I have written about my shoots with NetFx Goaltending School before and I always enjoy working with Shawn Smith and his crew as they put the goalies through their paces. This time was special, however, as Shawn gathered the all goalies in his elite program together for one session and for some of them, this will be their last year in the program as they move forward with their hockey careers. Shawn wanted a group photo and action photos from the drills before the gang split up. A gallery of images is available at the end of this post.
This was one of the most rewarding hockey photo sessions that I have experienced. Part of that came from how much this session meant to Shawn for sentimental reasons. And part of it came from doing the action photos on ice, with the increased risk that comes with that. More to come about the risk factor later on …
We started with the group photo, seen at the top of the post. The logo and text were added in Photoshop. We were on the small studio ice at Minto Arena, which is about one third the size of a normal ice sheet. The light their is quite poor for various reasons. The light volume is low, and there are several strange colour temperatures. The light is also very flat which makes it hard to make the image “pop”. For the group photo I decided to add some extra light of my own to supplement, and even over-power the ambient. I used an Elinchrom Quadra strobe which has a lot more power than a typical hot shoe strobe, but is still relatively compact and light weight. I bounced the light from the Quadra off the reflective thermal ceiling in the arena, from slightly camera left. I also used a remote off camera hot shoe strobe (Nikon SB900) behind the group at camera right to create a very subtle cross light effect. You have to be careful using strobes in arenas because there is so much glass and thus managing the specular reflections is difficult.
When I added the logo and text in Photoshop, I also layered in a “fade to white” gradient above the group. This was done because the esthetics of wall and ceiling of the studio ice are, well, questionable. Below is what the image looks like without the fade, logo, and text for comparison.
We wrapped up the group photo as quickly as possible since there was only 50 minutes of ice time and the players wanted to get on with the skills competition. I originally thought that I would light the actions photos during the skills competition but I realized that was going to me too complex and I was going to need to be frequently shooting in burst. I was just going to have to manage the poor ambient light.
I already had my skates on and I quickly added my hockey helmet for head protection. Even with the helmet, there was considerable risk being on the ice with pucks in play. I have shot action on the ice before, in summer of 2011, also with NetFx. That time, however, was on a full ice surface and the locations for the drills was spread out. This time, in the confined area of the studio arena, pucks were deflecting off the goalie gear and arena boards with a lot less predictability. Although I shoot with both eyes open, my visibility is greatly reduced when using the camera.
My safety was thus largely in the hands of the shooters such as Seb Tessier and Chad Loikets. They normally work hard during the NetFx drills, but this time there was extra responsibility for managing the puck. Communication was also key, as they frequently called out the puck location for my awareness. My camera gear, not to mention my head, thank them for their efforts.
Below is a gallery of images from the skills competition. Click on any thumbnail to open a slide show viewer.