Monday, September 5, 2016

Hockey Photography - The Equipment

Hockey photography is intense. You have to have hockey sense to capture the right moment; whether it be an hard bone-rattling hit or the release of a wrist shot that gets past the goalie. And when that happens, you need to be able to have the right shutterspeed to capture that moment. Everything has to come together to get the shot.

As I've progressed in hockey photography (I shoot sports for my kids' hockey teams over the capture their children's moments on the ice), I've found that I've had to have the right equipment to capture the shot. At the risk of sounding like a gear-head, I prefer to have the right equipment for the job because it makes my job that much easier. If I'm shooting with a 70-300mm f/4-5.6, my shutter-speed drops to the point where capturing action as it happens on the ice becomes a chance hit and miss situation and if you're in the business of preserving moments: you cannot miss a shot because your lens was too slow. I shoot hockey photography with a Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII. That is my go-to lens for hockey photography.

With the erratic lighting in hockey arenas that aren't catered to the professional media - minor and community hockey rinks. If you're lucky enough that your minor hockey association plays in a rink that they share with a Junior team or a WHL team, you're in luck because they tailor the lighting to help the media capture publicity photographs of the team's action on ice. However if you're stuck at a regular arena with no media lighting, you're pretty much hooped and you're going to have to check your white-balance every single time that you shoot a game.

Lately, I've noticed that my 70-200mm f/2.8 is not wide enough when it comes to the action along the near boards and behind the net. And that invariably is where the puck usually ends up. So the next lens to look at acquiring is a Tokina AT-X 11-20mm f/2.8 PRO. In an ideal world, I'd prefer to go Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 and Nikon 24-70mm, but that would be almost a $5000.00 investment just for the lens and to get the full benefit of the lens, an upgrade to FX would be necessary. It doesn't make any financial sense at the moment. The Tokina 11-20mm f/2.8 is a lens that will end up costing me over $900.00 to own, but it will be a worthwhile investment and less money than the other two lenses of the famed Nikon Triumvirate. I've tried shooting with my 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5, however as with the 70-300mm f/4-5.6G it's a hit and miss situation. I'm a Nikon guiy so I'm sure there are Canon branded equivalents but I don't keep up with Canon's lens selection since I'm no longer behind the desk in a camera store - those days are long gone.

A second body is always a good option too. And I recommend getting a semi-pro body (like a Nikon D500 or a Canon 7D Mk. II (if you're into the 1.6x crop factor (1.5x for Nikon)) The reason I say semi-pro body is when you put the camera on burst, you don't want 3 fps; you want at least 6-11 fps in sports especially hockey. At 3fps consumer grade burst, your buffer slows you down and you miss shots. So a good semi-pro body is recommended. I'm currently operating with one camera body and noticing the limitations. I will be locating a second Nikon D300s at some point in the coming year.

But all in all, hockey photography is a game of timing, just as hockey is on the ice. You need to have the sense of where the puck is at all time and how it's coming off the boards and to have your lens pointed there before the action gets there. Now I'm no NHL photographer, but I do enjoy photographing my son's hockey games and being able to capture moments for him and his team-mates that will last a lifetime. And isn't that what it's all about with photography?

Hockey Photography - How I Do It.

I will be pulling certain articles that I've written over the years at Maniac With Camera over to this blog, since I've pretty much closed down that blog. Some of these articles will be tips and tricks on how to improve your photography. A lot of parents are hockey parents in Canada and as such, I am one too. So here's my first article on hockey photography.

Been an interesting couple of weeks shooting hockey photography at the various rinks around Surrey, BC. Shooting hockey wide-angle with the AF-S DX 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 is a challenge, however it can be done, though I would more than recommend a faster lens (f/2.8 or faster an absolute must if you are shooting professionally - selling your photos). You have to have at least 1/350th of a sec or higher to effectively freeze on-ice action if you are shooting 18-70mm. I was at ISO2500 and I still at 70mm could not get up to anything more than 1/125 sec. The 1.5x rule (You do not handhold at shutterspeeds of 1.5x the maximum focal length of the lens you have on your camera (for example if you have a 200mm lens, you should have a shutterspeed at least 1/350th of a sec or faster)) doesn't apply in this case. Shooting at anything under 1/350th of a sec while shooting indoor fast sports like hockey is a game of hit and miss. Hockey is a fast sport and anything under 1/350th of a sec will run the risk of blurring your photo.

(above photo)This is why you do not shoot 1/125th unless you're braced against the stanchion. And in this case the blur was because of the moving players not because of unsteady hands. In this case the only thing that would have helped was a higher ISO and shutterspeed.

