What the Puck…

So it’s been a bonanza of sports lately, which has been kind of awesome since it’s something I’ve wanted to shoot more of for a long time.  I’ve gotten to try my hand at a few different sports as of late, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them all.   One opportunity that came up recently that I wasn’t expecting was a call from John and Kelly over at White Shark Photographic about an opportunity to photograph some Hockey.

(Nikon D3, 6400ISO, Sigma 15mm F2.8 Fisheye, 1/250th@F2.8)

John and Kelly at White Shark Photographic have been the Indiana Ice photographers for the last 10 or so years.  In fact the guy they took it over from actually shot film at the games.  So I think it’s needless to say that they have been doing it for a while.  Anyway, Shannon has actually known John and Kelly for years, but it was the blog that I wrote about camera settings for sports that inspired them to contact me About covering a game for them.  I guess it just goes to show that keeping a blog does actually do something other than allow you to pollute photographers minds with spelling and grammatical errors…  Anyway,  I’d never shot hockey before and that evening’s resulting pictures absolutely show that, combined with the fact that the Indianapolis Pan Am arena was incredibly dark.

(Nikon D3, 6400ISO, Nikon 200-400F4@330mm 1/640th@F4)

My first step for accepting the job to shoot the game was asking to shoot a preliminary game.  This of course was outside the bounds of the actual job, but practice makes perfect and I wanted to meet the staff involved with the so that if I had any trouble the day of I’d at least have met a few members of the staff.  It’s all about doing your homework, and knowing what to expect when you go someplace.  You can’t always go someplace early or shoot an extra game per say to get some practice, but since I had that option I thought exercising it wasn’t a bad idea.  Honestly I think I had about the same experience that Scott Kelby did when I say; Wow.  I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen to me.

(Nikon D4, 6400ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2@70mm, 1/1000th@F4)

When thinking about hockey I automatically thought of Roller Derby in the sense that F2.8 on a long lens is great, but not as useful as you might think when it comes to the focus and proximity to the crowd.  When not shooting on lights, or shooting in a dim arena F2.8 is kind of the Go To, but the crowd is pretty close to the players thanks to the boards and glass so there really isn’t any way to get the same player background separation as in football.  This actually makes getting sharp photos easier considering you can shoot at F4, F5.6 or even deeper if you have enough light.  While doing some reading on Sunday after the game I shot I discovered that Scott Kelby had come to the same conclusion (with the help of Dave Black) about shooting hockey but he suggests shooting at F8 if possible.  Largely to my dismay, the Pan Am Plaza was in no way bright enough to accommodate much deeper than F4 which I chose as my aperture because I foolishly carried my Nikon 200-400F4 around to shoot the game and I wanted camera settings to be consistent between my D3 and D4.

(Nikon D4, 6400ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2@170mm, 1/1000th@F4)

SO yea.  Pan Am Plaza was dark, and it also had those wonderful overhead lights that pulse with the power line frequency, thus casting the slight red in the foreground in the photo above while also keeping the slight green in the background; but that’s a whole other problem for another day.  How dark was this arena?  1/1000th of a second at F4, 6400ISO kind of dark.  To put that into perspective, that’s almost as dark as the night high school football game I shot last year.  Yea.  That kind of dark.  I prefer to shoot something like this at 1/1000th of a second as you are much more likely to freeze action and very quick movement you normally see of players playing Hockey.  Honestly it’s ok though since I was less concerned with the dark than I was concerned with shooting through Lexan since the ICE don’t have an arena equipped with holes in the glass for photography.  Shooting through the glass is surprisingly clear, until you start to shoot at any kind of angle of course.  Someone getting checked into the boards to your left?  Shooting at an angle into the glass can not only decrease the sharpness, but any dark reflections can decrease your exposure, as well as the angle can distort your final image.  So yea.  You’ve got to be thinking about that too.

(Nikon D4, 6400ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2@200mm 1/1000th@F4)

So as you can tell; I’ve got some work to do in order to get better at shooting hockey.  I think I’m up for the challenge.  The November 1st game is the game I’m actually shooting as a fill in for the Ice and White Shark Photography.  I’m excited about it as it’s in Bankers Life Field house where the Indiana Pacers play; a much brighter venue.  I’m still planning on being a fool too in fact, and the 200-400 is ready to go again.  I had planned on shooting some tight headshots on a few breakaways or even on the bench, but I was so caught up in the action that I didn’t end up having a chance.  Honestly, I think a 300mm F2.8 with or without an extender is probably a better choice due to weight as a monopod or tripod on the side of a hockey rink isn’t really appropriate,  but I don’t own a 300mm so the 200-400 and a little bit of weight lifting is in order.

(Nikon D4, 6400ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2@78mm, 1/1000th@F4)

As you can see I did catch at least one goal that night.  It took a minute for my eyes to find it, but it is there.  I’ll have to do a followup next weekend after the game I’ve been hired to shoot.  I’m no Dave Black, Scott Kelby, or Andrew Hancock, but I’m greatly looking forward to the challenge.  I shot my second NFL football game last weekend as well, and while the game wasn’t all that photogenic and my photographs prove it; I did have a few things I was pleased with.  Otherwise stay tuned, there are more sports related posts to come.  More Soon.

(Nikon D4, 720ISO, Nikon 200-400F4 with TC14eII Extender @550mm.  1/1250@F5.6)