Last season, while shooting photos from the roof of Toronto's SkyDome, 31 stories above the playing field, photographer Chuck Solomon decided to check in with SI assistant picture editor Laurel Frankel in New York via his cellular phone. A few minutes into the conversation, there was a pause and then Solomon said, "Oops! Oh, no! There goes a lens shade, and it just missed that centerfielder!"
"I went into cardiac arrest," says Frankel. "I screamed, 'Who did it hit?' Then I realized that Chuck was only joking around."
Solomon, whose photo essay begins on page 48, spent three days last summer in his lofty perch, shooting the Blue Jays from the sky. The assignment, however, was no lark. "It was almost like an expedition up K-2," Solomon says of the Himalayan climb up a series of stairs and catwalks to a small platform hanging from the underside of the Dome's retractable roof—which was, during Solomon's visits, open.
Before Solomon made each ascent, any small equipment had to be taped or clamped for the safety of those below, and a technician searched his pockets and seized his loose change, ensuring that no pennies would fall from SkyDome heaven during the game.
For Frankel, the results were well worth the effort. "These pictures offer such a different perspective on the game, a whole new dimension," she says. "And with the open roof allowing natural light, you get shadows that you can't get if you're shooting from a high position indoors in a place like the Astrodome. Besides, normally when photographers shoot from high up, they're in the upper deck outside the perimeter of the field. At the SkyDome, Chuck was right over the playing field."
Solomon is a native New Yorker who spent most of his childhood just a line drive from Shea Stadium. After teaching elementary and junior high school in the South Bronx during the 1970s, he decided in 1980 to pursue photography as a full-time career. Since then Solomon has made a picture-taking pilgrimage to baseball's spring training every year and has been a frequent contributor to SI since '85.
He has also written and photographed four children's books about sports. His most recent volume, Major-League Batboy (Crown Publishers, $11.95), chronicles a day in the life of a Philadelphia Phillie batboy.
As for his next expedition to SkyDome, Solomon says, "I think I'll shoot it from ground level." After all, he has already been to the summit.