Shooting my first indoor hockey game

Dave CleeDave Clee Major grinsPosts: 536Registered Users Major grins
edited March 10, 2008 in Technique
Well as the subject line says, I am shooting my first hockey game this month.
Looking for a few tips..I am sure the lighting will be less than desirable...
The good news is I think I probably have the right gear for the job...

Nikon D200 with the multi grip..
17 - 55 2.8
70 - 200 2.8 VR

Manfrotto monopod..

Any suggestions regarding shutter speed..I am assuming that min to freeze the action I will need to be at 1/160th, which will probably be f2.8 with an increased ISO..I dont mind shooting with high ISO (1600) but find the noise to be considerable at that level..

Any input would be appreciated.

Cheers

Dave
Still searching for the light...

http://www.daveclee.com

Nikon D3 and a bunch of nikkor gear
that has added up over the years :wink

Comments

  • GrainbeltGrainbelt adventure grinner Posts: 470Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 6, 2007
    I have a friend who is an editor for a local paper and fills in for their photographers, shooting hockey quite a bit. Apparently the light is quite good, as the ice reflects what light there is fairly evenly.

    Hard to predict how much light you will have - old vs. new arena, large (pro?) rink vs. community centre.

    I'm curious as well, couple of friends' kids are playing at intermission of a WHL game this Saturday, and I'll probably snap some pics.

  • aktseaktse Major grins Posts: 1,928Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 7, 2007
    Ice Hockey is the reason why I entered the dSLR world. And in generally, hockey is a very difficult sport to shoot. I have brought a bunch of people to the rink with me, and they’re always surprised on how difficult it can be because you have fast action, low light, on a white background and usually through glass or netting. They can't believe how well I actually do... I think it helps that I play.

    This was taken at a poorly lit rink and through the scratched glass.
    159088174-M-1.jpg

    You do have gear that would be sufficient, but f/2.8 is the bare minimum for the cold dark cave (normal rink). I would stick with your 70-200 VR f/2.8. Custom white balance and if possible, re-white balance every time you change locations since the lights usually cycles and some might be broken. If you can, shoot over the glass by standing up on the bench or finding a hole in the glass (like in the scoring booth). Unfortunately, I always have to deal with scratched glass (find an clean spot).

    The histogram is your friend. A properly exposed history for hockey will be pushed to the right, but you’ll rarely get that in camera at the local rinks because they’re just too dark. This is much more achievable at the tank due to the TV lights.

    I would suggest the following:
    -- Custom White Balance (CWB), every time. You will have to adjust the temperature in post if the light cycles.
    -- Find a clean spot in the glass, and if it’s not clean, wipe the glass, and get your lens as close as to the glass as possible and shoot perpendicular to the glass to cut down on reflection
    -- Center Point AF/Multi-Point -- depends on how good you are at tracking and the AF speed of your body
    -- ISO 800/1600/ISO3200. I usually at ISO 1600 for the local rink and can drop to ISO 800 at the HP Pavilion where the San Jose Sharks play
    -- Manual Mode, wide open unless you're trying something specific and the fastest shutter speed you can achieve depending on the lights. If you're a newbie, and M scares you, you can start with AV mode, f/2.8 exposure compensate a stop or so just to start with, but you really need to watch your shutter speeds.
    -- Burst mode

    I adjust from there, depending on the light of the rink and I switch to full manual (M-mode) to dial in the sweet spot after checking the histograms. Personally, I believe that 160th is generally too slow unless you’re shooting newbies. Hockey players fly across the ice and the longer they have played, the faster they’ll move. I would love to get an exposure speed of 1/500 or faster (especially with top level players; 1/1000+ for pros). The lowest that I’ll drop is about 1/320 and anything slower, my hit rate really, really drops and I tend to shoot them when they're standing around (non-action stuff). But everything changes again when I move around due to the lights and the glass. Check histograms over and over again. If you’re in a bright rink and you can drop the ISO, go ahead and do it.


    Updated 10/10/10:
    --I updated the camera mode that I shoot in because these days, I'm always in manual mode and will adjust the ISO/shutter speed/WB depending on where I'm shooting and the type of framing/composition that I am after. I realized that I was using Av as a quick metering technique to set my baseline exposure and these days, I have shot enough frames that I generally know the exposure settings at any rink by looking at the available light and only chimp to take a quick peak at the histogram to confirm that I'm correct. In general, I find that Av mode will drop the shutter speed too slow in most rinks. If you must shoot in AV, you need to exposure compensate about a stop. Unless you're trying something specific, always shoot as wide open as you can.
    -- It's common for me to carry glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth to clean the glass if needed
    -- These tips are only for available light hockey; there are other good threads on strobed sports.
    -- In general, available light hockey photos benefit from post processing; without it, they can lack pop; I would suggest setting a black point as a minimum.

    He was decently fast (not pro), and i barely froze him skating at 1/640 (look at his skate - fuzzy) at a small rink (not enough room for him to get full speed)
    170438529-M-1.jpg

    I was able to freeze Jonathan Cheechoo of the San Jose Sharks at 1/1000 during warmups at the tank and he's not even at full speed like he would be during a game.
    279259621_Ty4zm-M-3.jpg

    Let me know if you have any other questions. Good luck. There are a few other hockey shooters on dgrin and they might provide more knowledge.

