Best method for photographing ice hockey

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by glenn_cummings|1, Oct 1, 2006.

  1. I currently use a Canon 30D with a Canon 70-200 f2.8L set manually at 1/250,
    f2.8 and an iso of 800-1200 attached to a monopod. The results are far
    superior to my previous sigma 100-400 f4.

    I would like to perfect the images even further...what white balance, meter
    mode, etc would any experienced hockey photographers recommend?

    Any insight would be appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Glenn
     
  2. I'm not able to bring any pro equipment into any NHL games (and even at junior hockey games I saw ushers telling folks to put away anything that resembled a pro camera as well) but on my compact camera I grabbed a pic of this pro photographer at a game yesterday, maybe you can spot what he's using.

    http://i110.photobucket.com/albums/n95/stormrider0610/Canucks_vs_Edmonton_Preseason093006/DSC08374_1024x768.jpg
     
  3. I've shot various kids' hockey games with a similar setup. I agree with the manual metering mode, it helps to avoid the sudden shifts in the camera's interpretation of how to make everything gray. Otherwise as the camera moves around the proportion of white varies and the darker background confuses the issue. Manual mode also makes some cameras a little quicker with the shutter release. That was especially important with my old Elan IIE and less so with my 20D. I meter at -1 stop EV to keep the ice white, check a few histograms, and it they are properly exposed it is all manual after that. For many arenas you can set your white balance to fluorescent light, or you could do the WB later with the camera RAW images. A pro gave me a tip at a hockey game. He suggested that I set CF4 to focus with the right thumb. This dissociates focus from exposure, allowing you to work those controls independently. That way your camera will not be as easily fooled by distant background which can throw off your focus. Works great. I found that my best images happened when I was right at ice level, using the 70-200 on a monopod. I don't use the 1.4 extender very often now, since I bought the 20D with it's small sensor. I found that I was more successful shooting in the attacking end zone, as your team's players will be facing the camera. A few individual shots of kids on the bench as they watch the game are often succesful. Post processing, especially if the light is weak, will sometimes retrieve borderline images. I found that noise ninja does a good job of smoothing out high-iso artefact.
    00IGkD-32720984.jpg
     
  4. Although I've never shot a hockey game, I do have some advice pertaining to setting the
    White Balance.

    http://www.rawworkflow.com/products/whibal/index.html

    Get one of those. Its pretty cheap and setting the white balance becomes so much easier.
    I went with the small pocket size version. And I'd advise you to shoot in RAW. If you are,
    don't worry about what White Balance setting is on the camera. You'll change it on a
    computer later using a White Balance tool and that Whi-Bal tool.

    I would imagine shooting at the ends of the ice is probably best. Sometimes players
    completely stop or at the very least will slow down. Plus, the majority of the action occurs
    there anyway.

    I've noticed at NHL games, the stadiums are equiped with many strobes hanging from the
    ceiling. My question is how do the pros get synced with those strobes?
     
  5. Well, in the link posted by Dale L., the photographer appears to be using a 300 2.8 L lens and is controlling the strobes via a Pocket Wizard transmitter. The photographer at ice level can capture the action at either end with that size lens and is not shooting through plexiglass which will degrade the image. Their use of the roof mounted strobes will provide sufficient light while not interfering with the fans view of the action. Since they arrive before the game, they have time to set their white balance custom or otherwise. As for the metering mode, I am unable to accurately state what they are using although I could guess but that is all it would be. Hope this helps.
     
  6. Here is what the pro's use at the US Open
    00IGrf-32724184.jpg
     
  7. The pros get to use a whole bank of powerful ceiling mounted strobes (probably at least 16 to cover the whole ice evenly) via wireless triggers (e.g. Pocketwizards) that allow them to shoot at rather lower ISO (probably 400 or less) and still get motion freezing effective shutter speeds from the short flash duration shooting at max X sync with an f/2.8 zoom. They can set white balance for the flash, and can guarantee that exposures will always be accurate for the combination. Or if the rink is lit to TV broadcast standard, then they can set a custom white balance and set an exposure in M mode by metering off a mid tone on the rink (or using the ice and opening up around 2 stops).

    You on the other hand are unlikely to have access to such lighting aids, so you may find that the best you can do is to use fast primes (1/250th is really too slow to freeze hockey action), such as the 85mm f/1.8, 100mm f/2 or 135mm f/2. You may find that some rinks give rise to various lighting problems. One is simply that the light is probably a lot dimmer, forcing you to use 1600 ISO to get a motion freezing shutter speed. Some rinks may have other lighting problems - the lights may all be powered from the same mains phase, giving rise to significant oscillation of light levels at twice the mains frequency - so exposures at a reasonably motion freezing 1/500th can have big variations in light levels as the shutter curtains travel across the frame. Some lights additionally cycle not only in power, but also in colour balance. The best you can do is to shoot RAW despite the handicap of more limited burst depth, and do what you can to recover the images in post processing. Otherwise, you are really limited to shots without fast moving action at 1/125th (i.e. effectively half a 60Hz mains frequency cycle so all cycle variations are averaged out evenly over the whole frame). The ceiling mounted strobes get round these problems - but then they cost several times what your camera and lens does.
     
  8. Some good recommendations but I have to agree 1/250 might be a tad too slow in some cases. I would also suggest to not rely solely on AF, any mode. I've seen some people try to use the various predictive focus features and just banging away HOPING to get a good shot. If you're on the boards and unless you have a clear field, that will result in a lot of out of focus images; the game is just too fast in most cases. By the time you've tripped the shutter, the players have moved from the plane of focus and the camera, busy snapping and writing multiple frames, isn't refocusing. At least for some shots, plan on where you're going to catch the action and pre-focus manually. Worked wonders in pre-AF days.
     
  9. Whatever lens one uses at a hocky game, make sure it is sealed from dust, moisture, and of course BLOOD!
     
  10. Thanks to everyone for all your contributions and the valuable information. I will continue to experiment and when I approach the standard I'm shooting for I will post some images.

    Glenn
     
  11. Glen,

    Monopod = good, 2.8@250 or 320 set to manual, shoot raw and fix your wb then if necessary, you can also recover 2 stops from corners or situations where your manual setting underexposes. Separating focus from shutter = good. AI servo = good, continuous = good.

    Every rink is different. After a few shoots at a certain rink you will be able to adjust your manual settings.

    200mm lens = good
     

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