Category Archives: Sports Photography

Kayaking

Toronto Walk-1

We hadn’t intended to buy kayaks. We threatened to do so for several years, wondering where to store them in our small downtown house or using them enough to justify no longer renting. It dawned on us that, living 10 minutes from Ashbridges Bay on Lake Ontario, our use would increase. So, at an outdoor show we had never intended to visit, we bought two kayaks to be picked up in May.

I started canoeing in my teens and did several 2-week wilderness “voyages” through lakes and down the Spanish River before returning to university at the end of summer. We camped on small islands and slept under our canoe or tarp. We saw all kinds of wildlife and at night the magnificence of the Aura Borealis and more stars than I have ever seen since.

A few other images flash through my mind. A flashlight bobbing in the water at night, marking the spot my now swimming friend had slid into the water cleaning the night’s dinner plates.  The smack of a canoe hitting a tree in the forest as another portaging paddler, canoe on his shoulders and pack on his back walked with determination,  blissfully unaware he had left the trail and marched into the woods. The laughter as florescent-colored ponchos lashed to paddles propelled us across the lake.

Kayak at Outdoor ShowAnd the rapids. Walking alongside, planning a route. The excitement, the spray and the elation of making it to the other side. Oh, and hanging from a rock in the middle of the Spanish River, holding a pack too heavy to lift out of the water waiting to be rescued by my companions, the current too swift to paddle against.

Then life got in the way and except for a vacation or visit to a friend’s cottage, I canoed very little. My wife enrolled us in a 2-day kayaking course and that was it – I was back and loved kayaks.

My challenge is photography. We are planning several overnight kayak backcountry paddling trips this summer and I have been looking at various camera alternatives. At the moment, I’m leaning towards a GoPro to create video and time-lapse photography and since it is waterproof and small, would suit me. I’m looking for a good still-shot alternative even though the GoPro does still photos, too.

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A Long Winter Brightened by Hockey

Women's Hockey

Beyond our infamous mayor and the unusually long winter, hockey is always a part of our conversation in Toronto. Beyond the city having the Leafs and Marlies at the professional level (the Marlies offering an exciting brand of hockey both affordable and attainable), the city has the most outdoor rinks anywhere along with numerous recreational leagues.

My wife plays in a women’s league (that’s her by the goalie) every Saturday night at Moss Park and I often bring my camera in tow. I get to wander around the rink and, at times, break a few “rules” slipping behind the bench for the only shots I can take that are not through glass. Everyone seems to appreciate that they can get photographs of themselves playing hockey.

While I usually shoot in aperture priority, I shoot hockey in manual. The lighting doesn’t change in the rink so I don’t want my camera “fooled” when I zoom in or out, having more or less of all that white ice affecting the sensor. I try for a shutter speed of 1/125 but have to crank up the ISO if I’m using my 70-300mm f4.0-5.6 zoom. Lately I switched to the 105mm f2.8 to drop the ISO down and I find I’m not giving up too much. I’m no longer being lazy and trying to shoot the entire arena from one spot – now I focus on one area of the rink.

I’m having some fun with the photos running them through NIK’s Color Effects (detail) to bring out some “grunge” in the photo. Being on the ice has a feel to it; a scent despite being made of odorless water. You can be tired but once you get on the ice and take a deep breath, you feel rejuvinated. I think this brings me closer to that feeling.

A different approach to hockey photos

The Playoffs-7

My wife’s hockey team is in the midst of their playoffs. I was banned from taking pictures from the bench when they introduced a rule requiring everyone on the bench to have a helmet, though in all the games I’ve been to this rule is randomly enforce. Regardless, I was left to shooting through heavily marked glass and more recently, a “fog” that is on the inside making photography more challenging than I wish for.

The Playoffs-4With the season coming to a rapid conclusion, I decided to “hang” around the benches and start to “creep” into the door at the rear, giving me a fairly clean look at centre ice and one end. I would then travel between the two benches to get the different ends of the ice. I’m pleased to say I got away with it. This time.

The Playoffs-3Back in my digital darkroom, I started “playing” with some of the filters in Color Effects by NIK Software. I started to get an interesting look. Sort of a watercolour with an old-style hockey feel to it. There is a “detail” filter I use and combine it with some vinetting (light and dark) to enhance the subject.

I like the look. It’s a little different for an action shot. As an experiment, I even took a rapid set of photographs while the players were “still” for a faceoff to try an HDR. The state of alignment with HDR software these days gave me a pretty good image, though getting ready for a faceoff isn’t my idea of a captivating image. Still, I can keep an eye out.

The Playoffs-2

At the rink, I shoot on a D300s (crop sensor) using a 70-300mm at f5.6 in manual. The lighting is fairly even across the rink but I shoot in manual so the exposure doesn’t vary as the amount of white ice in the picture increases or decreases. The ISO is 1600 and I use NIK Define to reduce the noise before I run it through any of the creative filters.

I would appreciate any comments you have on the photographs and if interested, can provide more specific information about the steps I took and the filters I used.

The Playoffs-5

Hockey is back

Pegasus016While the NHL has been on strike, hockey has carried on for everyone else. Whether you are a parent, a fan of minor league or amateur teams, hockey has continued as usual. In my case, I’m married to a hockey player. My wife plays every Saturday night in an all-women league here in Toronto out of Moss Park arena. And, of course, I get to take photographs.

Pegasus043

It’s a small arena, with little seating save for a small area near the entrance, which is away from the cold of the ice, but poor for taking photographs. This is where I hang out to warm my hands; otherwise I’m circling the rink, trying to find a good location where the glass is still clear.

Up until recently, I would get behind the bench and take pictures from there. There is a little extra room behind the bench where I could pace and get a clear shot without any glass in the way. I just had to watch for errant sticks and the occasional sharp blade on my exposed toes. Eventually, they passed a rule not allowing anyone without a helmet to be on the bench and I’m not going to try and take photographs wearing a hockey helmet and mask.

SLY_7609The lighting is usually pretty good and fairly even across the rink. I will pump the ISO up to 1600 or 2000 to get a reasonable shutter speed and enough depth of field. I set a custom white balance using the ice surface, especially if I’m shooting in JPEG mode. I shoot JPEGs if I think I need very fast frame rates without filling the buffer. Perhaps for a playoff game. Lately I’ve been shooting in RAW mode without any trouble.

Hockey_0079

I shoot in manual, taking a few preliminary shots to get an exposure I like. All that bright white ice can throw the exposure meter off, underexposing the players. And using compensation works for some photographs, but not all. As you change the amount of ice in a photograph, your exposure compensation has to change as well. Too much work. With manual, I pretty much can leave the exposure alone so long as the light doesn’t change regardless of the composition or zoom changes I make.

SLY_7582Having an understanding of the game helps me anticipate what may happen, however at this level of play, anything can, and does happen, mostly to the enjoyment of the game by all. There is usually action around the net, so I will camp out either at the blue line looking in towards the net or on occasion, behind the net to one side to get players rushing in. Other times I will focus on a particular player and follow them around with my camera taking shots. This can create an interesting sequence. If the player is crossing in front of you, you can pan with them and get a great motion blur in the background.

Hockey_0006 B&WIt would be interesting to put one of those mobile cameras onto one of the players, or the goalie and see what the video looks like. Perhaps that will be next year’s project.

In the meantime, I would rather be at a game taking photographs than watching one on TV.

20110212_Beth Hockey_0102