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First Try Youth Hockey


Jefferson Hills, US
761 posts

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torwood Silver Member Nikonian since 06th Dec 2010
Sun 24-Feb-13 04:58 PM

Recently, my son's friend asked if I could photograph one of his hockey games. His team is made up primarily of 10 year olds. I had never shot hockey before, or even been in their arena, so I didn't really know what to expect from my first hockey shoot. I don't have any f2.8 zoom lenses, but I do have fast small primes, so expecting bad light, that was the kit I took to use with my D7000. Here is what I learned from my first shoot:

The Good:

1. The lighting was surprisingly good, despite the old, worn down arena building. It must be the reflection off the white ice. I setup using my basketball settings: Manual, F2.2, 1/640, Auto ISO max 6400. After testing the lighting, I bumped to f2.8, 1/800, and I was getting ISO's under 1000. Awesome! I actually think I could bump up to f4, or 1/1000, and still be in the comfort zone of the D7000.

2. These kids move SLOW - relatively speaking. So, 1/800 is more than fast enough to stop them, and the pucks they hit (which never elevate, and don't go very fast).

3. I shot most of the game with my AFS 85 f1.8G. It was more than capable of lock-on, tracking, and producing good sharpness.

The Bad:

1. My shorter primes: AFS 50 f1.8G and AFS 35 f1.8DX, were not very useful, except when shooting players right near the boards where I was standing. And, the 85mm was pretty much maxed out at the blue-line (even with serious cropping), and was a little too long for shots right in front of the net when standing on the corners. An FX lens of about 50-135 f2.8 would be perfect. Unfortunately that lens doesn't exist. Shot right, I think Hockey may be a two body/two monster zoom sport: 24-70 and 70-200 f2.8. That ain't happening for me anytime soon.

2. With youth hockey, it's hard to capture interesting action. They aren't allowed to check, they don't move very fast, and they don't generate a lot of ice spray and other visible signs of motion. Also, the ice is HUGE for these kids, so there are a lot of shots with only one player in them.

3. I typically shoot all sports in AF-C High, single point, using the center AF sensor. This worked fine for hockey focus, but it sometimes left the end of the stick off the frame in order to place the center focus point on the player's body. There is often a lot of ice around these players (unlike the congestion of football and basketball). I wonder if one of the Auto-AF settings, where the camera selects what to focus on might not work better? I have never used those modes, and would have to look-up how to even set them, but is it worth a try?

4. Orientation. Don't know which one, yet. I shoot all football in landscape, all basketball in portrait, and baseball in both (batting in portrait and fielding in landscape). I suspect hockey is a landscape sport, but I couldn't get exclusively comfortable with either in my first shoot.

The Ugly:

1. The Glass. In this arena it was really scratched-up. When you shoot through it, the scratches aren't visible, but they create a low-contrast "haze" look. I had to work really hard to find clear areas of glass as big as the lens element to shoot through. It was much easier on the sides, but on the ends, it was tough.

Well, here are a few sample photos. I shot mostly from the corners, and a little form the sides, down along (and through) the glass. The ice surface was a little lower than the walkway I was standing on, so I think I'll try to get lower (crouch down) next time. After seeing these previewed, it looks like I should have tweaked WB a little more on a couple of them. All in all, though, Auto WB did OK with the cycling lights and white ice. What do you think?

Everything here was shot with the D7000, 85 f1.8G, at Manual f2.8, 1/800, Auto ISO (usually between ISO 400-800). Any advice or comments are welcome, especially as it relates to hockey, positioning, and generating interesting captures.


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