Yesterday I had the opportunity to photograph the NCAA Men’s Hockey Regional in Allentown, PA at the PPL Center. I had photographed the Phantoms a few times in their home arena here but that was several years ago. But at least I remembered some of the good locations from which to shoot. I enjoy photographing ice hockey because of the challenge. The speed of the game alone makes it difficult to get usable images.
Many years ago, I played ice hockey recreationally and was a goalie. In my favorite wildest dreams I imagined myself being something like Jim Craig who was on the USA Olympic Ice Hockey Team in 1980 when they won unexpectedly against the USSR. Unlike Craig, I didn’t play in front of large, cheering crowds. Rather, I played on a quiet farm pond with a bunch of my friends and neighbors. Just the same, I just loved stopping pucks from making it into the goal!
When I was a little kid, my dad took my brother and me to the Hershey Bears games. Dad got the affordable tickets and we sometimes had to settle for standing room only. But dad always said it didn’t matter how far away from the ice you were, if you could get a corner position you could see the whole rink. We almost always sat in one of the corners. To this day, I like photographing from a corner, too. I can see up the entire side board, see all of center ice, be in position to photograph the action at the goal, and also get a great view of the action behind the goal line. Thanks, dad!
Like in all the sports I photograph, I believe my job is to capture the action and tell the game story of the athletes playing the game. Emotions, skills, passions, and sometimes even scuffles show when the competition gets fierce. I am competitive myself. I hate losing. For me the challenge is the sport I am photographing. It is a loss if I do not get one usable image for an editor or media outlet. It might not be a huge win to get just one such usable photograph, but if I can manage to shoot a nice collection of usable photos that tell the game story, my editors are happy and so am I.
I enjoy sports photography for a variety of reasons. First, I love sports. My dad loved sports and got my brother and me involved from an early age. To this day we both have a strong passion for sports–Dave is a 110% PSU sports fan. He even has a special Penn State Room, which clearly and brilliantly shows his passion for Penn State Sports. And he is knowledgable about it too; knowing the athletes and coaches by name and following their successes both on and off the field! Secondly, the athletes are just amazing. I covered East Stroudsburg University sports for eight years and following their teams with my camera provided one opportunity after another to see these amazing athletes in action. Just today I went back through some of the comments on my posted photos in Instagram, many of the comments were written by the athletes. Their show of appreciation for my photos was simply amazing to me. Last, but not least, I enjoy the creative side of sports photography. Yes, my job is to make usable photographs that can be chosen by editors to use in media outlets. This typically requires a face or two in the shot, and the puck or ball in the image, among other things. Many times my favorite photo from a game I shoot would never make an editor very happy or prompt him or her to use that photograph in any way. Creativity is an ambiguous thing. What seemingly works for one, may not be judged to work at all for another. You’ve got to keep your eyes open even after the play or the goal is scored. Keep shooting and keep creating. To me, this is what sports photography is all about!