    Updated: Do I really need a white balance tool?
    There is value in using a designed tool for white balance (rather than the ice or a cup, etc). The one that I'm currently recommending is mad by Phoxle for these reason. And this thread will explain why a WB tool is useful over home-brew versions.... This thread is another good read about tools for color balancing and the experiments done. Read all the threads and then make your decision.

    Updated 12/12/08: What camera gear do I need for hockey photost?
    Answered questions on camera gear recommendation in this thread. You need fast glass. It’s not cheap, but it’s the only way to get decent photos unless you are planning on attaching strobes to the rink. I recommend glass that is f/2.8 or faster. The 70-200 f/2.8 is the first lens that I reach for, but there are a few lenses that I’ve used.

    Updated 12/17/08: How do I know if I'm using the wrong white balance? And how do I know if the light cycles?
    Dingy yellow photos signifies incorrect WB. Every once in a while, I do everything to set the white balance, but forget to change the camera setting to custom. Oops! This is dingy yellow...
    217752642_oET6x-Th.jpg
    The ice should be white in color and should not have a color cast; AWB usually leaves a yellow tint.

    Even with changing lights, I still CWB to one of the cycles because there will be some frames that I won't have touch the temps (versus all of them). Light cycling looks like this:
    363752181_pSgui-Th.jpg363752673_88Yho-Th.jpg363753666_FqhGv-Th.jpg363754138_TmuQ6-Th.jpg363754660_gjkRv-Th.jpg363756740_Hobaw-Th.jpg
    This was taken in a smaller rink, and about one second elapsed between first and last frame of the sequence.

    Updated 02/12/09: I can't shoot from the bench and don't have access to a photo hole in the glass. How do I shoot through scratched plexi-glass?
    376556447_FemZ5-S-3.jpg
    In a nutshell, find a clean piece of glass, and get as perpendicular as possible since you want to minimize the angle of incidence. There is some very good info on hockey photography (with examples from various people) in this long thread given by many people with my specific post here.

    Updated 06/06/09: I'm going to a NHL game and have a size limit on the lens. What should I bring and how do I take good hockey photos at the arena
    Contact the venue for details on the camera restrictions, but these days, most rinks either prohibit all cameras or limit the lens size to three or six inches. The length of the lens is usually verified by using the ticket scanner as a ruler (long size for six inches, short for three inches). Also, the length limit is when the len is fully zoomed when it's at the longest, but you might be able to sneak a longer one in if the security isn't. I recommend following the size limit, use fast prime lenses (85mm f/1.8, 100mm f/2.0, 135mm f/2.0), show up early for warm-ups and pick specific moments to photograph. A good sports photo isn't always shot tight. Lens recommendation and shooting tips for this situation can be found in this thread

    Updated 09/18/09: What does a hockey histogram look like? And what is "to the right"
    Check out this this thread in this specific post. In general, hockey photos with ice in the frame has the histogram generally pushed towards the right rather than being centered.
  • Dave CleeDave Clee Major grins Posts: 536Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 7, 2007
    Great feedback !! Exactly what I was looking for..My main concern was shutter speed when the players are skating and you have given me a good reference..Great shots BTW..I would be happy with those results..

    The good news is I have access to the bench as well as a few other areas that wont be obstructed with the glass..

    Will post up when I get them and thanks again.

    Cheers

    Dave
    aktse wrote:
    Ice Hockey is the reason why I entered the dSLR world. And in generally, hockey is a very difficult sport to shoot. I have brought a bunch of people to the rink with me, and they’re always surprised on how difficult it can be because you have fast action, low light, on a white background and usually through glass or netting. They can't believe how well I actually do... I think it helps that I play.

    This was taken at a poorly lit rink and through the scratched glass.
    159088174-M-1.jpg


    You do have gear that would be sufficient, but f/2.8 is the bare minimum for the cold dark cave (normal rink). I would stick with your 70-200 VR f/2.8. Custom white balance and if possible, re-white balance every time you change locations since the lights usually cycles and some might be broken. If you can, shoot over the glass by standing up on the bench or finding a hole in the glass (like in the scoring booth). Unfortunately, I always have to deal with scratched glass (find an clean spot).

    The histogram is your friend.

    I would suggest the following:
    -- Custom White Balance, every time you move
    -- Find a clean spot in the glass, and if it’s not clean, get your lens as close as to the glass as possible
    -- AI servo AF
    -- ISO 1600
    -- AV mode, f/2.8 exposure compensate a stop or so just to start with
    -- Burst mode

    I adjust from there, depending on the light of the rink and I switch to full manual to dial in the sweet spot after checking the histograms. Personally, I believe that 160th is generally too slow unless you’re shooting newbies. Hockey players fly across the ice and the longer they have played, the faster they’ll move. I would love to get an exposure speed of 1/500 or faster (especially with top level players). The lowest that I’ll drop is about 1/320 and anything slower, my hit rate really, really drops and I tend to shoot them when they're standing around (non-action stuff). But everything changes again when I move around due to the lights and the glass. Check histograms over and over again. If you’re in a bright rink and you can drop the ISO, go ahead and do it.

