Not only is he an accomplished photographer, Michael also writes for one of the top sports blogs around, Metsblog.com. He does all this while working a day job.
I recently talked to Michael about how he got his start, the work balance, and his challenges. I think you will find his answers helpful whether you are just out of college or a seasoned pro.
Jason Mollica: How did you get your start in taking photos?
Michael Baron: I started taking pictures at Met games in 2002. I didn’t own a camera at the time, but I had borrowed my friend’s Olympus point and shoot camera to take on a trip to Las Vegas, and still had possession of the camera for an extra day so I decided to take it to Shea Stadium and shoot a game between the Mets and Phillies. From then on, I was hooked, went out to get my own point and shoot, and I’ve been taking pictures at games ever since.
JM: Did you intend to create MetsPhotos.com or was it by “accident?”
MB: It was really by accident. I originally launched it as MichaelGBaron.com as a place to keep a diary of my thoughts about the Mets, which was separate from MetsBlog. I wanted to incorporate my pictures from the start, but it turned into a Photoblog of sorts. I think it’s still a work in progress, but Matt has been great in helping me develop the site and create the brand.
JM: How did you start working with Matt Cerrone at Metsblog.com?
MB: Matt and I first traded emails about two years ago, and when I first contacted him, I just introduced myself and sent a link to my pictures. We began to speak regularly about the Mets, blogging, and picture-taking, and he offered me the opportunity to begin writing for the blog at that time. Originally, I didn’t want to write for the blog because I didn’t consider myself a writer, and outside of college, I have no experience writing. All I wanted to do was provide photographs for his posts, as well as his co-writers.
In Spring Training of 2009, I sent Matt numerous pictures from Port St. Lucie, with no intention other than that I was there and figured he might be interested in the photos, and he posted them to MetsBlog and they were an instant hit on the site. We then discussed the possibility of me writing for MetsBlog again, and once again I said I would rather provide pictures for him and his co-writers.
Around Opening Day in 2009, Matt and I met at Citi Field and we once again talked about me writing for MetsBlog. I
once again simply wanted to provide the pictures for the site, but he wanted me to write and act as a backup to him when he would be unavailable. I decided to give it a shot, although I was uncertain how it would go, because like I said, I don’t consider myself a writer.
He has helped me a great deal along the way with my writing, he has taught me a great deal about the business side of the Mets and we have such great communication on a daily basis.
JM: Was there a moment when you doubted yourself and how did you overcome it?
MB: Every post I write, I doubt myself. Like I said, I know I’m not a writer, and so I am always concerned about how I express my ideas, and making sure I am clearly expressing my ideas. I know, as a fan how I feel and what I want to say about a particular topic, but I know that at times, I have trouble transferring those ideas from my brain to the blog.
The way I overcome it is, if there is not a time sensitive post, I read the post as though I am a reader in preview mode, and make sure as a reader, my ideas are clearly laid out. I try to remind myself that the reader doesn’t know what I am thinking about the topic, and I have to make sure I understand fully what’s on the screen as a result.
I also need to remind myself, at times, that this is blogging, and I am entitled to my opinion whether people agree with me or not. As a former player, a student of the game, and a long time and hungry Met fan, I think my opinions are often unique and misunderstood because of the vantage point I’ve had, but it is still my opinion and I try to convey all three of those angles when I write. That said, I need to always work to be clear in my expressions, and it will always be a work in progress for me.
JM: How do you balance the day job with taking photos and posting for Metsblog.com?
MB: At times, it’s difficult, and I often forget things that need to be done as a result. I care very much about writing for MetsBlog and photographing games, and there is also the social media aspect of all of this and the interaction on Twitter and Facebook, which I think walks hand-in-hand with the whole adventure. But let’s not forget about my wife and family, and I need my day job and fulfill the responsibilities there, and so it can all be difficult to manage and often quite exhausting.
Matt knows I have a full-time job, and I cannot get fired from it, and so he never expects me to be available all of the time. I try to adjust my schedule for him as best as I can, because I know he has other responsibilities as well and MetsBlog is an important presence not just for the Mets, but also throughout Major League Baseball.
JM: There are those that say you need to have an “eye” for being a good photographer. Do you agree?
MB: I think the eye of the photographer is completely subjective, and it would be unfair to say one person doesn’t have a good eye, and another person does. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, whether he or she is photographing sports or the Grand Canyon. What I find appealing, you may not, and vice versa, but that doesn’t make one photographer better than the other.
JM: Greatest compliment you have received so far in your photography career?
MB: I get a lot of appreciation from the folks on Twitter, and I am very humbled by their support. I always say, without people’s interest, there is really no point in spending the time to photograph. Matt has also been very complimentary about the photos, which I appreciate very much. However, my wife’s opinion means a lot, because I need her support more than anyone’s because the greatest sacrifice I make in writing for MetsBlog and going to games and photographing is the one I make in spending time with her. She loves my work, and she also respects the level this is on now, and that means a lot.
JM: I’d be crazy, as a Mets fan, not to ask this: What does your gut tell you about what they will do this off-season?
MB: It’s so hard to tell right now, because they are essentially starting from square one by hiring a new GM and manager. For the first time in many years, I really don’t have any idea where they will begin, but I think by rebuilding the culture and philosophy with the team, there will be a significant improvement without any changes made. Of course, I think there will be some positive change, although if they aren’t willing to increase their payroll during the off-season, it will be difficult, at best, to bring in a premium free agent.
A huge thank you to Michael for taking the time to answer these questions and allowing the use of his great photos. You can follow him on Twitter @MichaelGBaron.