Unless you brace yourself up against a stanchion or the boards on the opposite side of the glass (at amateur rinks you don't get the photography holes that you do in NHL rinks) you run the risk of blurry shots. Let's face it though, as an serious amateur photographer, unless you have some money behind you, you don't want to risk the loss of a lens, that's why unless I have some serious bucks backing me up (like being a part of the media (which I'm not), I feel more comfortable shooting behind the glass). It's amazing how hard and how accurate hockey players can shoot the puck and the chance is always there for a puck to come sailing through the hole no matter how miniscule. Do you really want to be the guy who loses a +$2,000 70-200mm f/2.8 lens to a hard vulcanized rubber puck that costs maybe at minimum $1.50 to produce? Personally, I wouldn't risk my 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII with that - mainly because right now I don't have that kind of money to replace it. Especially not losing a lens while shooting on a volunteer basis.

Make no mistake...this kind of thing happens quite often - just check out Scott Kelby's blog where he had the Professional Hockey Photo Workshop and see the photo especially where one of the workshop participants got his Canon 70-200 f/2.8 front lens element smashed to absolute bits. There's hardly any glass there any more.

Make no mistake, I love hockey. Hockey has become a passion to photograph, especially since I have a regular opportunity to do so with my son playing hockey at the minor level. The camera opens up a lot of opportunity to talk to other parents and they all are interested in how you perceive their child's ability to play the game...and the best shots I've taken are the ones where the players are engaged in shooting the puck or when two players are scrimmaging with one another. These shots showcase the player's ability. Not only do I shoot the games, I shoot the practices. These are where I pick up the one on one shots, where the players are working on skating and shooting technique one on one against a goalie. Positioning oneself behind the net gives you those "active goalie" shots where you see a player firing a puck at the goalie.

Most photographers when they shoot hockey photography, they station themselves in one good spot - let's say the opponent's blue-line or the home-team's blue line and wait for the action to come to them. In the NHL you don't have the flexibility of moving around during the game (except during intermission). Because frankly put, you're blocking people's view of the game if you move during the course of the game action and people have paid good money to plunk their butts in their seats. Moving during the game is also a good way to ensure you never shoot another NHL game again. Whereas in minor hockey're able to move quickly between location to location in search of the best shot. But most of the time during the minor hockey games I pick one or two good solid locations, and pick and choose my shots confining them to whereever there is significant action going on. Sometimes parents will want to see what their son does, and there if there's a lull in the action I'll start picking shots around the periphery players. You develop a sense of who the hardnosed "quick to jump into the action" players are and end up focusing on them because that's where the action develops. My son is one of those players and he's plays two-way hockey and defends hard when he's placed into the unenviable position of having to play defence as there's a shortage of players "wanting to play defence".

In a game situation, think out your position before the game. Where do you think you're going to get the best action shots? Position yourself there. In this mornings practice, I stationed myself mostly along the blue-line. where I could position myself to get the attacking players as they moved in on net. Then as the drills progressed, I maneuvered to behind the goalie's net at a 30 degree angle off-set to capture the players moving in from a goalie's perspective.

This shot was at 1/125th of a sec and you can see the player is blurry, though the goalie is not. This is an example of a shot I keep because it tells a story and shows the action behind it. Hockey is a fun sport to shoot and it helps to learn the techniques behind it. I'll go more into the equipment of what I use to shoot my son's games in another post and what I would recommend for those who have the money to do so. The fast lenses are on my "must get" list and as such they will be in my camera bag within the next year. The hallowed fast lens triumvirate: the Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII which I already have): the AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8 ultra wide-angle; and the AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8 will follow shortly thereafter - is an absolute must (mine will be doing double duty as both sports photography lenses and landscape photography lenses). I will go into more detail later and when I get those two lenses and shoot a game with them, I will post yet another entry to show just exactly the change from a 14-24/24-70 combo versus a 18-70mm lens.

Happy Shooting.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Why Do Your Photos Cost So Much!?

Why do photographers charge so much for a single photograph?

It's only a photo. All the photographer had to do was click the shutter. There can't be that much to it, can there?

What that subjective viewpoint all boils down to is: entitlement - the expectation that everything that you see is subject to your internal valuation scale. The "if I can click the shutter and get a picture that, in my viewpoint, is good...that's all the skill level that anyone needs to be a photographer" mentality. Which is one of the reasons why photographic skill is so devalued in the digital age.

The skill level of a photographer is the same as that of any other person who is a creative that has put thousands of hours into their craft along with a touch of natural talent. Contained unseen, within that single photo, is all the training - whether self-taught or within a classroom, the knowledge contained within the photographer to capture the right moment with the right exposure, the right composition to evoke a response out of you whether it be a "nice picture" or "OMG that's gorgeous". And it is not a one-time chance hit. Photographers or those who have the right to call themselves photographers, can achieve that "hit" again and again, because of the fact that they know what to do when they have a camera in their hand.