    He was decently fast (not pro), and i barely froze him skating at 1/640 (look at his skate - fuzzy) at a small rink (not enough room for him to get full speed)
    170438529-M-1.jpg


    Let me know if you have any other questions. Good luck. There are a few other hockey shooters on dgrin and they might provide more knowledge.
    Still searching for the light...

    http://www.daveclee.com

    Nikon D3 and a bunch of nikkor gear
    that has added up over the years :wink
  • aktseaktse Major grins Posts: 1,928Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 7, 2007
    Dave Clee wrote:
    Great shots BTW..I would be happy with those results..
    Thanks for compliment. I'm happy with these as well. :D I've worked really hard on shoting hockey, and I think my time and effort shows in my work.
    Dave Clee wrote:
    The good news is I have access to the bench as well as a few other areas that wont be obstructed with the glass.
    Lucky. rolleyes1.gif I wished that I had access to non-scratched glass area. And you probably have better rinks since you're in Canada. mwink.gif Lucky duck! If you're behind the bench, I would recommend a helmet wtihout a face mask and nice hard shoes. Pucks go flying unexpectedly and skate blades can be very sharp especially when they're worn by a 6'3" guy, 230 lbs who is only focus the game. And don't forget about the flying sticks!

    The other tidbit that I would suggest is something that I borrowed (stole) from Ann:
    -Shoot tight, crop tighter
    -Face, Action, Contact, Ball (puck)

    I would add for hockey, pick a player/play and follow them. Warms-ups are great for isolating a player since they're moving slower and going through the same motions. Also, decide what you want to focus on before the game -- individual action shots or wider shots that can be used for training and burst shots are really cool especially if you catch someone scoring.

    156810614-L-1.jpg
  • SitterSSitterS Major grins Posts: 586Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 8, 2007
    Aktse thanks for sharing some great information about shooting hockey. That is my next challenge for this winter. You mentioned to custom white balance regularly. What do you use to CWB?

    Shane
    www.imagesbyshane.smugmug.com

    Blogs:
    www.imagesbyshane.blogspot.com



    Canon 20d and 40d
    Canon 50mm 1.4
    Canon 85mm 1.8
    Canon 70-200L IS 2.8
  • aktseaktse Major grins Posts: 1,928Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 8, 2007
    SitterS wrote:
    You mentioned to custom white balance regularly. What do you use to CWB?
    I keep mentioning white balance because I still forget to do it, or, like this past Sunday, I shot the white balance photo, set the menu to use the custom white balance, but FORGOT to set the white balance on the camera 11doh.gif Sigh. And I have done this more than once. And it's makes such a big difference...
    1.
    219042740-S.jpg
    2.
    219042739-S.jpg
    3.
    217760637-S-1.jpg
    4.
    217760219-S-1.jpg

    Can you figure out which two were shot with AWB and which two had custom one set? rolleyes1.gif (easy question)

    These were shot on the same rink, nearly same location on the ice (look at the banners), from two different Sunday night games, roughly the same time in the day and physical shooting location, and all put through the same bulk post process workflow (uncropped). I can fix the incorrect ones, but I really find no reason to do so.

    As for what I use for CWB... It really depends on what I packed in my backpack, what lens I had on the body at the time and how rushed I am. I have used the expo disc, the balance smarter (think popup grey/white card), and the ice itself. Which works better? I haven't done enough of a study to know, but the expo disc and balance smarter both work well. The ice is better than nothing...

    People constantly tell me that I would not have to worry about these issues if I shot in RAW. I believe it's always best to get the exposure as correct as possible during the shoot itself even if you're shooting in RAW. You can fix it later, but it just takes up time and effort.

    Also, in general, unless the shoot really matters, I shoot it in JPG (smaller files, larger burst, etc). For the most part, I'm not paid for my hockey photos (hobbyist only by choice, selectively accept jobs) and in general, I normally get between 300-800 frames a game depending on what I'm working on. It's not worth my time fixing the white balance issues in post when I can get the exposure almost right during the shoot.

    I hope this helps! And please post when you got some photos to share!
  • wingerwinger Major grins Posts: 694Registered Users Major grins
    edited March 10, 2008
    aktse wrote:
    People constantly tell me that I would not have to worry about these issues if I shot in RAW. I believe it's always best to get the exposure as correct as possible during the shoot itself even if you're shooting in RAW. You can fix it later, but it just takes up time and effort.

    I couldnt agree more! Its nice to know you can fix some mistakes after the fact, but I believe its best to strive to take the photo correct in camera! Who the heck wants to spend the whole day playing with photo editing software (well maybe some people do).

    I guess with lightroom, it makes raw processing alot easier. I have loaded it onto my computer but I am too knee deep in the hockey season to even think about playing with it right now....summer project for sure.
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