Saturday, December 16, 2017

Preparing for the Winter Olympics: Shooting the USA vs Canada Women's Hockey Game

Last night was one of the last exhibition hockey games between the women of Team USA and Team Canada. The game was part of "The Time is Now" tour and the second to last game between these two teams before they (and I) head to Pyeongchang, Korea for the Winter Olympics in 7 weeks. I was lucky that this game was played at the SAP Center in San Jose which is just 15 minutes from my home.

This was another chance for me to get warmed up in preparation for shooting a lot of hockey at the Olympics and spent a little time with my friends from USA Hockey before the mayhem of the Olympics Games.

For this assignment, I went with my trusted Canon 1D X Mark II and the Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS II lens. Since I am down at the ice level, this lens is all I need to capture the action. When at the Olympics, I will also have another camera body with a Canon 8-15mm fish eye lens to capture the close-up action on the glass. I may also use a remote camera behind the net with a Canon 24-70mm lens attached.

As the athletes were introduced, I ran up the steps from my glass position to get this overhead shot of the whole team.

Once the National Anthems were completed, I ran back down to the glass. I saw the team huddle together by the goalie and grabbed this shot.

The big difference between shooting here in a NHL rink, is that I can shoot through one of the holes in the glass. At the Olympic games, they do not have holes and we have to shoot through their plexiglass. At the Olympics, I will use the same camera and lens but will also put on a 77mm rubber lens hood. They are very inexpensive and really help to minimize glare and reflections from the glass.

It was great to see so many fans show up for the exhibition game. (Photographer's note: Most people think that the sole job of the photographer is to capture the game, but in reality our job is to tell the story of the event. That story includes the fans, player reactions, and much more. Next time you are shooting a sporting event, remember to capture photos that tell the story.)

The game started with the American's dominating the Canadians. But since I was positioned to shoot in the defensive side of the ice (pre-determined by Team USA) in the first period, I was looking for big defensive stands. Here is the goalie, Alex Rigsby, making a stop at the beginning of the game.

Using back button focusing, when I saw the Canadian's coming down the ice with the puck, I would prefocus on the Alex in case they shot directly at her. If they did not shoot at the goalie, I would follow the action and focus on the other athletes.

Part of shooting hockey is being lucky, to have the good action on the right side of the rink. In this case, one of the Canadian skaters had a break-away and came right at the USA goalie. But Alex made a great stop and the Canadian skater flew over the goaltender. This made for a great action shot.

Since this same photo position was available for the second period, I decided not to move to my designated spot (also on the defensive side of the rink for period 2). I wanted to be on the offensive side for two periods if possible. And as luck would have it, I was able to capture the sole goal for the women of Team USA. (Photographer's note: There are two things which make this photo a winner. Firstly, you can see the puck crossing the line and in the net, and secondly, you see the reaction of both Brianna Decker (#14) and Lee Stecklein (#2). Without the puck showing, this would not be nearly as strong.)

Right after the previous photo, I grabbed this reaction shot of the ladies celebrating the first goal of the game.

As the ladies got together to celebrate the goal, I quickly reframed to portrait mode to get a vertical shot of this moment.

Oh, and at this point, you may be wondering what my typical camera settings are for games like this.  For this game, I was changing settings a lot just to experiment. I am usually shooting in manual mode, around ISO 1600 at 1/1250 second, but it really depends on the lighting at the rink and the speed of the skaters.

Here is Hannah Brandt (#20) crashing the net, but unfortunately the puck got swept away before she could get the shot off.

Early the second period, the Canadian team scored their first goal. I turned and saw this lady celebrating, and grabbed this shot. I did not submit this to Team USA, but took it for all of you reading the blog, because it tells the story. Yes, there were Canadian fans there too. :)

I love getting shots like this, with all the skaters focusing on the puck in front of them.

Here is a shot of Kendall Coyne (#26) on a break-away, one-on-one against Ann-Renée Desbiens (#35)

The goal tender made a great stop to avoid going down 2 to 1. You can see the puck by her right leg.

The American team went down 2 to 1 in the second period but made a push to try and tie the score. I got this shot of Cayla Barnes( #3) cranking out a big slap shot from the blue line. 

And here is Amanda Kessel (#28), who is the sister of Phil Kessel (two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Pittsburgh Penguins) passing the puck towards me.

During the third period, I decided to shoot through the plexiglass and not use the NHL hole. I did this to practice the same technique that I will be using in Korea in February. As you can see, I was still able to get some pretty reasonable results, even though this glass is pretty scratched up and not as clear as Olympic glass.

During one of the breaks, I saw Tony Granato come up behind me. Tony is the coach of Team USA's mens hockey team, but also used to play for the San Jose Sharks. He was about to be interviewed by Jon (the In-Arena Host for the Sharks).  It was fun to get caught up with him on his visit back to the Bay Area.

Then it was back to the action...

Team USA had some good scoring chances in the thirds period but could not manage to get the puck past the Canadian goaltender..

After the game, my daughter (who joined me on this adventure) and I went back to the photo editing room and packed up my gear.

As we were walking below the arena, I had Ali stop to get a photo of her by the San Jose Sharks locker room. Then we went upstairs to get some photos of the athletes who were signing autographs for the fans.

There was a really long line for autographs, but the ladies were extremely friendly and gracious. Here is a young lady getting her photo with Hilary Knight.

As you can tell, everyone was very happy to have a chance to meet the athletes and wish them the best as they head of to Korea.

Even though Team USA did not come away with a win last night, it was a great night. I got to show my daughter what it is like to photograph a hockey game, and give her a taste of what it is like to work with Team USA. I had the chance to see old friends and meet new ones. And it gave me a chance to get warmed up for all the photography that is ahead of me at the Olympics.

I leave for Pyeongchang on February 5th, which is coming up really quickly. And as most of you know, I will be blogging every day from the Games. Get ready everyone, we are almost there!

Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world.

No comments: