Posts tagged ‘sports photography’

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.

DSC_9030_goalie_save_croppedNeed 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.

October 28, 2013 at 2:47 pm 1 comment

Adventures in Sports Photography: Football Practice


Freshman Christian Hackenberg and the other quarterbacks in a passing drill yesterday.

As part of yesterday’s Media Day for Penn State football, part of the team’s practice was open to the media, so I ventured over with my camera gear.

I’ve photographed a few other Penn State sports—I’ve written before about my forays into women’s volleyball (here and here) and wrestling—and I’ve been thinking about trying football for a while. So I thought that shooting a football practice would be a good start.

I had a bit of general apprehensiveness, and a lot of questions, going into the experience. A sampling, along with the answers:

What kind of lenses will I need? Do I want to lug my heavy 70-200mm f2.8 lens, or will things be close enough that a regular zoom will be enough? Ha! A 70-200mm turns out to be barely enough. A lot of the pro photographers brought their big guns; I’m fairly certain they were using 300mm or even 600mm lenses. That practice field is huge, and if you think about it, it needs to be: It has to accommodate all of the players doing all kinds of drills at once. But that meant that when Bill O’Brien was on the other side of the field, he might as well have been a sparrow in a treetop as far as my camera was concerned.

Christian_HackenbergWill I need a monopod? Yes, that was helpful; it beats hand-holding the heavier lens, and lots of other photographers were using monopods.

Will I stand out? Will all the regulars notice immediately that I’m a newbie? Heck no. The place was crawling with news media—writers, still photographers, TV camera people, producers. I was just one of the throng, and that was fine by me.

(This reminds me of a story: I used to play recreational ice hockey over at the Ice Pavilion, and I often would be the only female on the team. One summer, two or three games into the season, my line is taking a breather on the bench while our teammates take their turn on the ice, and one guy on the bench says to another guy: “Hey, I hear there’s gonna be a girl on our team this season.” The other guy just looks at him and silently points to me. The first guy looks over at me—we all do look pretty much alike under all that gear—and says, with a sheepish look, “Oh.”)

—Will I get run over by three linebackers and suffer multiple contusions and fractures? Nope—not this time, anyway. Probably not a bad idea to stay alert at these things, though.

The whole experience turned out to be very interesting, mildly productive (I shot about 300 photos and ended up with maybe 10 or 15 keepers), and a good learning experience for me.

The first thing I learned is that time is a bit elastic over there. For example, the info we received said that we’d be able to shoot starting at 2:30 for about 25 to 30 minutes. We were encouraged to get there at least 10 minutes early. I got there about 2:25 and practice was already underway, and at 2:30 we were told “No more photos.”


As it turns out, we only had to put our cameras down for about 15 minutes, while the team ran some plays, and then we were allowed to shoot again while they did some stretching. And after the stretching, we were able to shoot some other drills. The media ended up being able to stay for more than an hour, and photos were allowed off and on throughout that period; someone from Sports Information would walk by periodically and say, “OK, no photos for the next two minutes, but after that you can shoot for 10” or whatever. I got the impression that in general, they’re fine with you shooting during stretching and routine drills, but not while they’re running plays—and that of course makes sense.

So, note to self: If I’m going to do this again at a future practice, plan on coming early and staying late. Published times are only a guideline. Go with the flow.

In addition to the shots of the quarterbacks, above, here are a few images I managed to get yesterday. First, one of Bill O’Brien—nothing special; I would have liked to have gotten some with more animated expressions. (Next time!)


Next, center Wendy Laurent during the stretching period.…


Here’s tight ends coach John Strollo supervising a drill:

John Strollo

And here’s a composite of four assistant coaches; click on it to see it bigger:


Finally, I got a few—a very few—halfway decent action shots. Here are two, both from the defensive backs drills. The first, I think, is sophomore safety Trevor Williams (10) and sophomore cornerback Da’Quan Davis:

DSC_5264_med_defensive backs

And here’s Trevor Williams again:


Some of the challenges in shooting yesterday were similar to those in any sports photography. Aperture, for example: You want an f-stop wide enough to blur out some of the distractions in the background, but you need at least enough depth of field so that both of the players going for the ball are in focus.

Similarly, a camera whose shutter has a fast burst rate is as helpful here as it is in shooting other fast-moving sports. When the coach launches a pass toward the defensive backs, you just hold the shutter down and keep firing off shots until the play is over. If your camera only gives you, say, four frames per second, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with a shot of the ball approaching the player’s fingertips and another of him cradling it after the catch, but not the shot in between, where he’s actually making the catch.

And, as in all sports, you do need to shoot a lot of images to get a few good ones. For every “money shot,” there are plenty of tosser-outers—ones that are out of focus, or where the coach has his eyes closed or the player has an unflattering expression or the player’s arm is blocking his face.

One challenge that I wasn’t expecting: all that green. The field is green, the trees surrounding the field are green, and as a result many of my photos had an overall greenish cast to them. Fixing a wacky color balance in Photoshop is not my long suit, so that’s something I need to work on.

But enough about me. If you want to see some professional images from yesterday’s practice—and Media Day generally—here are some galleries I recommend:

This one from the York Daily Record.

These from Penn State Live and these from

This gallery from Christopher Weddle of the Centre Daily Times.

—And this one from the Harrisburg Patriot‘s Joe Hermitt, one of my favorite photographers of Penn State football.

Tina Hay, editor

August 9, 2013 at 3:18 pm 4 comments

Adventures in Sports Photography, Wrestling Edition


I had a chance to try my hand at photographing wrestling on Sunday—at one of the biggest duals ever in Rec Hall. Top-ranked Penn State lost to three-time national champion Iowa before a crowd of 6,686, and while I was disappointed in the outcome, I had a great time shooting the action.

I’ve tried photographing other sports before (including women’s volleyball back in December), but I had never shot wrestling. So, after securing a media pass for Sunday’s match, I started doing some homework. I Googled “how to photograph wrestling.” I called (more…)

January 31, 2011 at 11:02 am 8 comments

Adventures in Sports Photography, Women’s Volleyball Edition


A friend and I went to Rec Hall last night to watch the Penn State women’s volleyball team beat Duke to win the NCAA regional tournament and advance to the national semifinals.

It was great, of course, to be part of the noisy and enthusiastic home crowd, and to see players like Blair Brown and Arielle Wilson for the last time in Rec Hall. But I also decided to bring my camera along and try my hand at photographing volleyball. And oh boy, was it challenging.

I’ll spare you the details of spending the first 10 or 15 minutes messing around with white balance (fluorescent turned out to be best), aperture (f5.6 or so), and ISO (I cranked it to 2500 at times). At one point I went over to talk to Mark Selders, who shoots for the athletic department—and who, I might add, has a much better camera and waaaaaaaay longer lenses than I do. He gave me a few tips: For example, when the ball is served, (more…)

December 12, 2010 at 8:09 pm 6 comments

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