I won’t presume that I am qualified to review the Carleton University men’s varsity hockey Ravens from a hockey perspective, but I do like a lot about what I see in their team game this season. Currently in 8th place in the national CIS ranking, I guess many of the experts see a lot of good in their game as well. I do think, however, that I am qualified, but perhaps somewhat biased, to review the images that I have captured from the home opener to the end of 2012, and the first home game of 2013 against McGill on January 11. On my dunnePhoto facebook page I shared this link to a gallery of images of my mid season review up to the end of 2012. In this post I will show and discuss some of those classic hockey images, but also a few other types of shots as well. So let’s talk hockey and photography by jumping into the rest of this article !
The lead image to this article shows Ravens forward Joe Pleckaitis in black chasing the puck against an RMC player in the game on November 23. This is a classic hockey shot. The image includes the object of play (the puck in hockey), close to peak action, intensity and skill. The Ravens, and the CIS in general, give a photographer many opportunities to capture images like this. This is a very good level of hockey, and I fill my galleries with images like this. I am always searching for that one absolute peak of action shot to become my iconic hockey image. Maybe this season. This image was taken with my “go to” lens for hockey, the terrific Nikon 70-200mf2.8 VRII.
But not images have to show the “object of play”. OK let’s just call it the puck from now on. There are many aspects to the game of hockey that can lead to great images and I would like to share some of these as well. Hockey is a game that is played at high speed and intensity, and it is a contact sport. Sometimes it is called a collision sport. And it is played on ice using skates. All this leads to many tumbles. The picture at left shows defenseman Jordan Deagle on the ice after battling the clear the puck away from his net and out of the defensive zone. The coach would have been happy with the play in spite of the player ending up on the ice.
Every game I try to have assorted “mini assignments” to find images other than just the action. I learned this technique from Ottawa photographer and educator Harry Nowell during his annual hockey photography workshop a few years ago. One of my favourite assignments is to look for portrait opportunities. The image at left is a close up of goalie Ryan Dube preparing for an opponent to make a shot on goal. For this image I needed a lens with more reach than my 70-200mm, so I went for my Sigma 300mmf2.8 which I bought used a few years ago. The Nikon equivalent is several thousand dollars out of my financial reach. This focal length, combined with a close to wide open aperture (f3.2) helps isolate the goalie from the distracting background. Unfortunately advertising on the boards is nearly ubiquitous these days. With this shallow depth of field (DOF) getting the focus right is at a premium. Since the DOF is not enough for the whole subject to be sharp, I make sure the focus point is on the player’s face or eyes.
Here is another sample of an image that is not showing any peak action, but attempts to isolate an individual player. This is a 3/4 (maybe 2/3) length in game portrait of Ravens player Tyler Taylor. I love the intensity of the look he has. He doesn’t even have to try. Adding to his character is the mustache grown for the annual “Movember” event. The Ravens men’s hockey team raised over $3100 for Movember in support of prostate cancer. This image was also taken with the 300mm Sigma. I just wish I could have gotten one image really tight on his face to show off the “stache”.
Here is a shot of one of the Ravens opponents. In this image, Lakehead Thunderwolves goalie Alex Dupuis skated out of his goal crease and towards me in the corner. This is a ritual that goalies often do to keep moving where there is a stoppage in play. Shot with the Nikon 70-200mm wide open at f2.8.
It is not for me to comment on who the best Raven players are. I leave that judgement to the expertise of the coaching staff. I can tell you which players scare me the most. I take the majority of images from the corners in the opposition end of the rink. The corners happen to be where most of the big hits take place. The Ravens are a hard fore checking team, but I have had my scariest moments when forwards Shane Bakker and Mitch Porowski are on the hunt. Both have imposing size and speed and are ferocious checkers. More often than not they come out of the corner with the puck. When using a telephoto lens they seem to come out of nowhere and into your frame. To mix things up I usually have a second camera body (Nikon D700) with a Nikon 24-70f2.8 lens generally set to the wide end. The image at right shows the look that can be achieved with the lens at the wide end. Here Mitch Porowski holds himself, and the RMC opponent off the glass using his arms, and battles for the puck with his feet. This is a different look than the standard hockey action shot with a 70-200mm lens. The tricky things about focusing this close is that the smudges on the glass show up, and you have to be mindful of reflections. I have had many shots degraded due to a reflection of a pop machine in the glass. It shows up worse when captured on the camera sensor than it appears when just looking at the glass. I now sometimes take some test shots in arenas just to assess the reflections.
One other mini project for the year is to get some good shots of the graduating players, Ryan Berard and Shane Bakker. The image at left shows Berard wearing the captain’s C on his jersey. Last year I created some 13×19 poster style prints for the team to use as presents to the graduates. Each poster was in landscape orientation with 3 portrait orientation images of the player, along with some text and a team logo. More than 90% of my in game action shots are in landscape orientation so I have to force myself to look for portrait orientation opportunities.
So what is my favourite image from the first half of the Ravens season? Maybe not my best, but my favourite image for sure. And it was may favourite play from the season. I previously wrote about this image in my blog article about the season home opener. Ravens forward Michael Lomas coming down the right wing, his off wing, wants to get a shot off using his forehand but since he is running out of room, he does a through the legs shot to stay on his forehand. It did not result in a goal, but it was a great play demonstrating high skill.
Unfortunately for the Ravens and Lomas, he was injured less than two weeks later in a game against UQTR. I never feel comfortable taking shots of injured players, but it is part of the story. So here is the image of Lomas being helped off the ice by his team mates. He was out of action for several weeks. Coach Marty Johnston was giving the referees his opinion on the matter in this next image.
And now on to the final image that I will show and discuss in this article. Every now and then you need to break out of your routine and try something different. Sometimes hockey venues and games don’t allow themselves to be things that you can show creatively. Sometimes you have to work a little harder at the creative side of things, and sometimes you fail while doing so. For the image at the bottom I had what I thought was a pretty good idea. I was standing behind the Ravens player bench and the word “Home” is on the glass as this is the home team bench. I was hoping to get one of the coaches faces framed by the O in Home. I lined up my shot pretty well, but of course the coach was facing toward the ice, not towards the stands. I waited for a couple of minutes with no luck. Trying to do something to attract attention to get a coach to turn around is not a good idea. I didn’t want to loose my media pass for the sake of this one image! So I ended up taking the image of the back of the coaches head in the O rather than a face. I cut my losses and moved on with my life, or at least coverage of the game. I humbly submit this photo as my “epic fail” from the first half of the season.