My Painful Dance with Shooting Hockey Continues…

(Above: You might be wondering “Scott, why the static no-action shot?” That’s because I’ve found that when the players aren’t moving, it’s somewhat easier to get a shot in focus, and that “in-focus” thing was eluding me most of the night, so I posted this shot to prove to myself I can shoot a sharp still life. Maybe next time pears in a bowl).

I shot another NHL hockey game last night (the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. the San Jose Sharks), and while I certainly did some things better, I didn’t do enough of them to actually share the actual shots. My painful dance of learning to shoot through a very small hole in the ice continues. My angle this time was actually worse than in the other game, and I could only shoot the goal directly in front of me, and about 3/4 of the way to the blue line. Anything from the center line to the opposite goal was absolutely impossible to shoot (though I had a great angle on a McDonald’s ad).

(Above: When they come crashing into the boards, all you can do is jump back and try not to get killed. Here’s the view of my little hole in the glass; just large enough to fix a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens through, but not nearly big enough for a 300mm f/2.8 lens. By the way, if you’re wondering if I screamed when this happened—yes—like a Brownie at Halloween Horror Nights!).

Of course, since you can’t shoot the other end of the rink, it always seems like all the action happens down at the other goal. Sigh. Well, there’s only one way to get better, and that’s keep on trying. I shoot the Bolts again on Saturday night. I may even shoot some of the players when they’re moving. Hey, ya never know. ;-)

(Above: It’s like these guys follow me from sport to sport to make certain I have more shots of them, than of the athletes themselves. This just reeks of a carefully orchestrated worldwide conspiracy by a secret cartel of referees).  

P.S. The Lightning beat San Jose 6 – 5 in Overtime. Go Bolts!!! :)


  1. Hey Scott. I actually quite like the “still life” of Dwayne Roloson.

    As a long-time hockey fanatic (i.e. Canadian) and former goaltender, I’m often irritated by the shots selected by photo editors for hockey cards, websites, etc. They’re frequently random shots of desperate flopping – dramatic yes, but they give little indication of the goalie’s individual style. Modern goalies mostly play a cookie-cutter style, but when I was a kid, a goalie’s stance was as unique as his fingerprint. Those days are gone, but I still love a good shot of a goalie poised and ready for action.

    No question, goalies look awesome making a kick save, but I think the next best thing is a shot of a goalie taking his stance with a look of fiery concentration in his eyes. Rollie the Goalie’s not having a great season, but your shot captures the 42-year-old’s (!) competitive spirit. Well done.

    1. Fan of the Canadiens de Montréal? Man, you must be crying these days ;) wait till Phoenix or Tampa are transfered to Quebec, than come see what real hockey is like :D  Ok, just kidding there.  Being from Quebec, I just can’t miss an opportunity to have a little fun at the Canadien’s expense ;)

      But you’re right about the goalie style and the shots they do select for the cards / medias… not always the best ones (of course, seeing how the photographers are set there, you get to understand a little better why they don’t always have the best shot of Carey letting the puck slip in shootout… ;)

  2. Scott,  

    Here’s a really dumb question, but I always wondered how often, if ever, pucks make it through the hole in the glass.  Did you by any chance ask that same question when you first sat behind the boards, with your lens raised to the hole?  Thanks,Darren

    1.  doesn’t happen often but the puck does go through as well as sticks. The team photog for the Boston Bruins had 13 stitches from a stick that made its way through the hole. The NHL mandated the holes to be made small and lower this season to avoid injuries to not only the players but to the photographers.

  3. It helps all of us to see that even the very best don’t get even shot.  So thanks for showing the bad ones.  I will never be a sports shooter, but I am amazed at what you all get.

  4. Don’t you just love it when the refs get in the way! I think they do it on purpose. Nice to see the Lightning beat the Sharks. I would have loved to hear that call by Dave Mishkin the Lightning play by play guy. He is totally insane when TB scores. Washington should be a good game on Saturday. Have fun!

  5. I like the goalie shot, even if it’s still life! Thanks for your insight on what the life of a sports photographer is like… it makes you give a lot more credit when a good picture is posted if you know in what conditions it was shot! Plus Tampa has lots of really talented players and is a great team to watch!

  6. There was a game in Toronto last year I think,  where a photographer got a puck right through the front element of his 70-200, expensive night for him!!

    1. Don’t know if it was same game but there’s a video on YouTube of a goalie (can’t remember who) casually clearing the puck and he flipped it dead-nuts through the pro-hole.  It was like a carnival.  Can’t remember if it hit the photog’s glass and rammed the camera into his face, or just straight into his mug. 

  7. Hey Scott

    That’s a great sports/hockey/goalie shot any day of the week.  I don’t think every sports shot has to be in motion.  Dude’s got plenty of intensity in his expression and his stance.

  8. I Scott!  I’m relatively new to your blog and to just now have to go everyday, I like your work.  As for hockey shooting, we have a very good photograph from the local paper here in Montreal.  He usually shoots from above and not by the ring.  His name is Bernard Brault and you can find his work at  

  9. Hey Scott, I must say I’m loving your struggles with hockey only because it’s so familiar and it makes me feel better.  As someone else said you may also look for a vantage point where you can shoot above the glass to the far end goalie.  You could certainly break out your 300 for that and with the longer line of site you will probably still be able to see into the helmets.  Think outisde the box a bit and see where else you can shoot from, I’m sure your firends there know all the spots, 

    1. Hi MP: I’m taking my 300mm tomorrow night and I’m going to try shooting one period from the mezzanine and see how that goes. It’ll just be a nice break from shooting in that tiny hole in the glass. Thanks for the tip. :)

