no matter how small, is imperative. It takes time, not only to build your portfolio, but to prove to people that you’re worth hiring and you can’t be afraid to hear no. A lot. But when you finally break through and see your photos published, it makes it worth all the hard work, e-mails and free shoots.
Q: In shooting baseball, you are a woman in a male-dominated industry. What is that like? How have you been treated by the players, coaches and other members of the industry along the way?
A: Working in the automotive industry, also being very male-dominated, I am all too familiar with the challenges women face in the workplace. But it hasn’t been a bad experience at all as a woman shooting baseball. The players and coaches are always very respectful towards me and seem to treat me the same as the other male members of the media.
Q: Does baseball still have a long way to go in how the sport treats women? Would you call it a positive and friendly environment for women?
A: Of course I think there need to be more women in baseball, but as far as how we’re treated, I’d say the sport is doing a great job. I’ve never had a bad experience based on my gender with any member in the industry and would say it has been an incredibly friendly environment. Although I can only speak from my own experiences. I don’t get any special treatment, but I don’t get treated poorly either, so I’d say they’re doing something right.
Q: OK, be honest … how are the photos that Alberta Dugout Stories has used on our website and on social media?
A: They’re great! But if you’re ever looking for someone to shoot for you, I know someone …