Adventures in Sports Photography, Hockey Edition
This past summer, as we all started to get excited about the opening of the Pegula Ice Arena, I started to get even more excited about the prospect of photographing collegiate ice hockey.
I’ve written before about the challenges and rewards in photographing volleyball, wrestling, and a football practice. But, except for one time in the late 1970s when I took my now-antique Honeywell Pentax Spotmatic to a Johnstown Jets game at the War Memorial, I had never tried to shoot hockey.
To get ready for the Penn State games, I did what I always do to educate myself on such things: I went to Google. (Full disclosure: I own exactly one share of Google stock.) I searched “how to photograph ice hockey” and found an enormous amount of advice. Some of the best came from a guy by the name of Don Smith, who is the team photographer for the San Jose Sharks and whose article on the subject was especially helpful.
Among the advice that stood out for me:
All that ice. The game is played on a virtually all-white surface, which can mess up your camera’s exposure metering, but on the other hand, it helps illuminate the players’ faces. It’s way better than, say, wrestling, where the action often takes place on a dark mat.
Need for speed. Hockey is one of the fastest-moving of all sports and thus one of the toughest to photograph. It requires you to set your camera’s ISO to at least 800 to 1000 and use shutter speeds no slower than 1/400 of a second. Luckily, the Pegula Arena is exceptionally well-lit, and in the two games I’ve shot so far, I’ve been able to use shutter speeds as high as 1/1250 or even 1/2500 of a second.
Keep shooting. As is true in virtually every sport, the secret to getting a few good photos is to take a lot of photos. Or, as one guy online said: “Don’t hesitate to shoot a ton of frames; by sheer blind luck some will be great.”
At the men’s opener against Army, I shot nearly 300 images and ended up with about 20 that I thought were half decent. At the women’s game against New Hampshire this past Saturday night, I took about 185 images—and identified seven that I like. My ratio might improve as I get more experience, but still, that’s just the nature of photography.
Watch the knees. This was an interesting tip: If you’re trying to get photos of the action in front of the goal, train your camera on the goalie and wait for his or her knees to flex—a sign that the puck is headed their way—then start shooting like crazy. I tried to remember that on Saturday night, and sure enough, I was able to get a shot of a goal being scored. Unfortunately, it was a goal for UNH:
Through the looking glass? The plexiglass that protects fans from flying pucks can really be annoying to a photographer: It can cost you at least an f-stop in exposure, and the scuff marks and hand prints can mar your photos. Some photographers take a rag with them to the games and do what they can to clean off their little section of the glass.
Luckily, the people who designed the Pegula Arena included a few portholes for photographers to stick their camera lenses through. Two of the portholes are reserved for Sports Information photographers Mark Selders and Steve Manuel ’84, ’92, but that leaves one or two for the media photographers to take turns with.
Part of the reason I went to the women’s game this past Saturday night (and not, for example, the rematch on Sunday afternoon) was that I figured Mark and Steve would be out in Columbus shooting the football game. Likewise, I assumed that few, if any, news media would cover a women’s hockey game scheduled opposite that football game. I was right: I had the Pegula portholes to myself all night.
I suspect that those portholes will become more important as the season goes on. Take a look at how scuffed the glass has become after just a few games:
Below are a couple more of the photos I got on Saturday night. Here’s a scrum in front of the UNH goal (note the Penn State chipmunk on the puck):
And here’s a shot of some action along the near-side boards:
That’s sophomore forward Micayla Catanzariti trying to dig out the loose puck.
You can see that the stands were, unfortunately, pretty empty on Saturday night—there’s a big discrepancy in attendance so far between the men’s games and the women’s games, and being up against the Ohio State game obviously made it worse. Official attendance was listed at 493. But it was a great game: The two teams traded goals all night, until UNH finally pulled away and won 8-5.
I’m looking forward to lots more hockey in that magnificent arena throughout the season and in the years to come.
Tina Hay, editor
P.S. If I’m not mistaken, somewhere around my house I have a few photos from that Jets game I shot, including one or two of the Carlson brothers, the Johnstown players who served as the model for the nerdy, goon-squad Hanson brothers in the Paul Newman movie Slap Shot. Someday if I run across them, I’ll post them.