The Challenge of Photographing Hockey / by Ed Shanahan

On Sunday night I had the pleasure to photograph the final game of a friend, Marty Siegel, a guy with whom I played for 15 years until I too had to bow out.  Hockey is a very difficult game to shoot.  Rink lighting is dim and fluorescent.  The action is fast and the puck even faster.  Players are at varying distances from you.  Going in you know that the lens that will work best when players are close to you, will be too "short" for when they are at the other end of the ice.  So you pick one that is the best compromise.  To freeze the action but allow some blur of the puck as it is shot, you need to shoot at 1/320 - 1/500th second.  And to keep players in focus you need to use a depth of field of 5.6 or higher, all of which conspire to require that you use a high ISO, in my case 3000 in order to capture the action.  And the high ISO leads to "noise" and some graininess.  After the shoot when processing the images you need to make changes to white balance to reduce the impact of the fluorescent lights, often brighten the photos and generally crop out less interesting aspects, making the photos a bit grainier again.   This is one of my favorites.  Shot at the far end of the ice.  Cropped in tightly.  And lots of action.  By the way they didn't score on this play!