  10. Now Scott I can tell you I have never shot a hockey game, but I am a season ticket holder to the Bruins. I can tell you just watch lots of hockey on TV.  It is organized chaos.  Once you get a handle on how plays develop in different situations I guarantee you will get better shots and it you wont seem as frustrated

  11. With all do respect, and I mean a lot of respect, it is great to see you having issues with shooting these games. He is a real man after all (not just some robot made by Adobe & Nikon to make their products look easy)

  12. Scott, I just wanted to write a “thank you” note.  I bought your Digital Photography books a few years ago, but just recently discovered this blog.  I find myself swinging by on a daily basis.  I’m very much an amateur photographer, but have loved the craft ever since buying my Nikon FM as a fourteen-year-old kid.  Thanks for inspiring all of us with your passion, wit, humor and humilty.  It’s a great combination.  I get the sense that you’re not only an awesome photographer, but even more importantly a great human being.

  13. Scott, just wanted to say that I’m very happy to see you shooting hockey games! While I love to see your football shots, I’m much more interested in hockey shots. I agree with the others that this goalie shot is great even if stationary.

  14. Hey Scott, I hear you on how difficult hockey is to shoot!  This is my first season shooting the Kings, also with Southcreek.  But it is a fun learning experience!  If you are still shooting Av, try manual.  Lighting doesn’t change in the rink (except when you shoot the same instant the team photog does with his strobes).  One thing I heard starting out was “get the ice white” and it looks a bit brownish in some of your shots.  Other than that, I usually pick an upper focus point since that’s where the heads are in 90% of my compositions and try to anticipate the action.  That last part is the toughest since everything happens so fast. 

    I’ve had the puck bounce off my lens once so far and it scared the poop out of me.  Fortunately no damage was done to me or the outcome of the play!  Good luck and have fun with it!

    1. Hi Josh. Many thanks for the tips. :). If you look back at my previous lightning shoot, I got comments that they looked too blue (but like you said—i was focused on ghe ice being white) so Itook a gray card this time and it definitely warmed them up this time around, but I’ve obviously got to find that sweet spot as far as color goes I’ll try something in between tomorrow night. :)

  15. It could be worse, is right, you could be shooting minor hockey, where you don’t get the advantage of the rink being lit for Network TV cameras, and they don’t cut a hole in the glass to shoot through.

    First, forget about shooting at the other end of the ice – you would need a 400 to reach to the end, and all of the players will have their backs to you anyway. Then when the action heads back towards you, you don’t have time to change cameras or lens so you miss all the good stuff right in front of you. If you do want to do a 300 then you have to be at centre ice and accept that most of your shots are going to be of the back of the players.

    But just like real estate, good hockey shots come from good locations. If you want a shot of the goalie making a save, then you want to be on the goalie’s left hand side, just past where the glass straightens out. That will put you shooting into the goalies face when he makes a save about 80% of the time. If you want the shot of the player taking the shot, then you want to be in the same place on the goalies right hand side.

    The reason for this is that most players are right handed and so about 70% of the time the shot on goal will be made from the goalie’s left hand side.

  16. Hey Scott!

    As someone who has been calling for you to shoot some NHL games since waaaaay back( I believe that I left a comment on one of your really early football posts) I’m very excited to see where you go with this new experience!

    As an avid hockey fan (I’m teaching myself to play at the very early age of 30, lol) – I’m so excited to see the challenges involved in this arena. As a photographer myself, I’m also super jelous of your access and chances at shooting the best of the best in their sports!

    I wish you all the best, and fear not,the hockey gods will smile upon you soon! You’ll have winning shots in no time!

    Oh, and Go Capitals! ;)

  17. Love the goalie shot.  I’m a huge fan of goaltenders in general as I used to play the position.  I primarily shoot roller hockey and some ice.  I wish I shot ice all the time as the lighting is so much better than in roller.  Keep the hockey photos coming!  

  18. Scott, looks like you got a few good ones from the Caps game last night.  I was checking them out on the Southcreek Review today.  I went crazy last night and uploaded about a hundred of the Blackhawks/Bluejackets game.  With 1:38 left in the final period, my camera died.  Time to send it in to the shop.  You know what they say…”perfect practice makes perfect!”  

  19. Hi Scott,

    Just want to say that you are definitely getting better! I am the team photographer for a single A team and it is super tricky. Poor light combined with no photographers hole in the glass makes things interesting. I would kill for a chance at an NHL game! Are you doing any exposure compensation?

    Here are some of my hockey shots if you are interested in taking a look:

  20. Are you triggering any lights from the rafters? At the RBC center in Raleigh for the Carolina Hurricanes, the guy there has the strobes going off the entire game and shoots through a hole like you see in one of your shots. 

  21. Ah Scott! The infamous back of the referee shot in hockey, they just love standing in front of our holes don’t they! Had this happen to me a week ago during a shoot out at a Phoenix Coyotes game and missed the final goal. Keep up the good work, hockey is a blast to shoot!

  22. Just my opinion on a few of your shots from yesterday’s game (March 2, 2012) [20120302_zaf_x78_018.jpg and 20120302_zaf_x78_008.jpg], those two photos aren’t leveled so the players appear to be skating “uphill” in 18 and 8 is just enough off to bug me.
     I use the uprights that hold the glass together as a way of leveling my photos when I am in lightroom.  The only time I will use the goal posts is if it is a tight shot because those posts are always “off” when compared to the uprights. I believe this gives the photos a better look. I do like the shot of Boyle being held back by the ref. His arm and grip on Boyle’s jersey shows that he is holding him back.
     In case you are wondering, I shoot the Flyers for Southcreek. So feel free to rip my stuff apart if you ever get the chance. = )


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