When I was hired by the NHL to be one of their photographers in their LSC program I thought hockey was just another sport for me to photograph. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Photographing NHL hockey is a whole other beast entirely and honestly, I wasn’t ready for it.
I’m sure ego had something to do with me thinking hockey was just another sport. The moment I went down to the rink to my little hole to capture the game from I was like this was going to be sweet. So close to the action and I was going to get all these amazing shots so close. Wrong!
I wasn’t ready for the speed. I wasn’t ready for the puck whizzing past me or smacking the glass or wall next to me. My head was on a swivel trying to keep up. Not to mention me having to look out for players checking each other into the boards right next to me.
After photographing my first game of the Florida Panthers vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins I literally asked myself, “What did I get myself into?” I may have had a keeper or two; if that.
How I went about shooting hockey was all wrong. I thought I could shoot it like football; shutter speed at least 1/1000th and I would be golden. Nope. The game is so fast that I had more blurry photos at that setting than I ever did shooting NFL games. After my first game I reached out to some colleagues from the NFL and MLB who also photograph NHL hockey and I asked for help. It doesn’t hurt to ask. So I reached out to Michael Mooney and Heather Barry for their expertise and to pick their brain. They provided some valuable insight which has helped me since.
Now I’m not going to say I’m an expert at shooting hockey now after my first experience. I’ve certainly grown and definitely have gotten better. I’m no where near the standards I think I should hold myself at, but I’m getting there. I’m understanding the game more; the nuances and I’m recognizing the way the game is played. I’m still way behind on recognizing players and with a good portion being European or Russian; their names are still foreign to me.
The lesson I learned and the hard way is that shooting sports is not the same from sport to sport. Every game is different and I have to adapt to the game and not try to force the game to adapt to me and the way I shoot.