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Shooting youth hockey?

Discussion in 'Sports Photography' started by mom24gr8kids, Aug 25, 2008.

  1. mom24gr8kids

    mom24gr8kids Guest

    What lens does everyone use for shooting hockey? My 11 year old plays and I would love to get some nice shots of him while on the ice (he's the goalie). I have a D80. Are there any lenses that won't break the bank? Also when you shoot hockey do you shoot through the glass? They play at a variety of rinks but I have never seen a spot/hole to put a lens through? And every time I see a professional there they are on ladders shooting from above the glass (of course I won't be taking a ladder every time I go to the rink :tongue: )

  2. Brenda,

    Well, first of all, welcome to Nikon Cafe and the sports forum. You'll find we have a whole bunch of keen sports photographers, most non-professional, but some outstanding pro's who provide advice, encouragement and guidance. I must admit though, you might find a bit of a bias towards things like basketball and volleyball during the fall and winter months. But don't despair, we have some shooters in the high Arctic (seriously, Yellowknife and Alaska) who shoot hockey, and a few of us in the more tropical latitudes who do so as well...

    To start off, breaking the bank is the first consideration, plus the light you have to deal with, which will be basically crappy. The only good light for photography exists in pro arena's.

    To answer your questions:
    1. Shoot through the glass. If you can get above it, great. Try penalty box or team bench if you can.

    2. Take a ladder. You don't have to identify yourself as a pro to do so. Tell them that you're taking pictures of your team. Just remember that safety and fire rules take precedence. I take ladders to baseball games. I have a CRV, it can go on the roof. But a 3 step ladder can get you above some of the glass.

    3. As to lenses: they always break the bank. Sorry, forgive me, but this is one of the way of the world for people who want to shoot their children doing sports. And Brenda, they are worth some investment...but I know we can't all afford the the best, which is the most expensive.

    I don't know what you have now, but I will jump in and suggest the following, based on the assumption that you only wish to take shots of your son (which will stop once you show at least one of the mothers what you have produced, and they say, can you do the same for my son. At that point, you need to start a new thread).

    You have to get the combination of a fast shutter speed with a reasonable aperture. The light in most hockey rinks around the world falls into the realm of 'su2c5k'.

    Since your son is only 11, I would suggest that you buy a very good lens that has an aperture of 2.8. It will break the bank short term, but long term, the images I have of my son and daughter make it worth it.

    The best part of this hobby is that we have memories.
  3. mom24gr8kids

    mom24gr8kids Guest


    Thanks for the response :)  I currently have a 50mm 1.8, 85mm 1.8 and a 70-300mm 4-5.6 which doesn't work for the low light and seems slow. I have used it for outdoor soccer with my kids and still only considered it to be okay.

    Yeah I figured breaking the bank was going to be neccessary LOL! I am going to have to start saving up.

    Do you think the Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 ED AF-D would work? I am hoping to get some fairly close up photos and not sure of how much zoom I need.

    We have a large rink with a professional sized rink (some of the rinks we travel too are smaller ones that are used only for youth). I am sure if I ask I could sit in the penalty box or the announcers booth which is at center ice.
  4. A 70 or 80-200mm afs f/2.8 would be my first choice for shooting hockey, but don't be afraid to try the 85mm 1.8. This is the 85mm shooting through the glass, not ideal, but usable.

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  5. Brenda,

    The 80-200 will work. It's not the the absolute ultimate lens, but it the lens that a lot of pro's have used, and continue to use, plus its affordable.

    It will be great for soccer, and will work for hockey, based on what I've seen here. The key issue with a lens with a maximum zoom of 200mm is how close you can get to the action. With an 80-200/2.8 the only difference with a 300/2.8 is the closeness, so if you have flexibility of movement, I would suggest that it is a very good start.

    BTW, search for posts from ACENA, Alex or hockey for far better tips than I can give you. And a whole bunch of people that I didn't mention, like the one above!!!!
  6. Brenda, I will chime in here as I shoot a good amount of hockey, problem is I am a little privileged and shoot with strobes most of the time.

    Anyways with the D80 I would recommend using your 85 1.8 to start out, get where you can to get your son. Luckily as a goalie he's not all over the ice so it makes it a little easier. You can shoot through the glass although it will cause a loss in about a stop or more of light. If there is a really clean area where you can get a good view of your son get it and use it. Although I bet like most youth rinks the glass is dirty.

    As for the 80-200 it is a great lens, as Mark has said many pros use it, although mostly the AF-S version. In using it either try to get above the glass or get in the penalty box or bench. They offer the best line of sight towards the goalie.

    Here are a few examples i have from shooting from the penalty box with a 300 2.8, bear in mind that these are all strobed and will not be as crisp when shooting without them.

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    Here is a non strobed image with the 70-200 2.8 @ ISO 3200 SS 1/500th or so 2.8, set as a link so you can see a large image and the noise.


    Any other questions I can answer I will gladly do.
  7. mom24gr8kids

    mom24gr8kids Guest

    Thanks for all the help! I think I will see how my 85mm does first and go from there. He's doing a hockey camp in Sept at our local rink so I can practice and play then and maybe by the season decide if I want a different lens with zoom.

