Brace, for our readers that aren’t as familiar with your work, can you please introduce yourself?
Hey everyone! My name is Brace Hemmelgarn and I’m the team photographer for my hometown Minnesota Twins. I started with the team as a part-time photographer in 2011 and transitioned into a full-time position in 2014. Can’t beat working in baseball for the team you grew up watching as a kid.
How did you start with Photography as a Career?
At the end of my high school career, I began to gravitate towards graphic design as a passion. During my freshman year at Saint John’s University (Collegeville, Minn.), I began to work in the athletic department as a graphic design intern working on programs, tickets, and posters for all of the Johnnies’ sports teams. Our department had camera equipment and I thought it’d be cool that as long as I was designing stuff, that I could use my own photos. So, from there, I picked up a camera and that was that. It turned out alright!
What’s your weapon of choice when to it comes to photography?
This is a tough one. I’d say my go-to is the Canon 200-400mm f/4 lens. It’s not quite a f/2.8 prime, but the versatility is unmatched on the baseball field. The ability to zoom in and out as well as having a 1.4x extender at the flip of a switch makes it great for almost any situation, whether right next to you in the dugout or in deep centerfield.
What are your thoughts on post-processing photographs?
I’m for it in the sense that in this creative industry, you can put your fingerprints on your image. As an art and within my position, I enjoy the creative freedom of being myself and making it my own.
(Working editorially for a news service is definitely a different way of thinking.)
You were one of the few people that had access to Joe Mauer’s final season as a baseball player, can you tell us a little about your photo objectives with him this year in particular?
Going into this year and knowing it was the last year of Joe’s contract, it was always in the back of my mind. Knowing him, you kinda knew he would never announce it early, but you have to plan for it. Having notched his 2,000th career hit and surpassing a few other Twins milestones this season, it was definitely beneficial in terms of photography. As the season went on, with the help of Dustin Morse (Senior Director, Communications), we were able to shoot more behind the scenes stuff, whether in the clubhouse, cage or weight room. I think, as an organization, we did pretty well with planning ahead and covering our bases before it was too late.
I would say it even started prior to this year. With a player like Joe Mauer, you know you’re shooting an organizational icon on a daily basis, so I was always cognizant about different ideas and shots over the last few years.
Within the Twins baseball team, who is that one player that is always up for a photo?
I’d say most of our team is always up for it. A lot of it starts with trust. Trust between myself, our staff and our players that we’re working to showcase our team and their personalities in the best, positive light. Once that trust is built, I believe it makes it much easier on myself to create images that showcase personality, whether on or off the field.
Are there any special projects your working on at the moment?
Nothing too extravagant. It’s a long process, but we are in the middle of digitizing our entire photo archive. Scanning and tagging photos dating back to 1961 is quite the process, but it’s fun to see the progress that we have made so far.
Aside from your expertise in baseball photography, what other sports catch your interest and what would you like to shoot next?
I first started with a camera shooting hockey, so I will always have a passion for that. A fast-paced game with limitations while shooting (size of holes in glass, etc.) makes it difficult but also a good challenge to be creative. Especially being in Minnesota, the hockey scene is very popular here, whether on the professional, collegiate or high school level.
As for what I’d like to shoot next…one of my favorite sports to watch and play is soccer, so a goal I’ve always had in the back of my head is to shoot a World Cup someday. Not sure how that would ever work out with a baseball schedule, but we’ll figure that out when the time comes!
How do you decide which pictures to put on Instagram?
I feel like with anyone in the creative industry, you want to show off your best work. A lot of times on Instagram, I try to let show off the emotion. Whether a big moment in the game or a quiet moment inside the clubhouse, I like to show off more of the game than just the action itself.
What was the craziest experience you’ve had on the field while shooting?
Not sure if you’d consider it crazy, but the rush of shooting Joe Mauer’s final game on September 30 as he took the field as a catcher one last time was surreal. At the moment, I don’t remember much, but I had a plan in mind and almost everything worked out as I planned, which is rare in photography.
Only a small few knew about the catching appearance and once I found out, my plans for the game drastically changed my approach. From there, we got approval from the umpire crew to be on the field as he walked out to home plate. I would hope that he would tip his cap once standing near home plate and I wanted to frame it from directly behind home plate with the ‘Target Field’ in the background. Thankfully, everything went as planned and I was also able to stay back far enough out of the way that all other photographers were able to capture the moment from their respective photo wells. All-in-all, it was kind of crazy and I’m happy with how it ended up.
Sometimes less is more?
The best camera you have is the one in your hands, right? No matter the body, lens, or even your phone, you can always make an image.
Brace, thanks for the time. Any closing words or suggestions for aspiring photographers?
Get out, shoot, shoot more, meet people and build a network. I believe that all of those things helped me to get where I am today. Especially starting out, I was never the best shooter, or even good for that matter, but I believe that being personable helped get my foot in the door in the sports industry.
Where can our readers find and follow you?