Sun 23-Dec-12 09:20 PM | edited Sun 23-Dec-12 09:25 PM by Ferguson
I'll go contrary to some of this, I suggest if the arena is reasonably evenly lit, that you opt for completely manual. Shooting raw of course, you have +/- a stop or so you can get in post with no downside. In a lot of arenas backlights, ice, glare, lighted signs, etc. can wildly vary how your camera will meter. What you want -- really ALL you want -- is good exposure on the faces. If there's white glare behind, it still looks good. If the white is nicely muted and the face is a blank shadow it looks awful, and the meter will do that a lot as you pan and have different backgrounds some up.
Get there a bit early, and shoot several shots with each lens, different distances, of people out on the ice. Adjust until you see good detail in their faces, balancing a bit between when they are in shadow and in brighter light.
Now just shoot like that. If you decide on crowd shots or similar, shift to "A" (or your favorite mode) and then shift back, but if you stick to that for the action shots, I think you will find more consistency than if you let the meter do its thing.
Obviously this varies a lot by venue -- if you have areas very unevenly lit you may need to change, but I've had far too many shots ruined by having some bright light or reflection behind the action and having the meter average it in.
Here's an example from last night. Notice the desks in the background, the sign in the front is brightly lit. In CW and certainly matrix, the players face would have been in deep shadow due to that, and in spot just depends on precisely where the focus point hit. And if you notice there's glare on the floor, and another lighted sign on the top right. Almost like shooting into a sunset. Absent a fill flash, it's much easier to just lock this in and keep shooting. You'll be off a bit as angles changed, but post processing is great for that.