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?

1 comment:

Lucis Lee said...

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