Believe it or not, the iPhone cannot replace photographers. There will always be those who have the eye for photography.

Also if the person is running the business of photography, his/her photography is their product. And that product, just like in any other business, has to sell in order to pay for expenses, like his shooting trips, his equipment and his office expenses. And that, just like in any business, is passed along to the customer. When you go to a store like Wal-Mart and you buy a product, it's not a simple exchange of product for money, your money in exchange for the product goes to pay for people's salaries, for more product, for business expenses. Why should it be any different for photography?

When you buy that photo, it goes towards upgrading my camera system because every shutter click I put on my equipment brings it that much closer to it needing to be replaced. It goes towards paying the rent on my office space (lucky for you, I work from home), thirdly, my developing tools also need to be replaced, which in this case is a computer (or my digital darkroom). Also, I go on trips to create my photos - your buying my photo for fair market value pays for the gas in my car, the food I eat and clothes for my children; all the same as in any business.

So, I do take exception when people say, "Why do photographers charge so much for a single photograph." - It's experience and expenses that go into each and every single photograph that I produce. Simple as that. Same as any person working a job - to pay for the things that are important to them, equipment, creating product for money, and supporting their family.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Photos for Sale:

Posts In The Water

Sunset From Brockton Point.

I will be shooting more often as I start utilizing the new Lee GND, Big Stopper and 2 stop ND filter.

Considering A Camcorder

I've been seriously thinking about the possibility of purchasing a camcorder. It's been something that's been on my mind for quite some time. With Youtube taking the forefront of uploading content by content creators, it's an opportunity to use video to get my photography out in front of other people. To show the general public what photography is like. What I want to do is to create a vlog of my shooting days as I'm going out trying to get this business off the ground...essentially content creating in two different methods. Firstly this vlog will be in HD - the limit of my finances, but still a high-quality output, then it will go to 4K as funds increase from photography sales. In fact, my wife will have to have one too so we're going to end up having to cough out about $1000.00 just to get video. My photography ranges from landscapes to wildlife, so the vlog is going to be interesting.

I know a lot of content creators are going into 4K, so I'm going to be lagging behind, however, for our financial security, I'm not going to follow them just yet. If I spend $1199.99 on one single 4K camera, then that's more money that could have gone to creating photography that just went into getting high quality video plus the fact that my wife would be unable to create her own video content and thus would not be very happy - period. Right now, 4K is starting as a format. And only a few people with the cashflow to spend are getting in there. Eventually, I figure the prices will come down on the camcorders. But right now, HD for me will be the pinnacle of what I can put out as far as image quality in video. And frankly my video-editing skills are in its early stages too, so it's not going to be a big thing with me versus my photography.

I have however decided on a camera that I intend to purchase with the available money that we have; until then, I will just have to utilize my iPhone for the time being.

When I go to purchase the camcorder, I've decided that it will be a JVC Everio GZ-R70. The camcorder has 32GB of onboard memory which means that I won't be having to worry about buying several 64GB SD cards right off the bat, but it will still be able to record enough data that I can go through it and edit the video before uploading it to my Youtube channel. The GZ-R70 is water-proof to a depth of 5 meters and though I won't be putting the camcorder to a strenuous abuse test, I will rest easy knowing that I can dunk the camcorder in for a perspective shot without having to worry about inner component damage. If I really want underwater video, I'll go to a Nikon Coolpix AW130 so that I can swim with it underwater; not that I'll be doing that anytime soon.

Video will be a great little addition to the photography and it will enable viewers to come along with us as I and my wife go places to photograph. People like to know what it is that you're doing and it makes them feel as if they were a part of the process. And I look forward to being able to shoot my first comprehensive video on Youtube; called Behind The Lens

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Landscape Photography

Not for sale

Landscapes have always provided a fascination for me and since currently purchasing a super-telephoto lens is out of the question financially, I am planning on acquiring filters with which to start creating a portfolio of salable landscape images.

With the acquisition of a Tokina 11-20 f/2.8 ultra-wide-angle DX lens farther down the road, I'm hoping to be able to get an even wider focal width, thus enabling me to obtain the ultrawide, dramatic photographs that I've been, in my mind's eye, itching to get.

Not for sale

Given the right equipment (filters), I know that I'll be able to get dramatic shots like this, but with a lot more dynamic range of light; meaning that my ground will not be silhouettes but clearly visible while my sky is not blown out.  Stay tuned for more images in the next year; because there will be a lot of them.

Please note that all prints previous to this post are NO LONGER AVAILABLE due to hard-drive crash and will be replaced in turn by new photography "for sale" - 2017  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Spring Tulips are blooming - 04-05-2016

©2016 FalconRose Photography, all rights reserved, Photographer: Haruo Chikamori
©2016 FalconRose Photography, all rights reserved, Photographer: Haruo Chikamori