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Old Oct 1, 2009, 8:57 AM   #1
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Default My First Hockey Game

My son took me to my first hockey game last night. Questions to JohnG in particular. What can I do to improve on these? Wanting to get in close I always ended up cutting something off, a head, a skate, a stick. Whats the secret to getting a well balanced shot with detail?
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Old Oct 1, 2009, 9:50 AM   #2
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First off, it looks like the 5700 did a fairly respectable job. From a fan shot standpoint I think the camera did a great job. I'm guessing most fans would be very happy with the technical quality here.

As far as detail - that's a tough question. A huge limitation is the gear. ISO 800 on a digicam isn't going to produce the results a Nikon D90 or Canon 50d and 70-200 2.8 are going to give. The optics just aren't the same and neither are the sensors. As I don't see many sports shots from that camera I can't say whether you've hit the limit of the gear. But, I can provide some general information that applies to everything:

FACES - in sports it's about faces. Whenever possible you want to see faces because that's what draws a viewer in - that's what makes it a human experience vs a game. Now, there are two challenges with regards to faces - first is exposure. You want the faces exposed properly - not the ice, not the jerseys. In the first two shots the faces are underexposed. With the image file from your camera that might be tough to correct without ruining detail. The second problem is the more challenging one - DETAIL. That's where the big gaines are made. Think of a photo of a person not in action in a studio type setting (i.e. background not an important part of the image). When you look at it, you invariably look at the face. You ask yourself - are the eyes sharp? Can I see the expression? The IQ of the photo is judged in large part by the detail you see in the body and especially the face. Same is true in sports. Problem is, it's a lot tougher in sports. Long focal lengths, poor lighting, subject is moving. So, while shot #3 has a better exposure for the face, there still isn't much detail.

Having said that, there are 4 general types of shots: atmosphere, action, emotion and sportrait.
Sportrait is the trading card shot - player singled out - here's where facial features and sharpness are critical. Shot 3 falls into this category but the problem there is the look on his face. You can take a technically great shot of a model but if her expression is wrong the photo doesn't work. In sports you can't control the expression so you can end up with a number of shots technically good but body position and expression keep them from working. That's a frustrating part of sports photography. Still, shot 3 is a very good first step in that direction - you did your job as the photographer.
Emotion - self explanatory
Action - in hockey obviously the first key to this is the puck. Accept for a check, the puck is going to be critical. In many, but not all, action shots it's essential to have an opponent - shows the conflict. Again, not always the case but a player skating past another or battling another has more tension to it than a payer gliding on the open ice.
Atmosphere - these are tougher because the atmosphere has to be interesting. NCAA football stadiums are great for this - MLB ballparks are great for this. Ice Arenas, most HS gyms, ballparks,footall fields really aren't because there isn't a lot of interestiing atmosphere.

On to the photos:
Shot 1: nice and tight but not interesting. Faces aren't exposed well, #19 is an uninteresting player taking up too much space in the frame. So, once you get past the "cool factor" of taking a shot of a hockey game that is that tight, the shot itself is very uninteresting. No emotion, no action, no huminization of the players.

Shot 2: Slightly better than the first but ultimately uninteresting as well. You don't have the facial expressions to show any tension and you can't see the puck. So while it's nice and tightly framed once you get past that 'cool I got a shot that close' it still lacks detail or action or emotion enough to make it an interesting photo.

Shot 3: Exposure is better here because player's head isn't down. But expression and lack of detail keep it from being interesting. Also, here's the other tough one - angle. You're shooting DOWN on your subject. Which is why it's tough for hockey/baskeball fan shots to be as good. In baseball the angles can be less so it's not so bad. But here, shooting down really hurts.

So, what do you need to get better shots? You're going to need sharper lens, better sensor to get the details. You need to up the ISO / aperture so you get faces exposed better. That is again where gear limitations come into play. 1/400 is already slow for something like hockey. My guess would be F2.8 1/640 and ISO 1600 or there-abouts would be closer to the settings needed.

Framing - ok so you need to frame tightly enough to get good detail but not cut body parts. Shot #3 is a demonstration in my opinon of how shots should be framed in-camera. Framing that tightly, with a good DSLR and quality lens will give you enough detail to crop down and still leave room for extended sticks. Hockey is not my thing, but with any sport it takes practice behind the camera to learn and adjust to the different movements in the sport. As a fan you don't pay attention to it much. But as a photographer, you need to learn how players move. After a while you begin to predict how a movement will occur. You then frame according to the EXPECTED movement and wait for that moment. With the highest quality glass and best sensors, pros can frame looser because the crops will have the detail. The lower the grade of glass and lesser sensors the tougher our jobs are because the more we need to frame tightly to keep the detail. So, keep watching games THRU the lens and start to see how the player moves and how you need to change your framing. Then learn to predict that movement. What is the body position most likely to be in a breakaway from your position and where they are on the ice? What about a check? Am I looking for tight action dominated by a single player (hint - that's portrait orientation and tightly framed) or is there more space between attacker and defender aka shot on goal from an angle where you want shooter and goalie - then landscape orientation. The more you use the wrong orientation the more you risk cutting off body parts or framing too loosely. Hockey is one of those sports where there is a lot of opportunity for landscape orientation shots.
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Old Oct 1, 2009, 10:06 AM   #3
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Also,
I just wanted to point something out. To a FAN, the higher the level of play, the better. But from a photography standpoint, without credentials, it's actually tougher. For example, here's a post on another board - little kids. The level of play is a lot lower, but the PHOTOS are better because you have better access (along with equipment and experience - but the point here is even if you get more experience and get better equipment the odds are still stacked against you because you're in the stands). Anyway, here's the post:
http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/top...hockey#7584170

So, if you want good football shots you're not likely to get them at an NFL game. Good basketball shots are easier at a HS game than NBA. Same with hockey. If you want to learn to take hockey shots and get good images, go to lower level games where you can get closer to the action.

Here's another a little higher up the food chain. Notice how the faces and detail make these images more interesting:
http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/top...hockey#7555224

NOTE: I usually prefer to use my own images but I don't shoot hockey. And I think it's beneficial to see actual images that demonstrate the points.
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Old Oct 1, 2009, 11:58 AM   #4
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Well JohnG, thanks so much for that in depth analysis and info. I checked out the two sites and read the comments as well. All great info. They were the kinds of pics I wanted to get. When was shooting I took vertical shots for a while trying to capture individuals, then I would switch to horizontal for action shots and board checks, and puck drops. There are so many things that go wrong when shooting this kind of thing, not the least is the guy sitting (standing) in front of you. I would try to pan a player and as I moved the pic would get just right, Id click the shutter and end up seeing the guys head instead of the player. What I did also try to do was get a feel for the game, and pick a player I figure would soon get the puck and follow that player until he got it. Then Id make the shot. But while the fuji 700 is a good little camera, going beyond ISO800 is useless. There is so much noise its just not worth taking the picture. All in all it was a fun nite for my son and myself and I actually was thinking of you being a Sports Shooter Member while I was clicking away. I dont know if I will ever attend another hockey game, I guess that depends on my son. My next venture will be doing the Blue Man Group in 3 weeks. Thanks again.
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