In 2007, Howie Kendrick was a second-year pro focused on making his MLB career last. Little did he know, one family photoshoot would allow him to discover a passion that has enhanced his life both on and off the field.
During a Zoom Seminar with Leica Camera, as part of the company's "Leica Conversations" series on Thursday, Kendrick detailed his love for photography. It all began in 2007 when his family had a professional photoshoot done, and the pictures were not up to his standard. Wanting better results, he began playing around with cameras. Not before long, Kendrick had stumbled upon an unexpected new hobby that would follow him throughout the rest of his baseball career.
“I didn’t realize I was going to fall in love with photography," Kendrick said. “I just fell in love with it and started taking my camera on the road with me.”
Much like his journey in the MLB, Kendrick's time as a photographer isn't filled with just successes. There are times where he doesn't get the shot he wanted or ends up with the wrong lens for the type of picture he was aiming for. Though it's different than not connecting with a fastball or letting a ball get by him in the outfield, Kendrick views the ups and downs as one and the same.
“I think failure is a big thing, just like baseball, I find a lot of time I fail at a lot of things with photography," Kendrick said. “There’s days where I go out and I strike out, I don’t get anything.”
“That’s part of it, that’s part of the process. That’s part of the joy," Kendrick said.
As he has on the field, Kendrick keeps the same attitude of always wanting to get better when he goes out to shoot. Fielding ground balls and taking reps in the batting cage have helped him become a valuable asset to the Nationals. It hasn't come without a lot of hard work and struggles, but it's been worth it. Just like how he studies other hitters and works with coaches, the same is done with his camera.
Kendrick will view other photographer's Instagrams and take time to talk with people that he admires.
“I try to approach photography in the same mindset as I would baseball. If I want to get better at it, I have to fine-tune my skills," Kendrick said. "I got to think about what I want to do and understand that I’m gonna make mistakes. But how do I learn from them, and then how do I get better.”
“Just like in baseball when I was a kid, I would see Cal Ripken, Ken Griffey Jr., all those guys playing, and you look up to those guys. You want to get better because my end goal is like, man I want to be like those guys, those guys are great," Kendrick said. "And with photography it’s no different for me. I want to be like the best guys.”
The veteran still considers himself a work-in-progress when it comes to snapping photos, but his work to this date is impressive. As he noted, part of the fun in taking pictures is that he can take his camera with him throughout the season. There, he can capture the moments that bring him so much joy.
Specifically, Kendrick feels grateful that he was able to keep mementos from the 2019 World Series run with the Nationals. Viewing it as the best team he's been a part of, he made sure to constantly capture the team's journey. From hitting coaches to Adam Eaton to Stephen Strasburg, everyone got to be featured in the shoot. Players may sometimes get annoyed when cameras are in their face, but not with Kendrick.
“They’re very appreciative of them, I’m thankful they trust me enough that I could share these moments with them," Kendrick said.
His favorite time to work on his craft is during pregame in the clubhouse. There, he can uniquely illustrate how each player prepares for the game. With no one else around, Kendrick has the ability to save moments that not many others get to see.
Though that may be his favorite time to shoot, one of Kendrick's favorite photographs came during the Nationals World Series parade. There, he ended up with something he never expected to have.
As the team finished speeches on stage, everyone grouped together for a picture -- except for Ryan Zimmerman, who made his way to Kendrick's camera in order to snap a few of his own. Zimmerman was no professional, but he ended up getting the perfect shot.
"He takes it, runs over and he pulls the shutter a couple of times. Obviously he's out of focus because he’s too close, it wasn’t in macro mode," Kendrick said. "So he’s too close but it caught everybody behind him. So it was a happy mistake.”
"But I’m happy he did this because now we have this photo of all of us together," Kendrick said. "This is one of my favorite photos of all time. I have it hanging in my house.”
Kendrick isn't the only one who is a fan. He's had plenty reach out asking him to sell prints of the photo for all to enjoy. He's now considering it, with hopes to donate all the proceeds to charity.
In addition to capturing his baseball life, Kendrick also uses photography as a way to escape the grind of the season. He greatly enjoys going out in cities around the country and capturing everyday life. There, he not only can work on skills, but bring attention to people that society sometimes doesn't notice, such as the homeless.
“They can brighten your day just as much as you can brighten there’s," Kendrick said.
During the 2019 season, Kendrick was the focal point of numerous picture-perfect moments. The grand slam in the NLDS and go-ahead home run in Game 7 of the World Series stand out. But while he may be in front of the camera there, his favorite moments are the ones where he's behind it.
It's in those instances where he can truly encapsulate his journey both inside and out of baseball. Specific seconds of life that only his eyes have been witness to.
“These moments and these images right here are the ones that I like to have because nobody else sees this," Kendrick said.
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