Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shooting Ice Hockey Games

Arlington's Cool Cats vs Montgomery's Cheetahs at Rockville Ice Rink
Arlington's Cool Cats vs Montgomery's Cheetahs at Rockville Ice Rink
Taking picture of ice hockey games is all about equipments and knowledge of the game. For the equipment, it's no mystery here. The lighting condition in the ice rink arena is just so dreadfully dim. Adding on top of that is the fast action pace sport. So, to freeze the action of a slap-shot or a wrist-shot, you need to set the shutter speed to 1/250th of a second or faster. I like to set it at 1/500th second on my D70. Which by the way is not the best camera for sports shooting, due to the level of noise at high ISO. Fast shutter speed demands fast lens, that means: do not bother with anything slower than 2.8f lens. On my first attempt, I went with 80-210mm, 4.5-5.6 Sigma lens, and got terrible result. That's when I discover the level of noise my D70 makes. Here is the forewarn: setting ISO level more than 800 is just not worth shooting. The noise is just too much, even with noise reduction software could not make the picture any better. (Please Nikon, can you just be nice to a brand-faithful photographers and do not sell something like this next time?). On the second shooting opportunity, I went out and rent a Nikkor 70-200mm, constant 2.8f, AF-S VR-ED at Penn Camera for $35 a weekend. What a beautiful lens. The lens is fast focus, and evenly sharpness at all range. Few things that learn from taking pictures of ice hockey game:
  • Get there early, get the permission from the arena's manager & stroll out to the player's box.
  • If you have a mono-pod, use it.
  • Shoot with 2.8f or better lens.
  • Shoot at 1/250 shutter speed or faster if light condition permits.
  • For D70 camera, set 800 ISO or lower if light condition permits.
  • If shooting individual player, fill the whole frame.
  • Shoot with the puck in the frame, to get the feel of game.
  • Shoot action pictures, much more interesting.
  • Wear something warm, because you are going to be there for whole duration of the game.
For the next game, I want to try with 105mm, 2.5 prime lens, which I have since the film day. Will see how my manual focusing skill vs. camera's auto focus mechanism pans out.

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