Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hockey Semifinals: USA vs. Canada - Another tough break for the Americans!

Wow, this has been a really tough couple of days for the US hockey teams. First the women lost a heartbreaker in the gold medal match, and last night, the much anticipated semifinal game between the US and Canada turned out to be a dud of a game. After being at the USA vs Russia game, and seeing the incredible energy from both teams, myself and many others here in Sochi thought that this game was going to be an amazing game. As it turned out, there was only one score and the game was more of a sleeper than a spectacle. And the worst part for USA hockey is that the one goal scored was for the Canadians, who once again beat the Americans to advance to the gold medal game.

Just so you all know, I am always pulling for the American team as it is my home team and the team I work for. But, in the Olympic spirit, this does not mean that I have any animosity towards any of the other teams. As a matter of fact, I have a good friend who plays on the Canadian team, and I am happy for him.

Here are the photos of last night's game:

For this game, I decided to pick a shooting location on the side of the net, and not directly behind. I found that I got better results from this in the past. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, there is a picking system here at the Olympics for the more popular games. What happens is, we have to get special press tickets to get in to the high impact events, and then two hours before the game starts, we have to line up ad ask for a shooting location. I first do my research to determine which way the US will be shooting twice, since I try to key in on the offensive more than the defense. Then I go out to the rink and inspect the plexiglass. Now that so many games have been played at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, the plexi is getting tougher to shoot through. Last night, I was the first one in line and I picked location 35 (on a bench next to the ice) and that was my home for the night.

The game started out pretty evenly, both both teams having some scoring chances.

The energy of the game (both the players and audience) seemed flat, but I figured that this would change at any time.

Zach Parise trying to get that puck in the net.

A mass of humanity in front of the net, with the puck flying away from everyone.

A little more action in front of Carey Price, the Canadian goaltender.

And then the game just seemed to get flatter. Here is the weird thing...when I am shooting a game like this, it is sometimes hard to "watch" the game, since I am looking through a tiny hole in the camera, concentrating on where my focus is, and what action I should be keying in on. Heck, most of the time, I don't know that a team has scored or drawn a penalty until I hear the crowd reaction. So, I wasn't sure if it was just me, or if this game lacked the energy I anticipated. But after the game, when in the press center at the arena, other media people were saying the same thing. Regardless of what I am photographing, my goal is to always capture the emotions of the event. This is true for a sporting event, a Bar Mitzvah, a Wedding, whatever... Reviewing the photos after the game, I swear I can see the lack of energy in the photos. Compare these to the women's game the night before. The photos are the proof.

During one of the breaks, Carey Price skated over towards my position, and I quickly raised the camera and grabbed this shot. I really like the composition on this shot. It just goes to show you, that as a photographer, we need to be ready to take a photo at any time, even during the breaks.

My friend, Patrick Marleau, skating into the play.

The photo is a combination of good news and bad news. The bad news for Team USA is that the Canadians scored. The good news for me was that they scored and turned in my direction so I could get this reaction shot. At that point, I figured that there would be many other goals and reactions. It was not to be.

It is not to say that the either team didn't have chances to score, but both goalies played very well.

Ryan Kesler taking a slap shot. When photographing hockey, I love getting a photo of the player flexing the stick like this. It shows the power in his shot.

Another photo showing action in front of the Canadian net, with the puck coming at me.

I was focusing in on Patrick Kane when he took this bomb of a shot. As he wound up and fired his shot, I burst off a bunch of photos from the Canon 1DX. As soon as I shot these photos, I knew I had a cool photo on the card.

This photo is really interesting. If you look at the puck right in the front of the net, you would swear that the American's scored a goal. But it is an optical illusion, as the puck was actually flying across the net, not into it. As I was editing this photo in the press area at the rink, another photographer walked by and said "Wait a second...I didn't see that!" and I had to explain the details of what happened. If you know hockey well, you can tell that the puck is too large as compared to the net, and therefore is closer to me.

With less than 2 minutes left in the game, Team USA pulled their goalie and did their best to tie it up. But the clock wound down to zero and this reaction sums it up. The Canadians celebrating in the background,with Phil Kessel slumped over in defeat.

Obviously, the Canadians were very happy with the win.

I love the custom of the handshake at the end of the game, showing class in this sport, which many people wrongfully think is violent and unruly. The interesting thing is, many of these competitors are actually teammates on teams in the NHL.

For the second night in a row, I was photographing the victory of an opponent. 

Note: I wrote this before the Bronze medal game and just got back from shooting that game and press conference. Just when you thought things couldn't get worse for USA Hockey here is Sochi...


Unknown said...

One's dud of a game is another's textbook win. Depending on your country of origin of course, eh?

Jennifer Leonard said...

Hi Jeff...I am a hockey mom from NC and I have thouroughly enjoyed your photos and your Olympic journey. Thank you for your behind the scenes insight and explanations. Well done!

Dario said...

I saw you on telly, you were using fisheye when players approach. Would you please put some pictures taken with fisheye on blog?

Dawn Gail said...

What a hard couple of days for our USA Hockey teams. Still very proud of them. Congrats to the Canadian team. Enjoyed seeing the pictures you took of them.

M. Baert said...

Loved the shots and your comments. Nice shots of the speedskating as well. Do you have some of the Dutch skaters as well? They were pretty amazing these games!

Bare said...

Jeff, in viewing your hockey photos, your exposures tend to lean more toward being the over-exposed side, with the ice so bright that there is no detail in the white, bright ice. Is this personal preference or required by USA Hockey? I tend to lean a bit the other way, showing some of the detail in the ice which tends to darken the overall image. Thanks for the great blog updates and sharing your experience in Sochi with us!

Unknown said...

Really enjoyed following your work at the games, congrats.