    The 80-200 afs is discontinued right? I will have to watch for a used one.

    When shooting strobes do they bother the players? I LOVE how crisp your pictures are using them...do you use more than one strobe? If so what is your placement?
  8. Here is the set up for strobes, at least 4 White Lightning 1600s, some times 8, depends on the rink. Bounced off the ceiling, which is silver reflective which really helps.

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    Xs are strobe placement, O is shooter, I am normally in the penalty box which is on the side of the benches. The diagram is just a generic.

    As for bothering the players, some say it does others say it doesn't. Id say it all depends on the level, as the Select players Tier AAA and AA don't seem to mind as they are concentrating on the game.

    The 80-200 AF-S is discontinued as the 70-200 took its place. As for finding one used, good luck, it is a tough find, as not too many people are looking to get rid of them.
  9. Geoff - your hockey pics are incredible

    mom24gr8kids - shooting hockey certainly is tough

    I actually got some reasonable pictures last season for 9yr old hockey - using a D40 and a 55-200mm nonVR

    Looking forward to this year with a D80 and 70-300mmVR - but hopefully I will have a Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 by then.....

    Definitely use that practice time, to practice yourself - try different settings and different ISO / Focus points / WB etc.

    Have fun and good luck
  10. acena


    Mar 14, 2006
    New Jersey
    Your best bet is to grab a seat and enjoy the game if there is a pro present at the game. It's amazing how fast your child will grow. Before you know it, they are grown and out of the house and you watched him age through a tiny viewfinder.

    For indoor sports, strobes are a far better investment than a fast lens IMO especially for youth sports as Geoff mentioned. Youth sports are played in dark venues so you can spend the money on a D3 and mate it to a 200/2 and you still are not going to get the same quality as a photo taken at an ISO of 200, 1/250th, f/5.6 shot under lights with a flash duration of less than 1/2500th

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    View attachment 243122
    View attachment 243123

    A D3 is $5000 and a 200/2 VR is $4000. That is a $9,000 investment. Alternatively, you can hire someone like myself or Geoff or some other pro. I would charge $125/hour (2-hour minimum) plus a $100 charge to bring lights or a total investment of $300 plus the cost of the prints. You can sit back relax and cheer for your favorite athlete/team and watch the whole game.

    If you are lucky, there will be some carpetbagger there who brings lights, a camera, etc who will take pictures of your game on the speculation parents will buy some photos. This is especially true for large tournaments. My suggestion is to walk up to the photographer and tell him/her your child's jersey number and enjoy the game. Then if there is an outstanding photo of your child. Buy it!!! Either buy a bunch of small prints if you cannot decide or buy one big print. At least an 11x14. Consider it a historical document of your child's growth.

    Whenever I go to Disney World, the Ski Slopes, rafting, etc, I always purchase the local pro's photos because I would rather enjoy the time with my kids than take the photos myself despite having all the gear necessary to do so. On our trip to Steamboat earlier this year, I must have spent $500 on photos at the lodge. I even tried to get the local pro to follow us around the slopes but he was already booked. Compared to what I paid for the trip it was a drop in the bucket. If your son plays travel hockey, I suspect you spend close to $10k per year on equipment, ice time, travel, lodging, etc.

    But if you still want to do it yourself, here is how you do it.

  11. mom24gr8kids

    mom24gr8kids Guest

    Good point Alex. Strobes are out for our arena as it doesn't have a silver ceiling and it's a VERY high ceiling. It's either off white or dirty white. I do sometimes buy professional pics of him playing but it's a rare occassion that there is one at the games. As for hiring one I will have to look into that further.

    99% of the time I will sit on the bench and watch.....I LOVE the game and just love watching my son. I would like to document a few games or parts of games though. but they can be just snapshots too and that would probably be fine.

    I apppreciate all the help and if I get any good pics I will share :) 
  12. acena


    Mar 14, 2006
    New Jersey
    Bouncing off the ceiling is a personal preference. In fact, I do not bounce and prefer to hit the players straight on with the lights. All the examples I showed were direct lighting.
  13. As Alex has said it is up to preference. We have even done it in awkward rinks as well, with yellow ceilings, about 100+ feet up. Just have to custom white balance.

    Anyways that can get really expensive. I still haven't bought my own strobe kit yet. Just working for others that have them.
  14. The best weapons for hockey shooting are the 70-200VR or 80-200 AF-S IMHO, but you can make other lenses work too, like the 180mm f2.8 which can be found fairly cheap, or even a 150mm f2.8 Sigma has worked for me in a pinch. I find the 85mm a little short for general shooting, but you can get some good shots if you wait for the play to get a little closer to you.

    Now that I've got an FX body as well, I'm even finding - gasp! - that the 300mm f4 AF-S is usable! I never would have thought you could make f4 work at an amateur hockey arena, but the D700's high ISO ability and the narrower DOF make it fairly usable. (Of course, you have a D80 which isn't FX format so I'm babbling for no reason.)

    D700 / 300mm f4 / ISO3200
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    D300 / 70-200VR / ISO3200
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    D2H / 70-200VR / ISO1600
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    D2H / Sigma 150 f2.8 / ISO1600
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