Thursday, February 3, 2011

Good ol' hockey game!

I've been slacking on the blog posting lately, sorry about that.

My birthday was this past weekend (Jan 29th, write it down for next year :) ) and I got the chance to watch my 9 year old nephew play hockey! They were playing right around the corner from my house, and I hadn't seen him play all year, so no way I was going to miss this.

I brought along my camera and a few lenses, you know, in case I would have the chance to shoot. Never leave home without your gear! I've never shot a hockey game before, and best to get an idea of what you are doing before being asked and paid to do it. I've done some sport shooting before (water polo, volleyball, soccer,...) so I had an idea of what to expect in terms of how my camera would be set and the ebb and flow of the game.

These kids may be 9 years old, but man, do they have heart. They skate hard, they actually check (which they aren't supposed to do, but hey, it happens), they shoot, they setup plays. I was impressed at the skill level for their young age.

Here are a few tips that helped me (some I knew before, some I found out after shooting):

1- Know the game
While pro cameras can shoot in rapid bursts, nothing beats being able to anticipate the play and get ready for the perfect shot. Knowing what will happen when the puck is dumped, or when the pass is going to the point is critical in helping you time the shot. Burst shooting works fine, but to really take advantage of it, you need to shoot a bit before, during, and a bit after the play. The puck flying through the air takes a micro second to be in the right position...or in the wrong one.

2- Manual white balance
Lights have different colour temperatures. The sun has a different colour. Shooting in the shade has a different colour. While our cameras have decent auto white balance, shooting in manual white balance is the way to go. Depending on what your camera is seeing when you snap, the white balance of the shot may be slightly off, or in my case, make the ice look yellow instead of white for 10% of my shots. So find the right white balance and stick with it. I had to manually adjust the white balance in my final pictures.

3- Shoot faces and pucks
The puck are the subject of the game. This is what people are fighting for. So it makes sense that you have it in your shot. Two people tied in combat with no puck around will look a bit odd. So make sure you get the puck in your shots. There are some shots that are fine without, close up of faces for example. Thinking of a photo of soccer players jumping up to head the ball. Now imagine if there was no ball in the image and how odd they would look.

To tie in to shooting the puck, shoot the faces. This is where the interest and emotion lie. What makes a person's portrait so good? The eyes are sharp and clear and draw the viewer in. What makes a sports photo so good? The same. Some shots can work with the player's backs and names, but try and get the faces of the players as much as you can.

4- Its all about shutter speed
Keep that shutter fast. I thought 9 year old's would be slower, but there were times where my shutter was at 1/250 and it was still too slow to freeze the motion. No one wants blur in the image. I would suggest a minimum of 1/320, with 1/500 of a second being the ideal.

On the flip side (something I didnt do), use a slower shutter speed and do some panning to get a nice sharp subject, but blurry and steaky background.

5- Be ready at all times
Either keep your eye in the viewfinder or be ready to click quick as once the moment passes, it's gone. Both soccer and hockey are low scoring. The last thing you want is turning away and missing the one goal. Happened to me when shooting the hockey game. I was distracted by my other nephew horsing around and I missed a goal. No biggy, spending uncle time with the nephews is more important than getting the right shot, but if I was being paid, no distractions.

6- Have the right gear
This means a telephoto lens for most games. I had my 70-200mm f/2.8 IS. For soccer, I had the same lens, but could of used a 400mm f/2.8. Your shooting position will impact where you shoot from. I had easy access at the hockey game, but at the pro soccer game, I was limited to beside the the back. So when the action was far, my shots are conveying the emotion they should.

Ok...enough rambling, here are some of the images from the game!











Oh... just an FYI, they lose the game in overtime. :(

Thanks for checking them out!

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