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Now that I have covered the basics I would like to address the needs of the more advanced shooters out there. The lighting is challenging to say the least and setting up is one of the major keys to success. Being prepared for the situations you will encounter is also one of the big hurdles to overcome. I will start again with equipment and this will concentrate on higher end DSLR bodies and lens combinations.
Whether you shoot Canon or Nikon or some other major brand camera is not the question, all of them give adequate flexibility to cover your eventualities. I am a Nikon shooter so most of my experience is in the use of Nikon equipment. Generally speaking if you are lugging around pro level gear your first issue will probably be access to the arena unless security is lax or there are no rules on what camera gear you may bring inside. If there are access issues it will be important to get to know the Media Relations Staff at your arena. Explaining your interest and desires can go a long way to gaining entry to shoot the game. Students in photography and related fields will have the easiest time obtaining credentials to shoot games, practices etc.
Offer to share your best work with the Media Director so that they have some idea that you are a serious photographer. Not every fan with a camera is going to give them some quality shots to work with. Make sure that you tender an agreement for photo credit so that you’re recognized for your work if they use it in their advertising or publications. Ask for “tear sheets” ( copies ) of any work that they use for your portfolio.
CLOTHING is an important aspect of success in that if you are along the glass you don’t want reflections of you in the pic. Wear dark shirts and trousers, preferably black or navy blue- your team sweater in bright colors is a no no in this situation. Also if you are a more serious photographer you want to appear neat and professional to the front office staff. If you are in the arena on Credentials you also should skip the adult beverages as it gives the wrong appearance. Coffee and soda pop are OK as are water and sports drinks. I generally make it a point to get to know the coffee vendor at my home arena as that is my fluid of choice.
SETTING UP your camera body is as important as lens choice. Use all manual settings and tweak them as needed for your peculiar lighting situation. All arena lighting is different so your best white balance may be AUTO with tweaking in post processing. If you are lucky enough to use a PRE-SET white balance use the ice as your guide and remember that it may shade toward blue slightly. The arena lighting may shade the ice toward pink or brown so again you may need to color correct for this. Next is to set your ISO for 800 or above. I generally start at 1000 and go up to 1250 depending on the particular arena. NHL arena lighting is generally better than in the Minors where I shoot as a correspondent for WWW.Prohockeynews.com . Having a venue with consistent lighting from end to end is a plus and a major advantage.
SHUTTER SPEED should begin in the 1/320th sec area and go upward so that you not only freeze the action but also the movement of the puck. Maximum shutter speed will be determined by your lens MAXIMUM APERTURE. Apertures of 2.0 to 4.0 will give you enough light for a shutter speed of 1/400th sec to 1/640th sec. Shooting available light in an arena is tricky at best and will require some experimentation to get it just right. I shoot with two main lenses, an 80-200mm F 2.8 and a 300mm F 4.0. I also carry a wide angle zoom 18-35mm F 3.5 and a 28-70mm F 2.8 for shots of the arena crowd.
LENS CHOICES are determined by your budget and I generally recommend major manufacturers over lesser known brands. The newspaper and arena photographers usually have access to the 300mm F2.8 and longer lenses which give a bit more flexibility to your shooting options. Lens rental is another option to consider.
AS you are now shooting with gear more suited to the task you should buy and use a quality aluminum or carbon fiber MONOPOD to steady your camera/lens combo. This will give you much sharper images over hand holding your lens and give you less fatigue by the end of the night. If you are tired you will be less attentive to the action on the ice and may miss that game defining moment.
POSITONING yourself for those spectacular moments that come along every so often requires some thought and planning as I said in part one. Explore the areas of the arena free of scarred glass, netting, and obstacles that give you the cleanest views of the ice. Know that while shooting from the seating area people will stand up at critical moments so be prepared to stand as well. If there is an approved media area and you have credentials go to those areas of the arena to set up and shoot the game. Also don’t be afraid to move around the arena during the game to get different angles for your shots. At some point you may be shooting alongside pro photographers so introduce yourself and don’t be afraid to ask questions during breaks in the action or at intermissions.
If you are already familiar with the game this is a big plus for your ability to capture the action. Anticipating where the players and the puck will be gives you an advantage in putting you and your lens ahead of the play. I began shooting with film in 1993 and have found digital to be a much advanced media to capture the game I love.
By Rob Huelsman