Experiences: Cornell Hockey

Just one friendly reminder before I start: the pictures I include with these posts will from now on be low-res and cannot be reproduced without my express permission! My school newspaper gets me into many of these events (especially the sporting events), and as such they hold part of the image copyright. So, please, don’t steal these images!!!

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted (for the few who are keeping track!). I am currently in the middle of midterms so I haven’t gotten out to shoot quite as much as normal. This weekend, however, I got to cover the Union College hockey game! Union College was the top of the ECAC  and I have to say that it was one of the best games I have seen yet. One of the best parts of being a photographer for my school is that it really puts me into the middle of a student life that I would otherwise almost entirely miss out on. I mean, how else could I get mere inches away from the violent, body-slamming, frozen action that charges Lynah Rink full of a palpable mass of screaming energy? What I’m trying to say is that I’m lucky that I have ended up where I have an that before I start to talk more about this specific event, I would like to urge readers to be proactive and look for opportunities. You would be surprised where you can end up.

It can be nice to use a lens with decent reach when the players rush down the rink

      Hockey is yet another one of those sports where you have to shoot through glass/plastic/scuffed-image-quality-killers (#squash) , so before I get going I feel obligated to remind you that you should be using a lens hood whenever possible to cut down on reflections and to be using the sharpest lens you can to compensate. It might even be useful to bring along a cloth or small towel of some sorts to wipe down the glass before hand if you know the place you are shooting is dirty enough (on a side note, I always like to carry a towel with me. Maybe it’s just me being paranoid about getting my weather-sealed camera even the littlest bit wet, but I always feel the need to wipe it down… Then again, I love my camera to the point where I have named it… I also collect Nikon cameras… regardless, even Douglas Adams would agree that towels are handy!). More about the lenses that I use for hockey; as always I have my 70-200mm f/2.8 with me. I know that many of you out there might think that it is an exorbitantly-priced, over the top lens, but I assure you that the hefty price tag is there for a reason and that I think this lens is worth every penny (thanks, Dad!). The sharpness is uncompromising at all focal lengths from corner to corner, the VR is stellar for when I need to quickly whip the lens around to follow the action, and the fixed f/2.8 aperture is a necessity. I would absolutely recommend that a 70-200mm f/2.8 (from any manufacturer) be in the bag of any sports or news photographer just from a practicality standpoint. The focal lengths are exactly what this type of photography calls for. I also always carry my 50mm f/1.8 and 35mm f/1.8 around with me to these events (I will explain more about that in a bit) because they are very small and can always fit into my pack. You may notice that these are all very fast lenses; however, I have found that hockey is one of the most well-lit sports (NOTE: different rinks have different lighting!!! This is only my experience, so be prepared for the worst). Granted I still shoot at ~ISO 2000 to make sure action gets frozen (get it?) at 1/640th or 1/800th of a second, but you have to remember that the ice is one giant reflector dish. The players are normally pretty well lit! In the same vein, be careful not to blow out the ice. Getting a proper exposure figured out in manual shooting mode before the action really starts is essential.

Many of my favorite shots include the spray of ice from a player’s skates because it adds a real sense of motion, urgency, and even chaos to the picture. What better says, “I only just barely avoided slamming you into the fixed, cold metal bar right behind you with my razor-sharp skates,” honestly?

      Here’s a tip for capturing the action: stand in a corner! It may sound a bit odd because you are standing where the glass bends and will rarely be facing players directly (unless they are slammed right into the wall in front of your face! Trust me, pay attention during the game or you might be in for a shock!). However, you can easily get shots of a lot of important action with a lens such as the 70-200mm with a nice zoom range. From this vantage, it is easy to get crisp pictures of shots on goal (above), or of players rushing down the rink (above, above). In the latter case, having a crop-sensor camera might even be a bonus because of the extra reach you can get. All I’m saying is that at Cornell, where hockey is HUGE and the Lynah Rink is a madhouse, it is nice to be able to get a lot of shots from one spot because moving around might not be possible. Trust me, people will shout at you if you even pass by in front of them. Fans are serious. If you are at a loss for what to take pictures of, especially if you are new to this, try to just follow the puck for a few minutes. Just get a feel for the pacing of the game and then try to follow it through your viewfinder. Personally, I like to make sure that I have a clear subject to my photo; that is, I always try and have a single player driving the action and telling the viewer what to pay attention to. However, you don’t want your subject to just be standing around idly, and just because you have one subject doesn’t mean that the rest of your picture is unimportant! For example, the picture at the top of this post is clearly focused on player #20 but that is not all that makes this picture interesting. I like the picture more for the sense of passion and wild competition that I feel from it. Just look at the Union player’s face. Look at the angle of the skates. Then pair all of that with the calm, juxtaposition of the advertisements reflected on the smooth ice. The whole picture is charged! It’s very tough to see any picture and not read into how the background changes the feel of the image, and that’s why I say that it important to look for a context around the action that your subject is taking.

Don’t you hate it when someone steps in front of your camera? This would have been such a nice shot (to me)!

     Remember how I said earlier that I liked to always bring my 35 and 50mm lenses along? Well that’s because hockey games are also my favorite places for crowd photography. Part of it is the college I go to, but as far as spectators go I have to say that hockey fans are some of the most rambunctious out there. I feel stupid for saying that while posting a picture of a rather somber looking man, but maybe I can redeem myself by saying that he looks the way he does because he is staring down the scoreboard in between periods. Maybe saying that hockey fans seem to be more emotive than other sporting enthusiasts is more correct. Regardless, the light reflecting from the ice provides a wonderful fill from the ceiling lights and adds a spark to people’s eyes. When people stand nearby the plastic barrier be sure to look for some cool reflections too. The only caveat I have to give is that you need, repeat, NEED to keep your camera settings straight! The lighting on the crowd is very different from that on the ice and for that reason I do not recommend quickly switching back and forth between the two  areas while the game is actually happening. Nothing is more sad than realizing at the end of the night that you have about 300 pictures of bright white highlights with little red and black jerseys floating around in them.

I hope that this was helpful, and please comment if you would like to see more posts like this. Once again, these pictures are copyrighted to the Cornell Daily Sun and may not be used without express permission of the Daily Sun! They are the only reason I can get into these events and take pictures where I do, so it is not fair to them if you go and steal these images.

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